President Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai was born on the 24th of December, 1957 (Quaus 9th, 1336) in the village of Karz, near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

His grandfather, Khair Mohammad Khan, had served during Afghanistan’s war of independence and as the Deputy Speaker of the Senate. His father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, was a tribal (Popalzai) elder and a significant national political figure, who served as the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament during the 1960s. Abdul Karzai moved with his family to Kabul upon his election to the Parliament.

Hamid Karzai studied at Mahmood Hotaki Elementary School, Sayed Jamaluddin Afghani School, and Habibia High School. After graduating from high school, he traveled to India as an exchange student in 1976, and was accepted to study for his masters degree in International Relations and Political Science from Simla University. He obtained his master’s degree in 1983, shortly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (which began in 1979).

Hamid Karzai then traveled to Pakistan, joining the Mujahideen fighters resisting the Soviet occupation of his homeland. In 1985, he traveled to Lille, France, to attend a three-month journalism course. When he returned to Peshawar, Pakistan, he served as the Director of Information and later as the Deputy Director of the Political Office of the National Liberation Front led by Professor Sebghatullah Mujadidi. After the formation of the transitional government of the Mujahideen in 1989, he was appointed Director of the Foreign Relations Unit in the Office of the President of the Interim Government.

When the Mujahideen Government was established in Kabul in 1992, Hamid Karzai was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister. Two years later, when the civil war between the various Mujahideen groups began, he resigned from his post, and began to work actively for the organization of a national Loya Jirga (Grand Council). A devoted Muslim and Afghan patriot, he believed that only through a Loya Jirga could Afghanistan’s difficulties be overcome, and the differences between the competing parties resolved peacefully. This belief was borne out by the Emergency Loya Jirga of 2002 and the Constitutional Loya Jirga in 2003.

In August 1999, Abdul Ahad Karzai, who was organizing resistance to the Taliban from his base in Quetta, Pakistan, was assassinated by the Taliban and their foreign supporters. The commitment of the Karzai family, and of Hamid Karzai in particular, to ridding Afghanistan of this foreign menace was not shaken by this tragedy, and he continued his father’s struggle against the Taliban.

Hamid Karzai returned to Uruzgan Province in October 2001, and worked to coordinate local efforts to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and their supporters. On December 5, 2001, while he was still in Afghanistan leading these efforts, he was elected Chairman of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan, by participants at the UN-sponsored Bonn Conference. He, along with the appointed Cabinet, took his oath of office on December 22 of that year.

His role as leader of the country was confirmed by members of the Emergency Loya Jirga, when he was elected President of the Transitional Government on June 13, 2002. During Afghanistan’s first presidential election, on October 9, 2004, Hamid Karzai won the majority of the votes, and was elected to a five-year term as President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. He took his oath of allegiance at Salam Khana Palace on December 7, 2004, in the presence of dignitaries and officials from around the world.

As President, Hamid Karzai is seen as a uniting force for all Afghans. He has long been an advocate of improving human rights, and particularly, the role of women in Afghanistan. He has appointed several women to his Cabinet, and recently appointed the first female Governor in Afghanistan’s history.

Hamid Karzai has been awarded many honors, among them a Honorary Knighthood from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (2003), the Philadelphia Liberty Medal (2004), and the American Bar Association-Asia Rule of Law Award (2003).

In 1999, he married Dr. Zeenat Quraishi. He has six brothers and one sister. He speaks Pashto, Dari, Urdu and English fluently, and enjoys riding horses and studying philosophy.

For more information, please explore the President’s official website:

Click here to watch a video of the President's September 2006 speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.