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View Full Version : Margaret Warner on Karzai's "Win"


Baltimoron
11-03-2009, 12:41 AM
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/asia/july-dec09/afghanistan_11-02.html

Since Karzai hadn't agreed to any of the changes Abdullah had demanded, including the firing of top election officials he held responsible for the fraud, Abdullah said he saw no point risking more lives and spending more money on a second voting day.

Despite their disappointment, Abdullah supporters said it was the right decision.

It makes me sick that the US supports Hamid Karzai!

PreppyMcPrepperson
11-03-2009, 02:41 AM
It makes me sick that the US supports Hamid Karzai!

Me too.

bjkeefe
11-03-2009, 03:27 AM
It makes me sick that the US supports Hamid Karzai!Me too.

What would you have the US do, instead, for the near term? What should have been the stated position of the US government prior to the elections in Afghanistan, for example? Should they have (a) supported an opposition candidate (b) made clear they were "neutral" (which, practically speaking, seems to amount to (a)), or (c) something else?

Suppose that Karzai is eventually seen as the more-or-less legitimate winner of this election, when all is said and done. What should the US do instead of supporting him? Should they actively state they no longer support him and look forward to the next president? Should they make clear that he's no longer in their considerations as they continue whatever military actions we're doing and going to do?

Is it possible that if the US pisses Karzai off enough, he could tell the US to get the hell out? If "yes," how possible?

Is it possible that if the US sends a clear enough signal that they don't support Karzai that opponents would be encouraged to try to overthrow him? If "yes," how possible? And if at least "fairly," what would be the consequences of that?

(None of these questions is rhetorical. I am asking them straight up -- I don't know enough about the situation to have formed opinions on any of the above.)

PreppyMcPrepperson
11-03-2009, 04:53 AM
What would you have the US do, instead, for the near term? What should have been the stated position of the US government prior to the elections in Afghanistan, for example? Should they have (a) supported an opposition candidate (b) made clear they were "neutral" (which, practically speaking, seems to amount to (a)), or (c) something else?]

Well, firstly, I was commenting above broadly, not just with respect to this election. I don't think we should EVER have backed Karzai and I said as much in 2001. He wasn't even living in Afghanistan at the time, but in the US. So we knew him to be US friendly and we shipped him back there in a way that made it look like we trying to set up a puppet rather than to shape a functioning state. [Karzai was widely lampooned in local press for speaking Pashto with an American accent, and his grammar, Pashto speakers tell me, still falters]. That may indeed have been our [or 43's] intention, in which case it was morally wrong, or it may not have been our intention, in which case making a choice that looked that way was dumb.

Obviously, we needed to appoint some figurehead, because we couldn't have elections right away, so to that first 2002 interim government I would've appointed one of Zahir Shah's living descendants (Mustafa, Mir Wais or Ahmad). Shah was the king deposed in the 1970s before the Soviet invasion, and who turned Afghanistan into a parliamentary constitutional monarchy (a la the UK). In the early 1970s, his Afghanistan was the region's most liberal state. And the governance structure of that time is probably the one a stable Afghanistan would have to take in future. So I'd have started with one of the Shah's and then encouraged someone like Abdullah (the opposition guy in this present race) to run against them in a future election.

When that election came, as it has come now, I'd have stayed neutral. I don't think being neutral constitutes backing the opposition, unless it's the public perception at the time that the incumbent is your man. I'm arguing we should never have made the incumbent our man. It's the first rule of diplomacy that you don't tie yourself to just one horse in the political races of another country.

Having made the mistake of appointing Karzai, however, I would say the smart thing to have done now would've been to force him to resign, let Abdullah take over and then hold another set of elections in 2010, in which we ought to remain truly neutral except that we should help the UN and other organizations finance the appropriate # of monitors to keep that election free of fraud.

Suppose that Karzai is eventually seen as the more-or-less legitimate winner of this election, when all is said and done. What should the US do instead of supporting him? Should they actively state they no longer support him and look forward to the next president? Should they make clear that he's no longer in their considerations as they continue whatever military actions we're doing and going to do?

Is it possible that if the US pisses Karzai off enough, he could tell the US to get the hell out? If "yes," how possible?

We should conduct our operations while engaging equally with Karzai and opposition leaders. We can't conduct them totally without Karzai because, as has come up elsewhere on the boards, there are technical laws of sovereignty that make it illegal for us to conduct operations there without his permission unless we want to be making war ON the government of Afghanistan (as opposed to on al Qaeda and the Taliban based there). Technically, he can tell us to leave; but it's only barely possible, because if he does so, he's also out of power and leaving with us--see above, on his lack of domestic credibility.

Is it possible that if the US sends a clear enough signal that they don't support Karzai that opponents would be encouraged to try to overthrow him? If "yes," how possible? And if at least "fairly," what would be the consequences of that?

Not at all possible, as in it would be no more likely than it is now. They already dislike him BECAUSE he is seen as an American puppet; saying he wasn't our man would run against the revolutionary instinct. Still, we don't want him taken down by revolution--that would lead us back to a government of the folks we went in there to depose 8 years ago; the opposition that might best serve US interests is the kind that has to be elected or at least popularly welcomed somehow.

Given that, I still say the correct thing to do would have been to have Karzai resign, bring him and his family back to the States, have Abdullah take over now and have proper elections next year.

bjkeefe
11-03-2009, 06:15 AM
[...]

Thanks for the detailed answers.

Baltimoron
11-03-2009, 08:37 AM
What Mr Hoh is saying sounds very similar to what another experienced Afghan hand, Rory Stewart, is saying: we shouldn't abandon Afghanistan, but we should tone the military effort down, not scale it up.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2009/11/afghanistan_now_or_last_summer.cfm

I also think more centralization is bad for Afghanistan. Finding a way to wrest control from Karzai, so he can more easily improve his performance, and finding new Talibs and the as-yet non-Talib recruits to run provinces and villages, is key.

That same Economist blog is linked to a new .pdf report (http://asiafoundation.org/resources/pdfs/Afghanistanin2009.pdf) I've not yet had a chance to read.