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On December 5, 2001, Hamid Karzai was elected as chairman of the interim government of Afghanistan.
Although many Afghans knew little about Karzai at the time, he was already well known within the international community.
On Christmas Day 1979, a young Karzai was studying in India when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. After completing his studies he joined his father and other Afghan refugees in Pakistan's border town Quetta.
There, he worked as a liason between Western diplomats and opposition groups, putting him in contact with foreigners supporting the toppling of the Soviet-backed government in his home country.
Return to Afghanistan
Karzai returned to Afghanistan following the defeat of the Soviets at the hands of Afghan fighters and took on the role of deputy foreign minister.
But two years later he left for Pakistan again as the country headed into a civil war which would result in the Taliban taking power.
Again Karzai became politically active from his base in Quetta, this time as part of the growing anti-Taliban movement.
|Many considered Karzai the perfect candidate to bring all factions together [GALLO/GETTY]
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, Karzai crossed back into Afghanistan to rally the southern tribes against the Taliban.
On October 7, US and British forces launched their military response in Afghanistan.
Within weeks, the Taliban had surrendered or fled and a group of Afghan and international delegates met in the German city of Bonn to choose the multilingual Karzai to head the transitional government.
Being a Pashtun, the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan, and having little or no blood on his hands from the civil war, Karzai seemed the perfect candidate at the time.
His ability to bring warring factions together, and his skills at international diplomacy, made many believe that he was the right choice to bring the conflict-ridden country back on its feet.
A question of character, or circumstance?
But eight years on, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with around half of the population living below the poverty line.
A 2008 UN report states that it is also the source of much of the world's opium and its refined form, heroin.
Violence, from both pro- and anti-government forces is at an all-time high and government corruption is reportedly endemic with Transparency International ranking Afghanistan as the world's fifth most corrupt country.
Karzai's opponents interpret his failures to achieve lasting security and prosperity as a weakness of character, and judge him unsuitable to carry on the role of leader of Afghanistan.
Yet have his unfulfilled promises been a question of character, or circumstance?
In the run up to the presidential elections, Al Jazeera examines the successes and failures of Afghanistan's first democratically-elected president through his own words.
Karzai in his own words aired from Saturday, August 15, 2009.
Source: Al Jazeera