AT THE CENTER
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Hamid Karzai has served as the President of Afghanistan since 2002, a position that reflects his considerable experience in Afghan politics. After finishing graduate work in India in 1983, Karzai joined the mujahideen resistance during the Soviet-Afghan war. He then worked in the Foreign Relations unit of the mujahideen interim government until civil war broke out. During the 1990s Karzai promoted a Loya Jirga (grand council) as a peaceful answer to the conflict. In the wake of the American invasion, Karzai was appointed interim president by the Loya Jirga and then popularly elected to the post in 2004. He traveled the world to gather support and financial assistance for the reconstruction effort, and his administration emphasized the importance of human rights, especially for women. Despite his initial popularity, ongoing violence and concerns about corruption have dampened domestic and international enthusiasm for his government. He was re-elected to the presidency in 2009, but the contest was marred by insecurity, low voter turnout, ballot-stuffing, and the withdrawal of his opponent before the second round.