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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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It was presumed that Taliban forces carried out the assassination. Hamid Karzai was selected to succeed his father as Khan of the half-million Popalzais. Defying both Pakistan and Taliban authorities, Karzai led a convoy of tribal mourners carrying his father's body home for burial in Kandahar, even though it was under Taliban control. This act made him one of the most visible leaders of Pashtun resistance against the Taliban.
By early 2001, Hamid Karzai was working closely with Ahmad Shah Massoud, the military commander of the Northern Alliance, a group composed of former Afghan tribal rivals organized to fight the Taliban. Several times that year, Massoud and Karzai warned the United States that the Taliban were connected with al Qaeda and that there was a plot for an imminent attack on the United States, but their warnings went unheeded. On September 9, 2001, two days before the 9/11 attacks in America, Massoud was assassinated by al Qaeda agents in a suicide bombing.
After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, Mujahedeen forces loyal to the Northern Alliance worked with the U.S. military and CIA operatives to overthrow the Taliban government. Hamid Karzai left Quetta, Pakistan and slipped into Afghanistan, but was mistakenly injured by a U.S. "friendly fire" missile attack. On November 4, American forces flew him out of Afghanistan for medical attention to the wounds he sustained to his face and body.
After the fall of the Taliban, Hamid Karzai's political status began to rise. In December 2001, four factions representing the major Afghan ethnic groups met with U.S. political leaders in Bonn, Germany to establish the Bonn Agreement. The ethnic groups decided to set aside old and bitter rivalries and form an interim government. Karzai was selected to serve a six-month term as Chair of the Transitional Administration. During the 2002 Loya Jirga (a traditional Pashtun political meeting held to select a leader) a new constitution was approved creating a presidential government and Karzai was selected to serve as interim president during the two-year transition. Then after the 2004 election, Hamid Karzai became president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan winning 21 of the 24 provinces or 55 percent of the vote. Many saw this event as a new start for the troubled country.
Hamid Karzai faced many challenges in his first term as president. Afghanistan is a historically poor country that has seen very little advancement in the past century. Landlocked, it has experienced hostile relations with its surrounding neighbors. Much of the population engages in subsistence farming and adheres to ancient tribal traditions. Soon after his election, it became apparent that Karzai had limited control of his country. Often called the "mayor of Kabul,"Karzai has little political influence beyond the capital city's boundaries. Historically, the rural areas have been controlled by local leaders and tribal warlords.
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