President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan said publicly for the first time on Saturday that the United States and the NATO-led coalition have been actively negotiating with the Taliban, an assertion he made in a speech that he also used to fire a broadside against his coalition allies.
Karzai also openly accused the U.S. of negotiating with the Taliban while denying he is negotiating with the Taliban despite formerly all but having admitted to negotiating with the Taliban. The U.S. reaction to Karzai was swift:
American Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry lashed out at Afghan President Hamid Karzai Sunday in a carefully calculated and candid response to the president’s increasingly inflammatory criticisms against coalition forces in Afghanistan.
“When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost — in terms of life and treasure — hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people,” the ambassador said, “they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here.”
But the Obama administration has made so many calculated and candid responses to Karzai over the years that it's hard to know what to take seriously. And Karzai probably feels the same. And that's part of the problem. But just to prove that the failed attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan is not limited to the failure to create a functioning government, the Times last week also had this happy news:
Concerned over the growing pattern of Afghan soldiers and police officers attacking their coalition counterparts, the American military is sending 80 counterintelligence agents to Afghanistan to help stem the threat of Taliban infiltration in the Afghan National Security Forces, military officials said Friday.
In other words, just as repeated efforts at warning the chronically corrupt Karzai about his chronic corruption have been so successful at reforming him, 80 new cointel agents are expected at least to ensure the loyalty to the West by Afghanistan's failed military. And just to prove that the failed attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan is not limited to the failure to create a functioning government and military, last week also saw this further happy news from The Guardian:
The Afghan government will struggle to pay its bills "within a month" after the International Monetary Fund rejected proposals for resolving the Kabul Bank scandal, western officials have warned.
Although the war-torn country's biggest bank nearly collapsed last September, the government of Hamid Karzai and the international community are still at loggerheads over plans to fund an $820m (£507m) bailout as well as how the disgraced former managers and shareholders who helped themselves to hundreds of millions of dollars should be prosecuted.
As long as the IMF declares the plans to be inadequate, many countries, including Britain, are legally barred from pumping money into a government that is almost completely reliant on foreign cash to pay civil servants' salaries.
Reuters already is reporting that the IMF has rejected Afghanistan's plan.
But as that New York Times article on Karzai continued:
“You remember a few years ago I was saying thank you to the foreigners for their help; every minute we were thanking them,” he said. “Now I have stopped saying that, except when Spanta forced me to say thank you,” referring to his national security adviser, Rangin Spanta, who was present.
“They’re here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they’re using our soil for that,” Mr. Karzai said.
The U.S. should admit to it. The U.S. should admit that after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it had its own purposes in Afghanistan, and that having finally tracked down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, those purposes have ended. The Obama administration should inform Karzai and everyone else that it is ending its military quagmire in Afghanistan and will now limit itself to appropriate humanitarian aid. As that Times article on the U.S. ambassador's response to Karzai continued:
His comments, made before students at Herat University, were a rare break from the normally tolerant stance Western diplomats have taken in the face of Mr. Karzai’s anti-coalition rhetoric. And though he never mentioned the Afghan president by name, his comments were a clear warning that Mr. Karzai’s statements threatening, among other things, to denounce foreign forces as occupiers served to damage U.S.-Afghan relations at a critical time, as the American president is weighing troop reductions and support for the war is fast eroding both in Congress and around the country.
But the Obama administration has given Karzai a seemingly endless string of warnings, and Karzai's latest outburst has been typical of the seemingly endless string of responses. It's time to stop playing these public relations games. It's time to end this debacle. It's time to end this war. And Sunday's New York Times also featured this:
As the Obama administration nears a crucial decision on how rapidly to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan, high-ranking officials say that Al Qaeda’s original network in the region has been crippled, providing a rationale for an accelerated reduction of troops.
There have been hints of such a possibility, but there also have been hints of intentions to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan indefinitely. But the U.S. cannot create a functioning government for Afghanistan. The U.S. cannot create a functioning military for Afghanistan. The U.S. cannot create a functioning economy for Afghanistan. Afghanistan's future is up to Afghanistan. The U.S. can and should provide humanitarian aid, but that's it. The U.S. has its own problems to deal with. Afghanistan should not continue to be one.