Karzai’s Changed Behavior in Washington, Afghan Culture of Guest and Host

The sudden change of behavior by President Karzai in Washington was considered a diplomatic success in Washington. It was indeed surprising for the world since recently Karzai had made some blatant critical statements against the US. This time nobody talked about the electoral fraud in Presidential elections. President Karzai who had consecutively offered Mullah Omer with safety, also apparently has changed his stance saying militants who end ties with Al-Qaeda will be negotiated, but not those who do not accept the constitution of Afghanistan and the current political process in the country. Karzai also admitted that corruption in Afghanistan is a huge problem, against his previous view that its not a big issue as being highlighted in Western media.

Friedman of NY Times had once written that in the political diplomacy of Middle East, leaders do not mean what they say in behind-the-door meetings or press conferences to western media, they mean what they say in public in their own language. Thats the case with President Karzai. According to Afghan culture, when you are guest somewhere, you must not talk something against the views of your host, neither oppose them. Its considered very rude and against Afghan pride and traditions to go against the views of your host, until you are his guest. Once you come out, you are not obliged to say yes to his views at your home. I suspect this is what happened in Washington! President Karzai was a guest there. His hosts were President Obama and his Administration. The “diplomatic success” and “change of behavior” on both sides is not what actually exists. And Thomas Friedman got it exactly right about the public diplomacy in Middle East.


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