Skip to comments.US Bodyguard For Afghan President
Posted on 07/22/2002 4:35:04 PM PDT by blam
US bodyguard for Afghan president
By David Rennie in Washington
The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has dismissed his bodyguards and is now being protected by 46 American soldiers, in an extraordinary - and politically explosive - demonstration of how little he trusts his own government.
Hamid Karzai The Americans, who are believed to include members of the special forces, took up their new duties at the weekend, officials said yesterday.
The decision is likely to cause anger among Mr Karzai's nominal Afghan allies, many of whom already regard him as a tool of America and other "infidel" nations.
Fears for his safety have increased sharply since the recent murder of the vice-president, Haji Abdul Qadir, a presidential spokesman said in Kabul.
"The investigation into the slaying of Qadir has so far not produced results and something had to be done to increase the president's security," said the spokesman, Said Fazel Akbar. He said a core of senior ministers had also adopted US bodyguards.
One diplomat, quoted by Time magazine, said: "There are very credible threats against the president. We know there could be a great political cost from doing this but that price, no matter how much, will be less than losing the president."
Mr Qadir, a key Pathan leader, was killed in a hail of gunfire outside his office on July 6. His escort of 10 security guards has since been arrested for failing to stop or arrest the two gunmen.
Presidential officials insisted that the president's Afghan guards were merely being rotated away from their posts for training by American forces.
However, the decision to sack them cannot be separated from the ethnic rivalries and hatreds left unresolved by the fall of the Taliban. At first, Mr Karzai, a Pathan aristocrat from the south of Afghanistan, was protected by a force of loyal troops from his native Kandahar.
They were replaced by soldiers provided by the powerful Northern Alliance commander Mohammed Fahim, who is now the defence minister.
When Mr Karzai sacked his guards this weekend, the move triggered complaints that he had "insulted" Gen Fahim, who is from the Tajik ethnic group which dominates north-eastern Afghanistan.
Fazel Karim Aymaq, a senior Northern Alliance commander loyal to Gen Fahim, told Time: "It doesn't create a good feeling for Afghans to see their president have foreign security guards. It may create a longer-term problem."
Cdr Aymaq has his own reasons for hostility to Mr Karzai, who recently sacked him as mayor of Kabul on grounds of incompetence.
Gen Fahim and his Northern Alliance forces swept into Kabul last November, defying American pleas to halt just outside the capital. Since then, Pathan warlords from the south have complained bitterly that Mr Karzai's interim administration is dominated by Tajiks and foreigners.
Been that way for over 500 years, huh?