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New Yorker: A Method to Karzai's Madness

Author: Matthieu Aikins
November 22, 2013

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"[Karzai] would support an alternate center of power in the provinces in order to undermine the official one, such as the governor, that he had formally appointed. That way, both could be controlled by being balanced against each other; two weak allies were better than a single strong one who might break away. The result was perpetual instability. The tragedy of Karzai is that his survival strategy has been one that ultimately promotes weakness rather than strength."

"My trust with America is not good. I don't trust them and they don't trust me," Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's President, said on Thursday, before a gathering of thirty-five hundred notables who had assembled in Kabul for the opening session of the Loya Jirga. The "grand gathering" has been called to debate the proposed Bilateral Status Agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan, which would allow American forces to remain in the country after 2014. Karzai had been telling his audience what a tough bargain he had negotiated. "During the past ten years," he said, "I have fought with them, and they have made propaganda against me."

If there's one thing Karzai has learned during his decade in office, it is how to master a home crowd. His opening speech was typical of his style: lofty at times, but with an earthy, self-deprecating humor that drew genuine laughter from the audience. He was charming and emotive, his hands fluttering as he read aloud from a printed translation of a letter sent earlier that morning by Barack Obama.

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