When Qayum Karzai arrives in Rome tomorrow to meet his brother Hamid, the two will be together for the first time since August -- not all that long ago, according to the calendar.
"But if you look at all the events since then," Qayum, a Baltimore restaurateur, said yesterday, "it's a lifetime ago."
Karzai leaves Baltimore today for Rome and then Kabul, where he will advise his brother as he puts together the transitional government that will run Afghanistan. On Saturday, Hamid Karzai is to be installed as chairman of the interim government.
The brothers will travel together from Rome to Kabul later tomorrow or Thursday, probably talking the entire time, Qayum said, and little of the talk will be idle.
"It's mind-boggling how much needs to be done," Qayum said from his home in Glenwood. "And it needs to be done quickly because there are so many in need of humanitarian help."
Karzai, who owns the Tapas Teatro and Helmand restaurants in Baltimore, said he will "unofficially" advise his brother with "the nuts and bolts" of leading the multi-ethnic government.
He said security will be a top priority.
His brother's and his own safety aside, he said, thousands of Afghans could die of starvation if international aid groups cannot deliver food soon.
The Karzai family are leaders of the Populzai tribe, a clan of about 200,000 Pashtuns, Afghanistan's most populous ethnic group.
In the early 1970s their father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, served in the Afghan Senate during the reign of Mohammad Zahir Shah, the king who has lived for years in exile in Rome.
The Karzais expect to meet with the king before leaving for Kabul.
Hamid Karzai, 44, was chosen this month by an Afghan delegation to Bonn to head a 30-member interim Cabinet that faces daunting tasks extending beyond security and humanitarian aid. To name just one: integrating fighters from various tribes into a unified regular army.
The committee and Karzai are to rule for six months, with successors chosen by a deliberative council known as a loya jirga.
Qayum, 53, said he will stay in Afghanistan "as long as I'm needed," but plans to return to Maryland and his wife, Pat, and two children.
"Now is the time to be there because this is a critical time," he said. "I want to help. I think a lot of Afghans are needed to help."