Opera Buffa in Kabul — Karzai Threatens to Join the Taliban

Farsical But Sinister

Robert H. Reid of AP summarizes the farsical but sinister events of the last week in the ever stranger opera buffa of Hamid Karzai:

Karzai has long chaffed under what he considers excessive international pressure. Those complaints escalated Thursday when he lashed out against the U.N. and the international community, accusing them of perpetrating a “vast fraud” in last year’s presidential polls as part of a conspiracy to deny him re-election or tarnish his victory – accusations the U.S. and the United Nations have denied.

Two days later, Karzai told a group of parliament members that if foreign interference in his government continues, the Taliban would become a legitimate resistance – one that he might even join, according to several lawmakers present.

“He said that ‘if I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban,'” said Farooq Marenai, who represents the eastern province of Nangarhar. “He said rebellion” against a legitimate Afghan government “would change to resistance” against foreign occupation.

Two other parliament members gave the same account but asked that their names not be published to avoid problems with Karzai.

Robert H. Reid, “AP Analysis: Karzai remarks risk US-Afghan rift,” Associated Press, April 5, 2010

Defense of Honor

When will someone stand up and shout, “The emperor has no clothes!”

It could do U.S.-Afghan relations a lot of good if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or President Obama himself, were to take Karzai’s wild assertions, and rebut each of them with well-documented facts, point by point.

Washington needs to understand the cultural meaning and context in Afghanistan of what Karzai is doing to the United States.

Obama might start, closer to home, by studying Michael Dukakis’ 1988 response to a question about what he would do if his wife was raped and murdered, and the impact on his candidacy of his cold and analytical response.

In Afghanistan, what Karzai has said about the United States and its allies is shameful. To pretend otherwise, to be reasonable in understanding his “idiosyncracies”, to accept the canard that he needs to strengthen his domestic support, to brush it off with diplomatic language, risks losing the hard-won respect we have earned among the population over nine hard years of war.

In a word, when attacked in a shameful way by Karzai, the United States needs to defend its honor, at least in words if not in deeds.

For excerpts and descriptions of Karzai’s remarks, see the following:

Mandy Clark, CBS News broadcast story, April 2, 2010

Jonathan Partow, “White House troubled by Afghan leader’s remarks,” Washington Post, April 5, 2010

Plan B

It is time, long past time in fact, to start developing Plan B. As unpalatable as that conclusion may be, the alternatives are going to be much worse.

It is useful to recall that Karzai did not win the first round in the presidential elections held on August 20, 2009, and that Abdullah, his opponent, withdrew from the second round only in the face of a refusal by Karzai to take meaningful measures to avoid a repetition of the fraud in the runoff.

Karzai is not the legitimate, elected president of Afghanistan, and the U.S. saying that he is–while ignoring the imminent fraud in the second round–does not make him the legitimate, elected president of Afghanistan.

As The Observer wrote on March 30,

U.S. officials need to carefully review the history of their interaction with Karzai over the last eight years, and reread what Ambassador Karl Eikenberry had to say about him and his government in his cables of November 6 and November 9, 2009.

For only when the Americans and their allies have disabused themselves of their last illusions about Karzai, and stifled their last unjustified hopes that he might reform, will they begin to have the clarity of vision that they will need to extricate themselves from their present predicament.

We cannot get to the goal of a legitimate government accepted by the population, which can defeat the Taliban or even avoid defeat at their hands, with the Karzai brothers.

We had better start thinking through the implications that flow from that one simple and brutal fact, and the adjustments to strategy and operations that will be required.

In the past, when our analysis led us to an inescapable but “unacceptable” conclusion, we have resorted to further analysis, allowing things to drift and to deteriorate further.

We must not repeat that mistake. The hour is late, and much more can still be lost.

The Trenchant Observer

E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com
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