Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Biting The Hand That Fed You

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has shown his perfidy on more than one occasion in the past. He has relied for monetary and military support from the United States. He has also relied on the fact that two administrations have treated Afghanistan as a partner rather than as a conquered nation. Unlike the Emperor of Japan and the Nazi high command at the end of WW II, Karzai has been handled as if he were a co-conqueror.

Without the cooperation of the United States government, Karzai has been treating with the very Taliban who destroyed Afghanistan and paved the way for Al Qaeda to launch its attacks on the Unites States and its allies. And now, in the face of the Obama administration's cut-and-run disengagement policy, Karzai has been emboldened to choose sides in a possible confrontation between America and Pakistan.

Many of the legislators in Kabul have issued stronger condemnations of Karzai's embrace of the Taliban and Pakistan than our own government. Karzai's exact statement was: "If fighting starts between Pakistan and the United States, we are beside Pakistan. If Pakistan is attacked and the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan's help, Afghanistan will be there with you." The statement was made on a Pakistani television station this past Saturday.

Both the American government and the legislators in Kabul have been saying repeatedly that Pakistan is providing sanctuary to militant groups which have launched attacks in and on Afghanistan. Factions of the Taliban and Al Qaeda associates have been camping out on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, executing incursions into Afghanistan on a regular basis. The Afghan interior minister blamed the sanctuary and Pakistani encouragement of militancy for the recent assassination of former Afghan president Burhanuddin.

The United States has never made any statement that would appear to suggest a war between the U.S. and Pakistan. But Karzai latched onto the statement by American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that said that if Islamabad is unwilling to take the fight to Al Qaeda and the Taliban/Pakistani terrorist group Haqqani, the U.S. would show them how to rid Pakistan of safe havens for the terrorists. Rather than wait for further diplomatic developments, Karzai hopped in as if the U.S. had just given Pakistan the ultimatum of total surrender or war. And he has chosen his ally in advance.

Despite clear language from the State Department saying that the U.S. has no intention of deploying ground troops in Pakistan, both the U.S. and NATO have been conducting operations designed to disrupt terrorist operations in Kabul and along the Afghan border with Pakistan. Some of those missions have utilized drones to take out Haqqani and Taliban strongholds in Pakistan. The increasingly-Islamist Pakistani government has expressed hurt feeling and some anger over the drone attacks, but is not about to go to war with the United States over them. In fact it seems that to protect their own rear ends, they decry the surgical strikes while secretly hoping the U.S. will do the job they're afraid to do.

So the question becomes, is Karzai serious or is he just maneuvering to polish his credentials with the Taliban, Haqqani, and major factions in the Pakistani government? It's easy to take sides in a war which is highly unlikely ever to occur. Karzai's recent overtures to Pakistan's mortal enemy India adds extra confusion to the formula. But people who play with other people's fire tend to get burned. It is entirely unnecessary to point out the hypocrisy and ingratitude of a leader who is in power thanks largely to the United States and its military. As the old saying goes, Karzai has all the fine traits of a bedbug except loyalty.

I suppose my next question is, if this continues through the final American withdrawal in 2014, how long before the Taliban and to a lesser-extent Haqqani string Karzai up in the central square in Kabul? I know I won't be conducting memorial services for him.

Note: On Monday, Karzai tried to talk his way out of his self-created mess. He claimed that his remarks were "taken out of context" and "mistranslated." If he ever needs a new job, he could move to the United States and become a non-apology apology writer for politicians caught with their pants down and their hands in the cookie jar. Karzai doesn't realize that with instant global communications and the worldwide web, it's just no longer possible to make a major policy statement to a particular audience and say the opposite to another audience without getting caught. Likewise, nobody with an IQ above room temperature is buying into the "mistranslation" baloney.


Tennessee Jed said...

Hawk - this reminds me just how complex foreign policy can be when dealing with the Islamic world and an Al Jazeera media. Essentially, we have governments that we have spent blood and treasure to try and free from dictatorships and make "allies." At the same time, we are dutifully shown to be the straw villain for every ill that befalls the people (The Great Satan if you will.)

There is a part of me that says to hell with them all. On the other hand, to do so leaves us open to adventurism by our enemies be it Russia, China, or Iran. Tough times and a tough deal. I really feel for the families of slain servicepeople who died only to have this president score points with his shitty little leftist fringe groupies.

Joel Farnham said...


I don't know if I would do any different if I was in his shoes. They have a clan structure there. That means that the strongest clan dictates the rules. It also means that automatically any one clan is at odds with other clans. The Taliban knows this and can undermine Karzai almost at will.

The real problem is that the clans, don't trust each other. Also, they have learned from past experiences, that our country will abandon them as often as we change Presidents.

Karzai really hasn't made his case to his country that his rule will bring peace and prosperity. He hasn't made the case that he will still be there after we leave. He will have to shift his loyalties time and time again just to survive.

Also, he doesn't know if Obama has a predator drone aiming for him. Obama hasn't hinted at it. Which means nothing.

tryanmax said...

It's all a show designed to set a posture for any possible eventuality. But Karzai does forget that the instant global media makes that a more delicate act than ever before.

Tehachapi Tom said...

That whole part of the world is unstable.
Give it all back to the animals that they are.
They now know that surgical strikes by our drones are effective.
Leave with the assurance that we will make such strikes when and if we think it necessary.
Outline what we will and won't accept then turn them loose.
Like raising children set boundaries and punish when they are violated.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee: You're exactly right about how difficult it is to deal with a backward tribal society like Afghanistan. That said, I wouldn't expect to have an Afghan president who was a true-blue American ally in the Islamic world. Karzai is just an example of how little respect we get for trying to make a tribal society into a modern democracy overnight. Even with all our brave troops still in-country, he feels completely free to threaten us because he knows that we won't do much about it. On the other hand, cozying up to the scorpions of the area probably isn't going to do much for him either.

Anonymous said...

Joel: What you're saying is true. But we have made more friends in Afghanistan than most previous invaders, including the British and the Russians. It's hard to see what advantage he thinks he'll gain among the warring tribes by threatening us and making nice with the Taliban and the Haqqani in Pakistan. Tribal warfare will go on long after we're gone, so why irritate the one nation that didn't oppress them? We assisted him and his government without demanding much in return. I genuinely think that Karzai is only interested in Karzai, but wannabe dictators like that normally put on a public face that doesn't threaten their benefactors. Iran, Pakistan or some other nation in the Middle East certainly won't be as generous, and he'll still have his warring tribes to deal with.

Anonymous said...

tryanmax: I agree. If Karzai were any good at this, he'd learn how to play both sides against the middle without getting crushed himself. He's still a primitive in a primitive nation, and doesn't realize that the secrets of old can no longer be maintained within the confines of whatever tent he's in at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Tehachapi Tom: Karzai is counting on us not considering him or his government (which we helped to create) as part of the pack we would attack with drones or other methods. That's where he may have made his biggest mistake. Our sole legitimate interest is to keep Al Qaeda or some successor from re-forming and using Afghanistan as a launching pad. If Karzai thinks he can mollify the Taliban and the other Islamists by allowing them free rein in the outlying provinces, he'll be devoured by them and probably get a visit from us as well.

We must learn to adapt to the idea that democracy-building in primitive nations and in those with Islamic dreams of world conquest is a tragic waste of lives and resources. The best we can do is use diplomatic, economic and military resources to prevent them from arming themselves to attack us. Our national security is far more important than some hare-brained attempt to turn cave-dwellers into peaceful democrats overnight.

In the case of these nations, the Machiavellian question is apt: Is it better to be loved or feared? Until they become modern, educated, freedom-loving societies, it is better to be feared.

Oddly, the only Middle East nation with any hope of becoming a modern society in the foreseeable future is Iran, and we blew every opportunity to assist the freedom movement there. So now instead we face the "Arab Spring" which in actuality is turning out to be the "Jihadist Winter."

rlaWTX said...

It makes me wonder about backroom deals and his post-presidency plans.

When I was in NoVA, a man I worked with had known Karzai in junior high - before the Soviet invasion. His family had been asked to come back for the re-organization, but they weren't keen on returning after 25+ years in the US. Anyway, I wish I could ask him what he thought about this...

T-Rav said...

Great. Well, as Joel points out, I get that Karzai has to dissemble from time to time when dealing with the various tribes; however, he should be sharp enough to know what kind of reaction this would have overseas. Which makes me wonder what caliber of "leadership" he really has.

AndrewPrice said...

Karzai is just like the rest. His brother is a drug dealing warlord, his government is so corrupt they've squandered any good will they had, and he's going to play to the crowd to save his neck. I suspect he'll leave (flee) office about ten minutes after the last US soldier departs.

Anonymous said...

T-Rav: We can guess at his motivation, but it's hard for civilized Westerners to get into the minds of most Islamists, let alone the minds of a people who have known nothing but tribal warfare for thousands of years.

I tend to think that Karzai simply out-clevered himself. He was foolish enough to think he could say something in Pashtun or Punjabi on a Pakistan TV show and not have it get back to the US almost instantly, correctly translated.

Anonymous said...

Andrew: You may very well be right. On the other hand, he may actually think he has pulled off being all things to all men. In which case, he'll stay, and it will be ten minutes before his "friends" hang him.

Of course if he does flee, the next question is how much loot he has accumulated to take with him.

StanH said...

To say that Karzai is duplicitous is being far too generous. This man will survive, up and until the day we leave, in my opinion, he had best hop the last plane out of Afghanistan. As far as his statement heard in Pakistan. I can understand his allegiance, after all when we pull out, and “if ” he stays, these will be his new neighbors, crazy very well armed Islamo-Fascist neighbors at that, I can understand the hedging. I expect Afghanistan to return to the 11th century soon after our departure, back to normal.

Anonymous said...

StanH: I'm beginning to sense a single source of agreement across-the-boards here. No matter what Karzai thinks he's accomplishing, he's a dead duck the moment we pull out last troops out. As for the Afghans themselves, we'd have to bomb them forward into the stone age.

T-Rav said...

Stan: I assume you meant "11th century BC," of course.

StanH said...

11th century BC works for me, six one half dozen the other. However, I could make a real good argument for BC, they would not be infected with Islam.

Anonymous said...

T-Rav and Stan: And now you know what I meant about bombing them forward into the stone age.

Anonymous said...

Stan: A world without Islam is like a day without mass murder.

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