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How the United States Should Respond to Karzai

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
March 12, 2013
Daily Beast


Hamid Karzai is beating up on the United States to score domestic political points once again, this time on the occasion of Chuck Hagel's maiden visit as Defense secretary to that sad country. Yet the Obama team and America's foreign-policy cognoscenti can't seem to draw the obvious conclusions—stop letting these Karzai guys play us for suckers and speed up our exit, and stop wasting American lives and dollars. Digest his latest mal mot in the wake of new suicide bombings in Kabul and Khost: "Those bombs, set off yesterday in the name of the Taliban, were in the service of the Americans to keep foreigners longer in Afghanistan." Disgusting! (Rand Paul, where are you when we need you to express practical outrage?)

This clown is proclaiming that we are colluding with the enemy to prolong our stay in Afghanistan. And yet I already hear my foreign-policy colleagues' familiar excuses for these rhetorical knives. "You know old Hamid," they'll say. "He's just doing this for the home audience, trying to score a few harmless points. Forget about it; the Afghan people are with us." Think about that response. These excuses are tired, because we've been pardoning hateful stuff like this for more than 10 years now. And when have we heard any of those Afghan people coming to our defense? It would be foolish to think for a moment that this problem is limited to Karzai. Because he's no fool himself. He says this smelly stuff because he truly believes it will go down well with his fellow Afghans. He reckons he gains popularity by accusing Washington of working with the Taliban so U.S. troops can stay in their country and extend the suffering of the Afghan people. Really, think about this.

Maybe Karzai's message actually is meant for the non-Pashtun Afghans, so they'll worry about Americans' collusion with the Pashtun-heavy Taliban, and he'll somehow build support for next year's elections. This explanation makes even less sense. The non-Pashtuns, who make up around 40 percent of the Afghan people, are the most pro-American in the country. If anything, the non-Pashtuns would like to see Americans fighting in and for their country, against their Pashtun enemies, for the next century. To Northern Afghans, we're the best guarantee against a Pashtun takeover—the last thing the non-Pashtuns want.

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