President Barack Obama has returned from a whirlwind trip to Afghanistan, where he sought to encourage U.S. troops and reportedly delivered yet another lecture to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the importance of reducing corruption in an endemically corruption-riddled regime and being able actually to deliver services to the people after U.S. troops clear and hold certain areas of the country.
It is unknown just how seriously Karzai took the lecture. He has ignored previous admonitions – and it is just possible that what the U.S. asks of him is inconsistent with his remaining in power.
Karzai moved into a second term in office after an election last August that was so marked by fraud as to lead many observers to believe he stole it. His actions toward strengthening the election complaint commission were so unsatisfactory that the White House postponed a scheduled Karzai visit to Washington. So Karzai went ahead and invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – yes, that Ahmadinejad – to Kabul, where he delivered a fiery anti-American speech in the presidential palace with Karzai standing by, smiling. Karzai then visited Ahmadinejad in Tehran.
A recent New York Times story tells of a luncheon where Hamid Karzai regaled his guests with his “complete theory of American power,” revolving around the U.S. desire to dominate the region and ending with the notion that he is the only one who can stand up to them.
So, this is the thinking of an Afghan leader whose continuance in power rests almost entirely on American military prowess and good will? This is the leader whose government we are spilling American blood to prop up?
These major complications are mere sidelights compared with the shaky strategic basis of continuing American involvement in Afghanistan. The stated reason is to keep al-Qaida, which still has international terrorist ambitions, out of Afghanistan. But most intelligence authorities agree that al-Qaida is not in Afghanistan just now, and it is far from certain that even if the Taliban, an indigenous Afghan outfit, were to return to power that it would welcome back al-Qaida. They remember how that turned out the last time.
U.S. military forces are performing with bravery and skill in Afghanistan, but the basis for their presence is deeply flawed. It is high time for the Obama administration to reconsider its decision to escalate the Afghan war and begin preparing for a withdrawal that would eliminate the American crutch and leave Afghanistan to the Afghans.