Posts Tagged ‘Rod Norland’

Hamid Karzai’s Scurrilous Attacks on the U.S. in Afghanistan

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

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)

Analysis

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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Border tensions with Turkey rise; 190 killed on Thursday, al-Assad defiant, P5 + 4 to meet in Geneva on Saturday—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #57

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

On Thursday, the number of killed in Syria reached an all-time high for the year, at 190 dead, according to the New York Times:

Tallies by Syrian opposition groups that track casualties reported on Friday that the previous day’s death toll had reached 190 from violence in towns and cities throughout the country. The counts were detailed but could not be confirmed independently.

The largest number was concentrated in the Damascus suburb of Douma, an insurgent enclave about eight miles northwest of the capital, according to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain, and the Local Coordination Committees, a Syrian-based group.

A spokesman for the Syrian Observatory said the death toll on Thursday was the worst of any single day this year, with 125 confirmed civilian fatalities as well as the deaths of 65 fighters reported but under investigation. The observatory considers a death confirmed when videotape or other documentary evidence identifying the victim is received.

The coordination committees, which uses similar methodology but acts independently, reported 139 civilian deaths on Thursday.

–Rod Norland and Rick Gladstone, “Syrian Groups Say Violent Day Left High Civilian Toll,” The New York Times, June 29. 2012.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in St. Petersburg to discuss Syria, on the eve of a conference to be attended by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) plus Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. The conference is to discuss plans for a transition in Syria put together by Kofi Annan, the joint special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League.

See “Syria conflict: Russia-US still split ahead of talks; Areas of “difficulty and difference” remain between Russia and the US ahead of key talks on the crisis in Syria, a US official says,” BBC News, June 29, 2012.

Amid intensifying fighting on the ground in Syria, both Turkey and Syria were reportedly moving forces toward their border. The Turks were reported to be placing air defenses near the border, while easing the rules of engagement for the use of force by their military in response to provocations from Syria. Opposition sources reported the movement of Syrian forces to within 20 miles of the border, but were unclear as to their intentions.

See Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Antakya, Turkey/Reuters), “Turkey reinforces border: Assad’s helicopters hammer northern Syria (+video); Turkey reinforced its border with missile batteries Thursday. Syrian tanks massed 20 miles from the border with Turkey. Helicopters attacked Saraqeb, Syria,” The Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 2012.

Russia, after initially accepting a formulation by Kofi Annan that would in effect exclude al-Assad from a transitional government, reversed course. Differences were to be worked out in Clinton’s meeting with Lavrov in St. Petersburg Friday, but a meeting of the minds reportedly did not occur.

Khaled Yacoub Oweis of Reuters reported,

Ahead of Saturday’s meeting, Russia proposed changes to Annan’s plan for a national unity government in Syria, despite initially supporting it, but the United States, Britain and France rejected the amendments, Western diplomats said.

Russia and the other permanent U.N. Security Council members told Annan this week they supported a transitional cabinet that could include government and opposition members but would “exclude … those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardise stability and reconciliation,” according to Annan’s proposal.

Diplomats told Reuters that Annan’s idea of excluding certain people was clearly referring to Assad.

Although Russia signaled to Annan this week that his plan was acceptable, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reversed course on Thursday, diplomats said. Diplomats said the Russians demanded that Annan remove from his proposal the language about excluding people from a Syrian national unity government.

In Damascus, Bashar al-Assad defiantly asserted that no solution would be imposed by outside powers, friendly or not, and that he would “annihilate” the “terrorist” groups that were causing the civil strife in Syria.

See “Assad Rejects External Solution for Crisis,” BBC News, June 29, 2012.

Moscow probably does not have the leverage over al-Assad to force him to stand down immediately, though if they quit supplying him with weapons, intelligence and money, and joined the civilized countries of the world in imposing strict economic sanctions on Syria under a Security Council resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, they could certainly speed his departure.

What may be required, however, as we suggested in April, is that al-Assad will have to be taken down like a mad dog.  That will require military intervention, with or without Security Council authorization.

As for Kofi Annan and his conference, reports of the reversal of the Russian position regarding a fundamental point, which was a precondition for attendance at the conference, confirm that Russia cannot be trusted, and/or that Annan cannot shoot straight when trying to pull off one of his mediation initiatives. His mission should be ended at the earliest opportunity.

Instead of passing messages through Annan, who obviously has a large ego investment in the success of his mediation and has also shown himself to be pliant to Russian demands, the United States and Russia would do better to set up a small working group of their own within the framework of the Security Council, where representatives of the two countries can deal directly with each other.

Annan is quoted in the media as saying that he is “optimistic” that the talks on Saturday at the conference will produce a “satisfactory outcome”. For Kofi Annan, it seems that almost any outcome would be “satisfactory” as long as it kept him and his mediation operation in business.

What Syria needs, however, is an outcome that is “satisfactory” because it stops the atrocities.

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Corrupt-istan Update: Karzai’s Brazen Defiance

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Karzai blocks anti-corruption efforts

After Hamid Karzai intervened to thwart the investigation and arrest of some of his top officials, including Mohammed Zia Salehi, a top security adviser, President Obama held several meetings with his top National Security staff.  Karzai had blocked the work of two special anti-corruption units that had been established with the support and close assistance of U.S. officials, and fired Deputy Attorney General Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar, who had overseen their activities.

At the close of one meeting on September 14, at the peak of the crisis caused by Karzai’s actions, Obama gave instructions to the relevant agencies to go back and come up with “more sophisticated options”.  See Mark Mazzetti and Rod Norland, “U.S. Debates Karzai’s Place in Fighting Corruption,” New York Times, September 14, 2010.

These reportedly included a strategy to go after small-scale corruption by Afghan officials, while ignoring the massive corruption led by Karzai and his associates at the top levels of the Afghan government. See The Trenchant Observer, “Fighting corruption and other challenges in Dexter Filkins’ Corrupt-istan,” September 18, 2010.

Bags of cash from Iran

Since that time, it has been reported that Iran has for several years routinely shipped millions of dollars in cash to high officials in the Afghan government. See Dexter Filkins, “Iran Is Said to Give Top Karzai Aide Cash by the Bagful,” New York Times, October 23, 2010.

At a news conference on October 25, Karzai confirmed these cash payments from Iran, stating,

“They do give us bags of money — yes, yes, it is done,” Mr. Karzai said, responding to questions about a report in The New York Times on Sunday that Iran sends regular cash payments to his chief of staff, Umar Daudzai. “We are grateful to the Iranians for this.”

“Patriotism has a price,” he said.

To be sure, earlier reports revealed that the C.I.A. had been making payments to a large number of Afghan officials for years.

Lies and Insults: The Security Contractors Issue

What was perhaps more shocking were other statements made by Karzai at the October 25 news conference. Again, without evidence, he charged American security contractors with being behind a large number of attacks on the Afghan population, insisting on a December deadline for the withdrawal of foreign security contractors–with important exceptions. The latter include, presumably, his own security detail.

During an often hostile news conference, Mr. Karzai also accused the United States of financing the “killing” of Afghans by paying private security contractors to guard construction projects and convoys in Afghanistan. He has declined to postpone a December deadline he set for ending the use of private security forces despite urgent pleas from Western organizations, including development organizations, that need protection here.

The private security companies, many of which are paid for by the United States, are spreading chaos and unjustly killing Afghan civilians, Mr. Karzai said.

“The money dealing with the private security companies starts in the hallways of the U.S. government,” he said. “Then they send the money for killing here.”

Under a decree he issued in August, all private security firms must stop operations by Dec. 17. The United States and other Western governments here say they accept the ban, and they are trying to switch to the use of the Afghan police and soldiers to protect their military convoys…

They have asked for additional time to make the change, especially for civilian development organizations (which) say they will not be able to continue work without security for employees…

The Afghan president said security companies were responsible for a litany of bloody crimes against the country’s people. “When this money comes to Afghanistan, it causes insecurity in Afghan homes and causes the killing of Afghan children and causes explosions and terrorism in Afghanistan,” Mr. Karzai said.

He leveled several accusations against Western interests in Afghanistan and the news media, even going so far as to say that the security companies were interchangeable with the Taliban.

“In fact we don’t know how many of the explosions are the fault of the Taliban and how much by them,” said Mr. Karzai, referring to the security companies.

–Dexter Filkins and Alissa J. Rubin, “Afghan Leader Admits His Office Gets Cash from Iran,” New York Times, October 25, 2010.

Several days later, the ban on private security contractors was pushed back at least two months, allowing time for further consultations.

Three additional aspects of the security contractors issue are important, but have received relatively little attention in the press. First, if the ban on private security contractors stands, the billions of U.S. dollars now spent on providing personal security for U.S. civilian workers and contractors would presumably be funneled through the Afghan government. This would provide enormous and new sources of revenue to Afghan officials through graft and corruption, while enabling Karzai to strengthen his hold on power through his patronage networks.

Second, and more critical in terms of the U.S. military campaign and strategy, transferring this security function to Afghans would draw police and army personnel away from the urgent task of holding territory that has been cleared of the Taliban.

A final point is that Afghan army and police officials, many of whom are illiterate, are hardly likely to be able to provide the sophisticated security protection they would be replacing. As a result, the civilian side of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan could collapse.

“Sophisticated Options”: Charges Against Salehi Dropped; “Radio Silence” on New and Ongoing Electoral Fraud

Four Republican senators visited Kabul on November 10, concerned about corruption in the Karzai government.  The New York Times reports,

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and former presidential candidate, said the members of the delegation planned to forcefully raise the issue of corruption with Mr. Karzai. “We will bring up a couple of recent events that are very disturbing,” Mr. McCain said. He did not elaborate, but on Monday, Afghan officials said that corruption charges had been dropped against a Karzai aide, Mohammed Zia Salehi.

Mr. Karzai had intervened to have Mr. Salehi released from prison after he was arrested by an antigraft unit in late July. The case was embarrassing to the Americans, however, as it emerged that Mr. Salehi had been on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The contours of the more “sophisticated options” adopted by the Obama administration now appear clear. These “more sophisticated options” seem to consist of not undertaking any anti-corruption activities that might get Karzai upset.

They also appear to include maintaining a “radio silence” regarding the massive fraud in the National Assembly elections held on September 18. One of Karzai’s ministers, Ismail Khan, was allegedly caught on tape directing part of the fraud. The tape has been played on Afghan television.

Nonetheless, the U.S. and its allies have been unwilling to question the election results.

A protracted political fight over the legitimacy of the elections is something U.S. and NATO officials are trying to avoid. As they prepare to make their case for progress in the Afghan war at a summit in Lisbon and a December review in the United States, they have said the allegations lack evidence.
–Joshua Partlow, Audio files raise new questions about Afghan elections,”Washington Post, November 11, 2010.

A Primary Obstacle to “Good Governance” in Afghanistan

It is apparent that a primary obstacle to providing the “good governance” required to avoid a collapse of the government in Afghanistan is Hamid Karzai. Bearing in mind that he assumed the office of president only as the result of massive fraud which he himself apparently orchestrated, he cannot properly be viewed as the elected and legitimate president of Afghanistan.

It is time for the U.S. to start developing a Plan B, which would involve the early departure of Hamid Karzai from Afghanistan. As noted earlier,

What Obama needs to do is to take the bull by the horns, and start exploring options for the early departure of Hamid Karzai. This will be a monumentally challenging task. So was D-Day in World War II.

A starting point might be for the U.S. Congress to pass a law providing that no U.S. funds or personnel could be used to fund Hamid Karzai’s security detail. This prohibition could be lifted only when restrictions by the Afghan government on the use of private security contractors in Afghanistan had been revoked.

When someone like Karzai persistently directs lies and insults against you, while you are funding the very security that enables him to stay in power, you must either stand up and burst the bonds of a dependent and abusive relationship, or suffer the consequences of being a wimp.

In this case, the consequences of being a wimp are likely to be the continued loss of American and Allied lives and treasure, to no avail, and eventually the collapse of the Afghan government.

See, e.g.,

Dexter Filkins and Sharifullah Sahak, “Afghan Police Unit Defects to Taliban, Leaving Burning Station Behind,” The New York Times, November 1, 2010.

Greg Miller, “U.S. military campaign to topple resilient Taliban hasn’t succeeded, The Washington Post, October 27, 2010.

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Fighting corruption and other challenges in Dexter Filkins’ Corrupt-istan

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Some time is likely to pass before the results of Saturday’s National Assembly elections in Afghanistan become known, and are officially announced.

In the meantime, it is useful to reflect on the more fundamental issues facing the United States, NATO and other allied countries engaged in the effort to secure the country from the Taliban–or at least arrange a departure that does not lead to the rapid collapse of the Afghan government.

As we get caught up in the details provided to our reporters by U.S. military and civilian officials in Afghanistan and Washington, and also those of allied nations, we tend to forget several fundamental facts about the country.

First, Afghanistan is a narco-state, where drug money and drug lords hold inordinate sway.

Second, the country is the second most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International which ranks it 179th, with only the anarchic state of Somalia ranking lower at 180th.

Third, while the United States has supported the development of institutions necessary for good governance over the course of the nine-year war, as have the United Nations and other allied nations, its Central Intelligence Agency has at the same time been paying many high-ranking Afghan officials either as assets or to provide specific information and services, on a long-term and continuing basis. Many of these officials have been known to be corrupt.

Fourth, the United States has been unable to break free from its support of president Hamid Karzai, even when the presidential elections held in August 2009 gave it an opportunity to do so through adherence to the Afghan constitution and the electoral machinery that had been set up in accordance with Afghan legislation. Despite a massive vote against Karzai and for Abdullah that, even after a portion of the votes produced by corruption had been discounted, required that a second-round runoff election be held, the U.S. stood by Karzai.

The massive corruption of the electoral process, apparently orchestrated by Karzai, was corrected in part only by the Electoral Complaints Commission that at that time had a majority of three international members. Lost in the news reporting was the critical fact that the ECC had only examined the results of the voting stations where the most egregious fraud had occurred. The actual extent of the fraud was in all likelihood far greater than that examined and found by the ECC, and it is quite possible that Abdulllah Abdullah, who came in second, could have won a free and fair second round election.

The U.S., instead of facing down Karzai, turned to Pakistan and apparently struck a deal to gain the cooperation of the Pakistani military in negotiating with the Taliban, in exchange for ceasing its pressure on Karzai to either actually hold a second-round election or form a national unity government with Abdullah. In the face of Karzai’s refusal to meet Abdullah’s demand that the members of the Independent Electoral Commission who had orchestrated the fraud be replaced, the latter withdrew from the race.

As Thomas Friedman observed in the New York Times in his March 31 op-ed column,

When you can steal an election, you can steal anything. How will we get this guy to curb corruption when his whole election, and previous tour in office, were built on corruption? How can we be operating a clear, build-and-hold strategy that depends on us bringing good governance to Afghans when the head of the government is so duplicitous?

See also The Trenchant Observer, “Thomas L. Friedman on Karzai; Hard Options,” March 31, 2010.

Fifth, when U.S. anti-corruption efforts collide with the pervasive corruption at the top of the Afghan government, which reportedly has many high-ranking officials on the CIA payroll, those efforts seem to always be sacrificed as the intelligence agencies weigh in to protect their assets.

See, e.g., Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti, “Karzai Aide in Corruption Inquiry Is Tied to C.I.A.,” New York Times, August 25, 2010

Recently, Karzai blocked the efforts of two U.S. supported Afghan anti-corruption bodies when they sought to arrest officials close to Karzai widely reputed to be corrupt. Karzai then fired Deputy Attorney General Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar, who had been in charge of these anti-corruption efforts. The New York Times, in an editorial on August 25, 2010, noted,

A report in Thursday’s Times that the aide, Mohammed Zia Salehi, is a paid agent of the C.I.A. shows, once again, the seamy complications of this war.

In late July, Mr. Salehi, a top national security adviser to Mr. Karzai, was arrested after being accused of soliciting bribes to help block an investigation of the New Ansari Exchange. New Ansari, a financial firm based in Kabul, is suspected of helping move billions of dollars out of Afghanistan.

The two anticorruption agencies, the Major Crimes Task Force and the Sensitive Investigations Unit, were established by the Afghan government last year with encouragement from the United States. They are independent, with broad powers to arrest, detain and try suspects, and they receive technical and other help from the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

–Editorial, “Mr. Karzai’s Promises,” New York Times, August 25, 2010

The Central Dilemma Facing the U.S. in Afghanistan

The central dilemma facing the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan is that good governance is required for the Taliban to be checked, both according to U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine (as enunciated in the Army manual drafted by Petraeus), and under the specific conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. Yet good governance cannot be built, or governance strengthened, without law and the framework of law that such governance requires.

In a word, the U.S. and its allies are not likely to succeed in stabilizing Afghanistan, or in reducing the likelihood of destabilization of Pakistan as a result of failure in Afghanistan, without clearly setting out as its objective the establishment and consolidation of a constitutional or rule-of-law state.

That does not mean that the United States must maintain large military forces in Afghanistan until such a state is firmly in place, but it does mean that U.S. and allied efforts in the country must be oriented toward that goal, and not undermine it.

A long-term commitment from the U.S. and its allies on the civilian side, to assist in building and strengthening such a rule-of-law state, may be required. Such a commitment, however, would reassure Afghan partners dedicated to such an enterprise, and potential adherents, that the Umited States will not simply withdraw its troops and leave the country to warlords, drug lords, and the Taliban.

Two must-read articles lay out the depths of the pervasive corruption that exists in Afghanistan, and the inherent contradictions–as well as the strange if not delusional thinking–involved in current U.S. policymaking discussions on the subject of how to fight this corruption. See

Dexter Filkins, “Inside Corrupt-istan, a Loss of Faith in Leaders,” The New York Times, September 4, 2010; and

Mark Mazzetti and Rod Norland, “U.S. Debates Karzai’s Place in Fighting Corruption,” New York Times, September 14, 2010

Filkins writes,

It’s not as if the Americans and their NATO partners don’t know who the corrupt Afghans are. American officers and anti-corruption teams have drawn up intricate charts outlining the criminal syndicates that entwine the Afghan business and political elites. They’ve even given the charts a name: “Malign Actor Networks.” A k a MAN.

Looking at some of these charts—with their crisscrossed lines connecting politicians, drug traffickers and insurgents — it’s easy to conclude that this country is ruled neither by the government, nor NATO, nor the Taliban, but by the MAN.

It turns out, of course, that some of the same “malign actors” the diplomats and officers are railing against are on the payroll of the C.I.A. At least until recently, American officials say, one of them was Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother. Mr. Karzai has long been suspected of facilitating the country’s booming drug trade.

President Obama’s Response

How has president Obama reacted to Karzai’s interventions to block anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan and his firing of Deputy Attorney General Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar?

On Monday, September 14, Mazzetti and Norland report, the president met with his senior advisors to address the problem:

The Obama administration is debating whether to make Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, a more central player in efforts to root out corruption in his own government, including giving him more oversight of graft investigators and notifying him before any arrests, according to senior American officials.

The corruption issue was at the center of a two-hour White House meeting on Monday, with President Obama and senior aides agreeing that efforts to tackle corruption should be balanced against the need to maintain ties with the Afghan government.

“The discussion on corruption, in essence, is really a discussion about our relationship with Karzai,” said one senior Obama administration official, who like several others interviewed for this article spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Officials cautioned that no firm decisions had been made about whether President Karzai should have any veto power over anticorruption efforts. They said that Mr. Obama told his advisers on Monday to come up with a more “sophisticated” policy toward Afghan corruption.

Mr. Obama, the officials said, directed government agencies — including the Pentagon, the State Department, the Justice Department and the C.I.A. — to develop guidelines that could isolate the corruption that fuels anger among Afghans and drives many into the ranks of the insurgency, as opposed to the more routine kickbacks and bribes that grease the Afghan political system.

“The corruption we need to combat is the corruption that undermines the fight against the Taliban,” said a second American official. “That means going after officials who abuse ordinary Afghans and drive them to the other side — a plundering landlord or a brutal, thieving cop.”

In other words, the idea is to pursue some corruption, but not the corruption at the top of the Afghan government. In the president’s words, the challenge is to come up with a more “sophisticated” policy toward fighting Afghan corruption.

Perhaps more importantly, Obama’s call for more “sophisticated” options for fighting corruption in Afghanistan reflects Karzai’s continued ability to “roll” the president, who every time he hits a brick wall seems to call for more analysis.

There is room for some doubt as to whether these “sophisticated” intellectual distinctions and options, if found and implemented, will ever gain traction in the second most corrupt country in the world, Corrupt-istan.

To the Observer, the idea of trying to make Karzai a more central player in efforts to root out corruption in his own government sounds like giving Al Capone a more central role in cleaning up Chicago.

In the meantime, anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan are “paused”. See Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin, “New Afghan Corruption Inquiries Frozen,” New York Times, September 14, 2010.

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