Whatever we’re doing in Afghanistan doesn’t appear to be working, at least if the presumed idea is to use the elected Afghan government to isolate and marginalize the Taliban resistance. When the leader of the former declares that he may switch sides to the latter if relations with the US and UN doesn’t improve, that can’t be a good sign:
President Hamid Karzai lashed out at his Western backers for the second time in three days, accusing the U.S. of interfering in Afghan affairs and saying the Taliban insurgency would become a legitimate resistance movement if the meddling doesn’t stop.
Mr. Karzai, whose government is propped up by billions of dollars in Western aid and nearly 100,000 American troops fighting a deadly war against the Taliban, made the comments during a private meeting with about 60 or 70 Afghan lawmakers Saturday.
At one point, Mr. Karzai suggested that he himself would be compelled to join the other side —that is, the Taliban—if the parliament didn’t back his controversial attempt to take control of the country’s electoral watchdog from the United Nations, according to three people who attended the meeting, including an ally of the president.
Mr. Karzai blamed the lawmakers’ resistance to his move on a foreign conspiracy, they said. The Afghan president’s latest remarks came less than 24 hours after he assured U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that he was committed to working with the U.S. That phone call was precipitated by a similar—but less vitriolic–anti-Western diatribe Mr. Karzai delivered earlier last week.
One of the few bright spots of this administration has been its handling of Afghanistan. Despite the long and public Hamlet-like delay over making a decision to properly support the COIN strategy Barack Obama had proclaimed since his days as a candidate, the right decisions have mostly been made and followed by Obama. The White House expansion of drone attacks in Pakistan has finally pressured Islamabad into action in its frontier provinces, which will shortly put both the Taliban and al-Qaeda in a vise.
However, this eruption by Karzai threatens to undermine everything we’ve done. It’s a bit of an empty threat; the Taliban would be more likely to behead Karzai than embrace him. Karzai created his own problems with election irregularities that have the UN and US mistrustful of allowing Karzai to control elections. There seems to be good reason to continue oversight on the voting process, if for no other reason than to give Karzai’s government some sort of imprimatur of credibility.
With all of that said, Karzai’s eruption instantly gives the Taliban credibility in Afghanistan and puts US forces in greater danger. It’s a dangerous development in an already difficult mission, and it comes at a time when the White House has tried to convince major coalition members to extend their commitments, especially Canada. Hillary Clinton and State appear to be completely in the dark and ineffective at resolving the issue, which arose earlier in the week as well. Whatever State has done with Karzai, it obviously isn’t working — and Karzai’s public accusation that the UN mission has become an occupation will give some of our partners an excuse to pull out just when we’ve increased our commitment to fighting in Afghanistan.