As a sense of insecurity spreads, a rift is growing between the president and some of the foreign civilian and military establishments whose money and firepower have helped rebuild and defend the country for nearly five years. While the U.S. commitment to Karzai appears solid, several European governments are expressing serious concerns about his leadership.
"This is a crucial time, and there is frustration and finger-pointing on all sides," the official said. "President Karzai is the only alternative for this country, but if he attacks us, we can't help him project his vision. And if he goes down, we all go down with him."
My sense of listening to Karzai: he is not ruthless enough or Machiavellian enough to govern a place like Afghanistan. But are Western criticisms of Karzai correct? Maybe he needs to do more things that they find objectionable such as making more deals with leaders of criminal gangs or tribal leaders. The Euros and the US aren't going to provide a non-corrupt foreign police force. Maybe there's no way to give Afghanistan non-corrupt government because so few can resist the pressures of tribal family politics..
The Taliban have grown in power.
Hamida, 32, waited on a bench for alterations. She said she was visiting from Zabol province in the south. "My husband was a school principal, but the Taliban threatened to kill him, so he quit and now he is sitting at home," she said. "We women cannot leave our houses. The police come under attack at night, and we only see foreign soldiers once in a while. There is no one to protect us."
It's not clear whether any leader could have lived up to the expectations of Afghans and the world. But the accomplishments in Afghanistan have been considerable. Five years ago the Taliban ruled and al-Qaida leaders had a haven. Now the country has an elected president, an elected parliament, a constitution, a national army.
"It's a necessity to have Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan now," said parliament member Mohammad Mohaqiq, a former warlord who lost to Karzai in the 2004 presidential election. "There is no way except the way Hamid Karzai does things, by being soft toward powerful people. It's not the best way, but there's no other way."
Well, there is another way: Karzai could ruthlessly consolidate power by having rivals killed. Worked for Saddam Hussein.
Karzai is trapped between his need for support from both foreigners and powerful and ruthless natives.
Observers say Karzai has been trapped by bad advice and by the people around him. They complain about some of his allies, especially the man he reportedly backed for speaker of the lower house of parliament, a warlord accused of atrocities. They describe the president as increasingly isolated, master of the palace but not the country.
"Hamid Karzai is a good man," said Hamidullah Tokhi, a parliament member from southern Zabul province. "He doesn't hold grudges. He's kind to all Afghans. But there are some advisers who have circled Karzai and given him bad advice. They have almost taken Hamid Karzai hostage. He cannot do anything independently."
From the very beginning Karzai has been dependent on the support of foreigners and on compromises among Afghans. He still needs foreign troops and foreign-aid dollars. He still needs the support of former warlords.
Karzai's position in Afghanistan is a lot like the US's position in Iraq. He does not have enough resources and power and ability to behave ruthlessly to accomplish anything and so things get worse. Will he flee from Afghanistan before the US withdraws from Iraq?
The US had trouble enough trying to handle Afghanistan while hunting down Bin Laden. The invasion of Iraq shifting resources away from Afghanistan. Special forces and intelligence assets got shifted toward Iraq. Criminal gangs and the Taliban expanded into the power vacuum.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2006 June 27 09:49 PM MidEast Afghanistan|