Recent News and Opinion
Alyssa J. Rubin, News Analysis: Karzai Bets on Vilifying U.S. to Shed His Image as a Lackey,” New York Times, March 12, 2013
Alyssa J. Rubin and Rod Norland, “U.S. General Puts Troops on Security Alert After Karzai Remarks,” New York Times, March 13, 2013
Leslie H. Gelb, “To Hell With Karzai,” The Daily Beast, March 12, 2013 (4:45 AM ET)
Ewen MacAskill (in Washington), “White House: claims of US collusion with Taliban ‘categorically false’; Obama spokesman rejects Karzai’s criticism of US as Afghan in police uniform kills seven including two American troops,” The Guardian, March 11, 2013 (15.51 ET)
The United States has tolerated Hamid Karzai’s scurrilous attacks on the U.S. over the years, reacting with “understanding” that, e.g., Karzai is speaking to a domestic audience, or is acting crazy again.
But the U.S. has never reacted to these outrageous attacks with any understanding of their impact in a culture based on honor, and as a result has suffered the double humiliation of being attacked falsely and of being viewed as not having the courage to defend one’s honor.
Such attacks have worked for Karzai in the past, due to the American insistence that its envoys and military commanders get along with the green-caped magician. Karzai has proven far more adept than his allies at manipulating the other party or parties in an alliance which has kept him and the country’s corrupt political elite in power at the cost of U.S. and allied soldiers’ and civilians’ lives, and billions of dollars funneled into the coffers of government officials in what Dexter Filkins has quite aptly termed “Corruptistan”.
In 2009, the U.S. and NATO had a chance to bring Karzai to heel when decisions were being made on whether to insist that a second round in the presidential elections in Afghanistan actually be held, following the first-round elections held on August 20. Karzai’s fraud was so immense, that even the International Elections Commission, which found electoral corruption sufficient to require a second-round run-off, barely touched the surface of the real fraud, due to the highly selective criteria it used to sample precincts for voting abuses.
The United States blinked, and backed Karzai instead of the democratic project the elections had been intended to further.
In view of the American backing of Karzai and the latter’s failure to guarantee that the second-round election would be fairly conducted, Abdullah Abdullah, the candidate who came in second with backing from the Northern Alliance and others, withdrew.
In any event, it had been obvious for some time that Karzai was the favored candidate of the U.S., for reasons which may have included his brother’s involvement in Kandahar with the CIA as well as that of many other high government officials who were on the CIA payroll. While there is no public evidence of direct involvement of Hamid Karzai with the CIA, such a relationship now or in the past seems quite plausible given the CIA’s penetration of the highest ranks of the Afghan government, and therefore cannot be ruled out.
For whatever reasons, America could not break with Karzai.
As a result, without improvement of governance in the country to keep pace with military gains, Afghanistan now faces a period of growing instability in which it is fairly likely that the Taliban will achieve increasing control of the countryside as U.S. and ISAF forces draw down and essentially withdraw from the country.
Obama’s decisions in 2009 relating to the presidential elections constituted one of his worst foreign policy failures since assuming office.
The fact that the elections and decisions regarding the holding of the second-round election were not addressed within Obama’s much-touted Afghanistan policy review group revealed either the president’s incompetence in the foreign policy arena, or the fact that he and the CIA had decided issues relating to Karzai outside of the Afghan policy review process, or both of the above. The fact that then CIA Director Leon Panetta did not attend the last sessions of the policy review group lend support to the second hypothesis.
As for Karzai, Thomas Friedman predicted with unerring accuracy the following in an op-ed piece in March, 2010:
We have thousands of U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan and more heading there. Love it or hate it, we’re now deep in it, so you have to want our engagement there to build something that is both decent and self-sustaining — so we can get out. But I still fear that Karzai is ready to fight to the last U.S. soldier. And once we clear, hold and build Afghanistan for him, he is going to break our hearts.
–Thomas L. Friedman, “This Time We Really Mean It,” New York Times, March 30, 2010
As long as Karzai is calling the shots, the chances for the kinds of improvements in governance that are required for the government to remain in power and hold off the Taliban after the draw-down and departure of U.S. and ISAF troops do not appear great.
The Trenchant Observer
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