He is well educated and Westernised. He speaks English fluently and served as a deputy foreign minister in Afghanistan's first Mujaheddin government in 1992.
At the moment he appears to be the Afghan opposition's best hope for building an alternative Pashtun powerbase to the Taleban.
When the Taleban erupted on to Afghanistan's political scene in the early 1990s, Hamid Karzai initially supported them.
However, by late 1994 he had become suspicious of the movement, fearing it had been infiltrated and was controlled by foreigners, including Pakistanis and Arabs.
Recently he said it was time to get rid of such people.
"These Arabs, together with their foreign supporters and the Taleban, destroyed miles and miles of homes and orchards and vineyards," he said.
"They have killed Afghans. They have trained their guns on Afghan lives.
"These Arabs are in Afghanistan to learn to shoot. They learn to shoot on live targets and those live targets are the Afghan people, our children our women. We want them out."
When his father - a former parliamentary deputy - was assassinated two years ago, the murder was widely attributed to the Taleban.
Mr Karzai has also retained his links with Zahir Shah.
He has long supported the former king's plans to build a broad-based government in Afghanistan through the convening of a grand tribal assembly known as a loya jirga.
In the wake of the 11 September suicide attacks in New York and Washington he was said to have received a stream of disaffected Afghan commanders and tribal leaders at his home in the Pakistani city of Quetta.
In October Mr Karzai slipped across the border into Afghanistan.
The Taleban will certainly be keen to capture him.