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Hamid Karzai worked to overthrow the Taliban before becoming president of Afghanistan in 2004. As president he faced enormous political and economic challenges.
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Political leader, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Born December 24, 1957 in Karz, Afghanistan to a distinguished family. Educated in Afghanistan and India and rose through the political ranks during the turbulent Soviet occupation to become president of the country after the fall of the Taliban. After a fraud-ridden election in 2009, he was reelected when his opponent withdrew from the run-off election.
Hamid Karzai was born in the small village of Karz, located on the edge of Kandahar City in southwest Afghanistan. He is an ethnic Pashtun of the Popalzai tribe and has six brothers and one sister. His grandfather, Khair Mohammad Khan, served in the 1919 war for independence and was deputy speaker of the Afghanistan Senate. Karzai's father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, was a popular tribal elder and political figure who served as deputy speaker of the Afghan Parliament.
Hamid Karzai was educated in Kabul, graduating from high school in 1976. He then traveled to India as an exchange student and attended Himachal Pradesh University. He is well versed in several languages, including his native Peshto, Persian, Hindi, French and English. In 1980, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Karzai traveled to Pakistan to work as a fund-raiser supporting the anti-Soviet Mujahedeen fighters' insurgency. During this time, the Mujahedeen were secretly supplied by the United States and Hamid Karzai was a contractor for the CIA.
After the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, Hamid Karzai served as deputy foreign minister in the Mujahedeen transitional government. When civil war broke out between various Mujahedeen groups in 1994, Karzai resigned and helped organize a grand council to resolve differences between the rival groups. One of the political groups Karzai initially supported was the Taliban, seen by many to be a welcome alternative to the corruption, brutality, and incessant fighting of the Mujahedeen warlords. The Taliban offered Karzai the post of UN ambassador, but he declined to serve after discovering the group had fallen under the influence of foreign terrorists.
Hamid Karzai moved to Quette, Pakistan, and worked to undermine Taliban control and reinstate the former Afghan king Zahir Shah. In 1999, Karzai married Zeenat Quraishi, a doctor who was providing medical attention to Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. She too was raised in the city of Kandahar, is Pashtun and a member of the Quraish tribe. She rarely ventures beyond the security zone of the presidential palace. In 2007, the couple gave birth to a son, Mirwais Karzai.
On the morning of July 14, 1999, Karzai's father was gunned down while returning from a mosque in Quetta.
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