Prominent Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid has written the cover of Foreign Policy magazine’s March/April issue. The lengthy piece serves more like a press release by Karzai, giving readers a very misleading impression with its title “How Obama Lost Karzai”. As usual, referring to the stories of his meetings, Ahmed Rashid makes the case for Karzai very well with stuff that we have heard a lot before. He argues about how the relationship between Karzai and the US turned bitter with the departure of Bush from White House and Obama’s carrot and stick approach. Rashid concludes that “the fault is not the Obama administration’s alone, of course.” He wants everyone to believe that it has been the fault of Obama Administration to press Karzai for the huge corruption under his leadership in Kabul, the opium mafia partly run by his family members and Karzai’s ineffective governance without any vision for the future of his country.
Contrary to what Ahmed Rashid argues, it has been the fault of Bush Administration to let Karzai enjoy weekly video-conferences with President Bush, who didn’t care much about Karzai’s corruptionistan and the way he ran his administration infiltrated by drug mafia. Actually Obama Administration is suffering Bush’s free hand given to Karzai to run the country as a family business.
Eventually what Ahmed Rashid is suggesting the Obama administration is to keep a close eye on the huge corruption in Afghanistan, don’t give a damn about how Karzai is becoming increasingly autocratic making mess of the fragile democratic system in Afghanistan, and tells Obama to make a Bush-era like relations with Karzai, who misses that “golden age” like a nostalgia, and give the ruling robbers of Kabul a free hand.
Ahmed Rashid’s conclusion sounds exactly like one of Karzai spokesman saying,
“It is too late, however, for the Obama administration to bring Karzai back into the fold with more promises of troops and aid. What is needed is genuine common ground: a shared political strategy to end the war. Both sides already agree on the need to win over Taliban foot soldiers and have put forward a common plan and money to do it. But there is still no agreement on trying to engage top Taliban leaders.”
Basically he concludes the piece more like an anti-war rhetoric that its none of the US business to pressurize Karzai for cleaning his corrupt administration, end the drug-mafia ties of his family members, and that the US has no responsibility in Afghanistan other than packing up and leave as soon as possible–even if needed to talk with those individuals who provided safe haven and supported the perpetrators of 9/11 and still keep ties with Al-Qaeda–repeating history as the US left Afghanistan on its own and the mercy of our neighbors after Soviet withdrawal with the arrival of international Jihadis and rise of Taliban who protected them.
The problem with Ahmed Rashid’s peice, as he mentions repeatedly in his article, is his meetings with Karzai which has made an impact on his thinking that Karzai is innocent and Obama should not press him for doing more. Though he has made few visits to Kabul in the post-Taliban Afghanistan, but his insights from the days of his embed with Taliban are expired after a decade now. Karzai is probably the only Afghan Rashid can refer having met several times in the past many years, until recently last year when he was in Kabul in November for some days.
Indeed the Karzai-Obama relations are needed to be improved, but not the way Ahmed Rashid suggests. Karzai has to realize that Obama is not Bush who had the carrot, but not stick! President Karzai must end the huge corruption in his administration and have a clear vision for everything from good governance to the strategy of reconciliation with insurgents and the war against terrorism. He has initiated the efforts of talks with Taliban, but without a clear vision of the process. The way he is doing things is for the sake of his rule, not the future of Afghanistan. President Obama should press Karzai for more efforts against corruption in his administration and better governance. He should not close his eyes on what is going on in Kabul with millions of dollars of aid going to the villas of Dubai and people turning to Taliban because of the corrupt and inefficient officials appointed by Karzai across the country.