Karzai breaks down in tears at event
September 28th, 2010
10:27 AM ET

Karzai breaks down in tears at event

It was supposed to be a day celebrating Afghan achievements in education. Instead, Afghanistan's embattled president broke down crying at an official gathering commemorating International Literacy Day.

In his emotional speech, Hamid Karzai lamented the estimated 10 million Afghans who are illiterate and repeated an appeal to Taliban militants to lay down their arms and expressed fear that his son might one day be forced to flee his country.

"I have pain in my heart," Karzai said, his voice breaking and his eyes red with tears.

"I'm afraid that my son, my own son will become a refugee one day. Please, I don't want my son and your son to be a foreign citizen. I want him to grow up here ...I want him to serve his nation," Karzai said, addressing an auditorium full of teachers, government ministers, foreign ambassadors and Girl Scouts gathered to celebrate the event.

After wiping his face with a handkerchief, Karzai urged Afghans to do more to educate their children. Several bearded men in the audience brushed away tears as the Afghan leader concluded his speech.

It's not clear what prompted the president's tearful soliloquy. But there is no question, Afghan observers say, that he and at least one close family member are currently facing strains on many fronts.

"Mr. Karzai is under a lot of pressure right now," said Mahmoud Saiqal, a former deputy foreign minister who served as a diplomat for several years under President Karzai.

"The constant drumbeat of negative news about progress in the country and news of problems with his family must be really having an effect on his ability to think clearly," said Candace Rondeaux, a Kabul-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.

The growing Taliban-inspired insurgency claimed another prominent Afghan government victim Tuesday morning when a bomb ripped through the vehicle of the deputy governor of Ghazni province on his morning commute to work.

The blast killed deputy governor Mohammad Kazem Allahyar, his brother, his son, and two civilian bystanders and wounded at least eight people including two bodyguards, said Ismail Jihangir, a spokesman for the Ghazni governor.

In a statement on Tuesday, President Karzai's office condemned the attack, calling it an act of terrorism.

Meanwhile, according to a report this week in the Wall Street Journal, one of the Afghan president's brothers, Mahmood Karzai, is currently being investigated by federal prosecutors in New York on charges of tax evasion. The New York Times reports the Afghan-American businessman is also being wiretapped by the U.S. National Security Agency.

Speaking to CNN by telephone from Dubai on Tuesday, Mahmood Karzai denied any wrongdoing, calling allegations that he committed extortion and racketeering "absolutely false" and "ridiculous."

He also said he was up to date on paying his U.S. taxes.

"All tax returns dating back to 1976 have been filed and completed."

Mahmood Karzai is an American citizen who splits his time between the United States, Dubai and Afghanistan. At the time of the overthrow of the Taliban, nearly nine years ago, Mahmood Karzai ran several Afghan restaurants in the United States. Today, he is the first vice chairman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries and one of the most powerful businessmen in Afghanistan.

Karzai is also a major shareholder of Kabul Bank, which is struggling to survive after a series of risky real estate investments in Dubai helped lead to a run on the bank by investors earlier this month. The chairman of Kabul Bank, Sherkhan Farnood, is also the chairman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce.

President Karzai has faced a drumbeat of criticism from Western governments in recent months, urging the Afghan government to crack down on corruption.

Until the recent Kabul Bank crisis, much of the criticism was focused on another Karzai brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai. He is the chairman of the provincial council in Kandahar and one of the biggest power brokers in southern Afghanistan.

In private conversations, Western diplomats often accuse Ahmad Wali Karzai of having links to Afghanistan's booming opium industry, charges Karzai routinely denies.

"It's not surprising that the U.S. government has turned its sights on members of the Karzai family," said Rondeaux of the International Crisis Group. "The question is ...is this a pressure tactic that's being used on the part of the American diplomatic corps to get a more vigorous response to the corruption question?"

In his phone interview with CNN, businessman Mahmood Karzai said he had not yet been contacted by American officials regarding the reported investigations, but vowed to cooperate fully with U.S. prosecutors if they came calling.

"I have nothing to hide. It should be easy for them to investigate me."

The U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York will not confirm or deny to CNN whether prosecutors are investigating the Afghan president's brother.

Asked about the reported investigation, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden answered, "We refer you to the Department of Justice because we do not comment on legal matters."

Some Afghan analysts, however, welcome the development.

"How long should we tolerate criminal activities and corruption at higher levels and let it go?" asked Saiqal, the former Afghan diplomat.

"The majority of Afghans voted for Mr. Hamid Karzai, not his brother, not his cousin, not his tribe. Why anyone with the surname of Karzai should be in a position of power, that is an important question."

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. HonestAmerican

    The people of America and AFGHANS are the innocent victims of the American-Pakistani policy for Afghanistan....

    PLAYING WITH AFGHAN LIVES: To the west Afghanistan is a chess game(GREAT GAME III)
    A new book by The Washington Post's Bob Woodward describes U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham as playing a central role in the formation and execution of President Barack Obama's war policy in Afghanistan through his close ties to Vice President Joe Biden, Gen. David Petraeus and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
    Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. troops in Iraq who now holds the same post in Afghanistan, describes Graham as "a brilliant and skillful chess player"...

    Foreign interference has destroyed Afghanistan but it will also destroy those who interfere in Afghan affairs, the ghosts of our forefathers and the spirits of the 3 million who have died in the past 30 years will not leave the enemies of Afghanistan alone...

    "Whoever has any problem, they come to Afghanistan to find a solution," Karzai said.

    AFGHANS WILL NOT FORGET ALL THOSE WHO USED AND USE AFGHANISTAN AS A PLAYGROUND AND BATTLEFIELD FOR THEIR STRATEGIC GOALS IN THE REGION....

    Afghans are caught up in the violence between the goals of Western powers and militants backed by other countries.

    NO Afghan was involved in 9-11, neither is the west in Afghanistan for terrorists, women, democracy or rebuilding...Afghans call them out on their lies and agendas against Afghan interest.

    NATO and US Interference in Afghan internal and external affairs will delay Afghan misery but it will never result in Afghans giving our sovereignty to others. The west will never find REAL "reliable AFGHAN Partner" meaning a real Puppet because Afghans by nature are independent minded and will cut their strings as soon as their national interest is in Danger..

    US silence on PAkistan which is the terrorism headquarter leaves one to wonder in US is involved in terrorism?

    September 29, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. Boney

    You guy be tripping me out! LOL you two must have a love-hate relationship and are airing it out on this board.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. zahra

    President Karzai we need you to work not cry...it is not a drama it is a serious position which you hold. It's like indian movies!

    September 29, 2010 at 5:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Killing millions of Afghans in the name of democracy will make any human cry, let alone Afghan president Karzai who is an Afghan. do you value an Afghan life equal to another?

      September 29, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  4. Casey

    We Americans seem to have a bad habit of always backing the wrong guy, case in point Karzai.

    September 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

    It's pretty obvious that nothing in Afghanistan will change for the better until Cryin' Karzai and his corrupt government leave office.

    September 28, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. just a dumb US taxpayer

    Didn't anyone see the squirt water bottle
    Real men don't cry
    Karzai is not a real man

    September 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andrew Lubin

    Like Dan already said,this obnoxious war does need to end even though it's not hurting Americans.It's the Afghans who are suffering horrifically from this needless conflict.

    September 28, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      It will end when the last Taliban terrorist lies beneath a pit of rotting pig corpses where they all belong.

      September 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry Valecia, Calif.US Army Forever...

      Sorry Andrew,I did not post that idiotic comment above.Somebody keeps on trying to make me look stupid!!!

      September 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dallas Wiebelhaus

    Why Criticize him? What he's trying to do is for the betterment of his beloved Country...Article sounded very critical to me.

    September 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ray

      Criticize? Hell yeah!!! This man and his brother are an Afghan version of John Gotti. Everything from stealing funds,drug cartel dealings,payoffs,brides,get the idea. The man was crying because it either looks good for the cameras or he is off his meds.Read the UN reports, and the Independent Research groups. They all point to him and his corruption. The man is the symbol for corruption,backstabbing,and every other form of wrongdoing.

      September 28, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |