March 4, 2014

Karzai’s Misplaced Anger

Afghan president rails against U.S. but there’s more to the story.

As he approaches the end of his second and final term as Afghan president, Hamid Karzai finds himself angry – angry at the destruction wrought by American troops who he claims are not going after the “sanctuaries” of terrorism particularly in Pakistan, but rather villages full of “civilians.” Karzai is also angry at the “unsustainable” way of life this U.S. occupation has brought, saying Afghanis have “to live by their means,” and he’s angry that “Afghans suffer continuously for years in a war that we were the victims the first day and that we are the victims today as well.” All these statements came as part of a lengthy interview with The Washington Post in which he also stated Afghan-American relations have been at a “low point” since 2007.

This tale of American involvement in the country, though, needs some historical notes. The U.S. went to Afghanistan to eradicate al-Qaida, especially Osama bin Laden, after 3,000 Americans were killed on 9/11. So if there is “suffering” in Afghanistan it’s because the nation harbored terrorists who were enemies of the U.S.

Karzai was installed as a transitional leader as Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001, but won Afghanistan’s 2004 election and was re-elected in 2009 amid some controversy. But as his term ends, it’s possible American involvement will be wound down as well. Last month, Barack Obama instructed the Pentagon to consider how all American troops would be withdrawn by year’s end, but since then a compromise position has been struck which may allow further American involvement should the winner in this spring’s Afghan election be so inclined to renew the bilateral security agreement between the nations. Even with that, those boots on the ground may be pulled out as Obama leaves office in 2017.

Yet while Karzai maintains an angry attitude toward the American government, he’s been relatively ineffective himself in wiping out the Taliban insurgency that brought us there in the first place. He concedes that things are better in the country since Americans got involved, but decided to push the decision on extending the bilateral security agreement onto his successor rather than signing it himself as a lame-duck leader. He knows, too, that Obama has been looking for any excuse to bug out since 2008. And given U.S. impotence in the face of Vladimir Putin’s recent aggression, why would Karzai trust American power?

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