NEW YORK – With Hamid Karzai’s days as Afghanistan’s president drawing to a close, his family members are trying to protect their status while secretly fighting among themselves over the fortune they have amassed, according to The New York Times.One brother, Qayum Karzai, is mulling a run for the presidency when his brother steps down in 2014, the newspaper said in a dispatch on Monday. Other brothers have been battling over the crown jewel in the family empire — the largest private residential development in Afghanistan. The conflict over the project, known as Aino Mena, has provoked accusations of theft and extortion, even reports of an assassination plot.“It’s family,” Qayum Karzai was quoted as saying. “They get upset, and over time they get over it. I hope they get over it.”“The looming withdrawal of American and NATO troops by 2014 from the still unresolved war, along with President Karzai’s coming exit, is causing anxiety among the Afghan elite who have been among the war’s biggest beneficiaries, enriching themselves from American military contracts, insider business deals with foreign companies, government corruption and narcotics trafficking,” the dispatch from Washington said.One Karzai brother is also said to have imprisoned a longtime Karzai aide in an effort to make him disclose the whereabouts of money and assets that relatives suspect were hidden by Ahmed Wali Karzai, another of President Karzai’s brothers and the political boss of southern Afghanistan who was assassinated last year, the Times said. He was often accused of benefiting from the Afghan opium trade and an array of corrupt deals, though he denied such claims.“If you are one of the Afghan oligarchs, where you put your money and where you live is an open question now,” Seth Jones, an analyst at the RAND Corporation, was quoted as saying. “That means you are thinking about moving your money and finding a backup option about where to live.”“The president’s family — many of whom are American citizens who returned to Afghanistan after an American-led coalition toppled the Taliban in 2001 and brought Mr. Karzai to power — are among those who have prospered the most, by the accounts of many Afghan businessmen and government insiders,” the dispatch said.Several political observers in Kabul, according to the Times, said any candidacy by Qayum Karzai, a longtime Maryland resident who has served in the Afghan Parliament, would be a long shot because of the nation’s fatigue with Hamid Karzai and widespread resentment over the rampant corruption that has tainted his government.Even some of the Karzai family’s own business partners are among the critics.“We have an illegitimate and irresponsible government because of Karzai and his family,” said Abdullah Nadi, an Afghan-American developer from Virginia who is a partner in the Aino Mena housing development, but who is trying to get out of the venture.“While exploiting their opportunities in Afghanistan, the extended Karzai family has for years simmered with tensions, jealousies, business rivalries, blood feuds and even accusations of murder,” it said. “With the often-fractious family, it can be difficult to discern the truth, but everyone agrees that the conflict over control of its empire can be traced back to the death in July 2011 of Ahmed Wali Karzai, who had risen from working as a waiter in Chicago to become one of the most powerful men in Afghanistan, serving as the chairman of the Kandahar Provincial Council.His murder, by an Afghan thought to be a loyal supporter, left a power vacuum in Kandahar — and in the Karzai family. President Karzai appointed another brother, Shah Wali Karzai, to take on their slain brother’s role as head of the Populzai, the Karzai’s family tribe.No one expected much from him, it said. Quiet and reserved, he was largely overshadowed by Ahmed Wali Karzai, and even lived in his more powerful brother’s compound in Kandahar.But Shah Wali Karzai has been transformed in the past year. In addition to his role as tribal chief, he serves as project manager of Aino Mena, the sprawling residential development on the outskirts of Kandahar being developed by AFCO, a corporation owned by another brother, Mahmoud Karzai, and his four partners.They have built 3,000 homes, with plans for a total of 14,700. The developers are building on 10,000 acres, land that Afghan military officials have claimed was illegally seized from the Ministry of Defence.Emboldened after Ahmed Wali Karzai’s death, Shah Wali Karzai appeared no longer satisfied to serve just as an employee at Aino Mena. At some point in the past few months, he created his own corporation in Kandahar and then secretly moved all of the cash from the housing development’s bank accounts to those of his new business.According to several AFCO partners, Shah Wali Karzai had transferred about $55 million. “He simply opened another company, and put the money in that company,” Mahmoud Karzai told the Times.Nadi, one of the partners in Aino Mena, accused Shah Wali Karzai of forging his signature on documents to make it appear as if he had approved the creation of Shah Wali Karzai’s company as the new corporate parent of Aino Mena. “I had no clue what the hell was going on,” Nadi was quoted as saying.When Mahmoud Karzai discovered what his brother had done, he demanded that Shah Wali return the money, the dispatch said. But Shah Wali refused, and instead insisted that he be made a partner in Aino Mena. Mahmoud and his partners refused, and the two sides settled into a bitter stalemate.Shah Wali Karzai does not deny transferring the money to his corporation. But he justified his actions by claiming that he is protecting the money for the sake of the people of Kandahar.