Despite a fearsome reputation as a drug runner, CIA agent and tribal hardman, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who was shot dead by a trusted senior bodyguard yesterday, was judged to be a necessary -- even indispensable -- evil by Nato officialdom.
Born in the southern Afghan city of Karz, the 50-year-old shared a father with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and six other siblings.
He was seen as a key Nato ally and the most visible player in Kandahar, a city overrun by mob rule.
Formally the chairman of Kandahar provincial council, his power was acquired through connections to the vast Afghan opium trade.
Senior American officials openly spoke of his involvement in the massive drug industry that underwrites the Taliban insurgency.
His close association with Haji Azizullah, a heroin kingpin, has never been properly explained.
'The New York Times' also reported that AWK -- a nickname based on his initials -- was on the payroll of the CIA since 2001. He denied that he knew "anyone" in the CIA.
However, the Nato-funded Kandahar Strike Force, a paramilitary outfit under his control, gave him more firepower than any other regional politician in Afghanistan. Coalition generals would be granted audiences with Ahmed Wali like ambassadors to a medieval court.
Major General Nick Carter, the former Nato commander in Kandahar, boasted he had won Ahmed Wali's friendship by discussing the prospects for Chelsea Football Club.
While his rough charm helped facilitate dealings with the West, he was also admired for his audacity. He twice escaped assassination attempts in 2008 and 2009.
Ahmed Wali, who married in 2004 and is thought to be survived by two sons and three daughters, was forced into exile by the Soviets in the 1980s.
His father, Abdul Ahad, had been a deputy speaker of parliament under King Zahir Shah but was also forced to flee.
Like his brothers, Ahmed Wali was sent to the US to study and work. On his return, the minor chieftain of the Popalzai tribe skilfully used connections and wealth to shore up the family's position in a community sympathetic to the Taliban.
So much so that a secret Nato report in 2009 concluded that he could not be removed. Instead, the two sides reached an understanding that Ahmed Wali would maintain order in his strongholds and stay clear of Nato operations in the city.
But two years ago, Ahmed Wali was accused of corruption and his role at the heart of the president's regime became seen as a liability.
With his credibility compromised, his partnership with Nato lost its legitimacy and the Taliban was able to exploit this to make gains in the region. (© Daily Telegraph, London)