FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Karzai Dilemma

Afghan leader Hamid Karzai is not conforming to his puppet status. He was meant to be the marionette of Washington’s confused and often incompetent policy in Afghanistan. With Karzai at the helm of a broken and mutilated state, the Coalition forces demonstrated with much aplomb what version of democracy they were giving the Afghan state. Not only was it a weak stripling, it proved to be a diseased one on the cusp of death.

The anger shown towards Karzai’s reluctance to the current security plan by Washington is almost amusing. He has been accused by Tom Donilon, President Barack Obama’s national security advisor, as “reckless in terms of Afghanistan”. He has refused, at this point, to ratify the security deal with his occupying sponsors despite its endorsement last week by the Loya Jirga, or council of tribal elders. He is biding his time, waiting till spring national elections are concluded.

The bilateral security arrangement, if implemented, would see a continuing U.S. military presence once the U.N. mandate that oversees its role ends in December 2014. This is further proof that withdrawal is something U.S. officials are contemplating with deepest reluctance, the unnecessary inconvenience of abiding by the wishes of a local populace they generally regard as roadside furniture in strategic planning.

Withdrawal is a word they would like to sidestep altogether, removing the bulk of the troops while still maintaining a set of stern military eyes over their satraps in Kabul. In the words of an unnamed senior Obama administration official, “The footprint of the intelligence community depends to some extent on the footprint of the military” (Washington Post, Dec 2). If those eyes are removed, U.S. special operations and intelligence personnel would become ineffective. Hence the pressing need to clip the wings of Afghan sovereignty, qualifying it within the parameters of perceived U.S. security.

RAND analyst Linda Robinson is happy to have suggested a different approach: lie, even more, to win Karzai over. Giving him a zero-option was not wise, showing clay-footed indiscretion. The U.S. approach to Kabul in this case “betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of Afghan nationalism and pride” and it would have been wiser that Washington crafted “this in a way in which his role as guardian of Afghan sovereignty is unimpeachable.” Pride, sovereignty and nationalism are three concepts alien to the U.S. approach to that country, but Robinson dares not mention it.

It is also striking that these officials assumed that Afghan compliance in qualifying their own sovereignty would be a matter of course – mindless assumption seems to be the staple of clumsy hegemony. Between 8,000 to 12,000 U.S. and allied troops would remain at various bases in Kabul and in the four corners of the country. The interminable war would continue.

The consequences are being hammered home should U.S. involvement be totally removed from the region. Foreign aid would cease to flow, thereby asphyxiating the state. This was a threat aimed at Karzai by the White House national security advisor Susan E. Rice. Karzai claimed on December 1 that Washington had commenced cutting military supplies. As a Sunday statement from the Afghan national security council noted, “The meeting concluded that the cutting of fuel supplies and support services to the Afghan army and policy is being used as a means to pressure Afghanistan [to sign] the Bilateral Security Agreement [BSA] with the U.S.” (Al Jazeera, Dec 1).

James F. Dobbins, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has issued a gloomy forecast. “If [the agreement] doesn’t happen, if this anxiety grows, you project into the upcoming electoral period a degree of instability caused by growing alarm at Afghanistan returning to the 1990s” (Washington Post, Dec 2). The official line from the occupation forces is a dull and fanciful one: that the 1990s must be avoided; that the coalition has been invaluable to stabilising Afghanistan.

Fictitious lines have been drawn in the sand, the crossing of which will result in calamity. The truth has always been that such forces were creating the most artificial conditions and forging the weakest of institutions to begin with. Afghanistan was invaded and unconvincingly occupied. An ersatz mutant democracy has been created, fuelled by graft and corruption and there are no doubt some in the region who would be happy with the U.S. zero option of withdrawing all forces should Karzai refuse to comply. Karzai is unlikely to call Washington’s bluff, given his love for its snakelike gravy train. The charade is set to continue, only for some time.

A force that invades, however paternal, however benign, is the force that eventually must leave. Afghanistan will continue to fight, against all who are on its soil, because it has known nothing else. Karzai is but an aberration, a front, a footnote to be erased by the next power struggle.

With the entire Afghan policy in shambles, the countries that have invested in the enterprise, often bloody, rarely successful, need to come up with plausible narratives. They need to argue that the blood was worth shedding. The case is not convincing. The greatest testament to that failure is Karzai himself, the significant proof that Afghanistan is doomed as long as he, and his sponsors, remains in power.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail