Huffpost Chicago

Hamid Karzai's Brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Reminisces About Chicago Restaurant In Secret Memo

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Sunday's reporting by the New York Times on a massive trove of leaked intelligence memos contained a lot of unpleasant information for heads of state around the world. Authorities everywhere from France and Germany to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are struggling to deal with the memos, obtained and released by WikiLeaks, and their often negative depictions.

But in Chicago, there's nothing but love in the leaked documents.

The love comes specifically from Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Ahmed Karzai (referred to as "AWK" in the documents) is a controversial figure in Afghan-U.S. relations: he is reported to have been on the CIA payroll for roughly eight years, though he denies the reports; officials also believe he is a major player in the Afghan drug trade, another claim he vehemently denies.

From one of the leaked memos: "Note: While we must deal with AWK as the head of the Provincial Council, he is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker."

Also described in the letters is the diplomatic gamesmanship surrounding Karzai's meetings with U.S. officials. According to the Times, the Afghan power-broker tried "to win over the Americans with nostalgic tales about his years running a Chicago restaurant near Wrigley Field."

Indeed, an article from the Canadian National Post described his role at the restaurant:

Eighteen years ago, as manager of a family-run Afghan restaurant on North Halsted Street in Chicago's Wrigleyville district, Ahmed Wali Karzai spent his days serving aushak (leek dumplings) and lamb dwopiaza, tenderloin sautéed with yellow split-peas and onions.

That restaurant was Helmand, a now-defunct Afghan spot located at 3201 N. Halsted. A passing mention in the Chicago Tribune in 1995 described the restaurant as serving "slightly exotic Afghan cuisine."

FOX Chicago reproduces more of the memos surrounding Karzai's reminiscences of the restaurant:

"Further emphasizing his links to the United States, AWK fondly recalled his days in Chicago as a restaurant owner close to Chicago's Wrigley field. His restaurant was a hub for Americans in the Midwest who had worked or lived in Afghanistan prior to the soviet invasion, he said."

These days, things have changed. Afghans in Chicago get their fix at Afghan Kabob or the Kabul House in Skokie. And Karzai himself certainly isn't bussing aushak anymore.