Is Karzai sincere in his overtures towards Pakistan?

Hamid Karzai in Pakistan with PM Yousaf Raza Gilani

By Asif Haroon Raja

Hamid Karzai is walking on a tight rope. Ever grateful to Washington for getting the prized post of president of Afghanistan , he has been pursuing American dictates faithfully. He agreed to give all the major portfolios to non-Pashtun Northern Alliance members in his government and to sideline his own Pashtun community enjoying distinct majority. He allowed Indian influence to expand in his country on American insistence and let Afghan soil to be used for subversive activities against Pakistan . Mossad was also allowed a firm toehold in Afghanistan . On the prompting of his mentors he has all along maintained a hostile stance towards Pakistan . By following pro-American policies he became highly unpopular in his country.

To make himself useful, he fed an idea to Washington that given the resources and backing, he would be able to win over majority of Taliban leaders through bribes and incentives and would affect an in-house coup within Taliban ranks after isolating Mullah Omar led hardliners. Once he was given a green signal in 2007, he began to establish contacts with former and current members of Taliban Shura and other resistance groups. By 2009 he was able to make good gains among former Taliban ministers, Hizb-e-Islami and others. Among present Shura, Mullah Ghani Baradar was his big catch. He had made secret contacts with him through his half brother Ahmad Wali Karzai but didn’t disclose this breakthrough to USA . His efforts got stalled because of unexpected successes achieved by Taliban against coalition forces in southern and eastern Afghanistan from June to September 2009 putting ISAF on the back foot.

The US leaders began to have second thoughts about Karzai when situation in Afghanistan began to slip out of their hands. He failed to muster requisite votes in August 2009 presidential election. Although he managed to get re-elected in November because of rigging he further lost his credibility. He however felt convinced that it was America ’s doing to weaken his political standing. He was warned by Obama to improve governance, get rid of corruption in various departments and to improve his standing among Pashtuns in particular and Afghans in general so as to become a bridge between Americans and Pashtuns. These unfriendly acts gave second thoughts to Karzai about US sincerity as well.

Once Obama announced withdrawal timeline of July 2011 and stuck to it despite strong opposition from Karzai , India and Israel , he realized that the US would again leave Afghanistan in a lurch and his fate will not be different to Babrak Karmal or Dr Najibullah. He also assessed that US-Nato had lost the will and was not in a position to defeat Taliban movement. It was in the backdrop of these lurking fears that he hurtled some anti-US and pro-Taliban statements to win the confidence of latter. He also tried hard to allay the heart burnings of Pakistan by making series of friendly statements. While throwing feelers of goodwill towards Taliban and Pakistan , he is still not ready to lose the goodwill of USA and India since the situation at the moment is highly fluid. While he has smelt that USA has lost the war, coming six months are crucial. In this period, it will be decided which side the balance tilts.

Arrest of Baradar, deputy of Mullah Omar, by Pak security forces in January at the pointing of CIA was a setback for him since Baradar’s participation in loya jirga scheduled at Kabul in April would have made a huge difference. When he failed to get him released, he went ahead with the jirga on 2 June which was attended by 1600 people from almost all strands of Afghan society. His plan of re-integration of Taliban through negotiations was endorsed by all. His plan is however not entirely in line with US plan which hinges on first defeating the Taliban on battlefield and then negotiating with them from a position of strength. Americans are sticking to this plan since they want to leave behind a regime of their choice which could safeguard their future interests and also agree to a sizeable military presence in Baghram and Kandahar air bases. Read more of this post

Afghanistan: US dead end

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by I. M. Mohsin

A host of confusing signals is coming out of the US which reflect concerns to ensure its security. President Barack Obama announced, as usual, a nicely-worded doctrine which would anger the rightwing while inducing the thinking Americans to ponder where they are headed. What they are reaping now is what was sown by the neocons and their accomplices, as George W. Bush appears to have been only a cover-up for the promotion of a certain lobby. The Americans themselves and all their well wishers must be feeling sore at how they were fooled to grant two terms to a guy who had no inkling of what was happening.

Now their new President has to tell them that it was ruinous for the US to talk like “you are either with us or against us”, as it may have suited a cowboy of yore but not an occupant of the White House. As things go awry in Afghanistan and regular blood-letting in Iraq by the status quo, the US commanders and their troops are feeling the heat all the way. What to talk of south, even north is acting hostile after about nine years of foreign occupation. In this scenario, it is even more demoralising for the US that the new British coalition is highly conscious of the poor progress of this war, as well as the history of the region.

Surely a visit by UK’s foreign and defence secretaries would have made the US miss Tony Blair, the ‘lapdog’ who allegedly coaxed up all controversial intelligence with the connivance of Italy’s Berlu-sconi to mislead the world on Bush’s gaffes.

The NATO troops in Afghanistan also appear to be fed up as all kinds of progress is drying up. Lately, their commander has emphatically called for the convening of Loya Jirga to reach an understanding among all parties to the war. This is what Karzai has been advocating which the US hesitates to support openly, while the Taliban have cold-shouldered it. The fact that even the Saudis support a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan is very important, more so as they have a great understanding with the US on important issues. So the troops deployed by the US must be under tremendous pressure due to the ‘enemy attacks’ all over that gets compounded by the uncertainty in their camp. Its net result is that generally the EU countries are unwilling to risk any more troops in Afghanistan. Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats have suffered some electoral reverses which represent the despondency about their troops’ involvement in Afghanistan. The German President’s resignation would only boil the cauldron further. Read more of this post

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