Playing both sides against the middle, 56-year-Afghna President Hamid Karzai has been in “secret” talks with the so-called enemy, trying to work out security arrangement before the United States pulls out of Afghanistan by year’s end. Afraid to sign a security pact with President Barack Obama, Karzai deliberately equivocated playing the U.S. against the Taliban. Before the Taliban puts Karzai’s head on a stick, he needs to stop playing games with the U.S. and sign a security arrangement. Without a security arrangement, it won’t take long before Karzai’s current security services sell him down the river. Before Operation Enduring Freedom Oct. 7, 2001, less than one month after Sept. 11, U.S. forces went to war in Afghanistan to punish the Taliban for giving aid-and-comfort Osama bin Laden. U.S. officials knew that the Taliban had nothing to do with Sept. 11.
Karzai came to power as a U.S. puppet Dec. 11, 2001, after the U.S. drove the Taliban from Kabul Nov. 12, 2001. Coming to power Sept. 27, 1996 in the wake of a civil war against the Northern Alliance, AKA “United Front” led by Pashtun anti-Soviet freedom fighter Ahmad Shah Massourd, the Taliban imposed strict Islamic law on Afghanistan. Murdered by forces loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar Sept. 8, 2001, the Taliban learned guerrilla war firsthand from their days fighting Soviet occupation Dec. 24, 1979 to Feb. 15, 1989. Unlike the Omar, Massoud offered hope to women after generations of oppressive Islamic law. After fighting along side Massoud for nearly 10 years fighting Soviet occupation, losing up to 90,000 mujahedeen fighters, Omar killed Massoud in a suicide blast to assure that Afghanistan would wind up in the Taliban’s hands.
Karzai’s recent secret talks with his Pashtun Taliban brothers shows his willingness to play any side to survive. When Obama pulls the plug on Afghanistan later this year, it won’t take the Taliban long to upend Karzai’s government. After years of allowing the U.S. to go after the Taliban in Afghan’s southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban will eventually get Karzai, like they did Massoud. “The last two months have been very positive,” Karzai told the New York Times, pretending that he’s managed to make progress. Stalling for months on signing a post-war security arrangement with Washington, Karzai hoped to score points with the Taliban. Obama summoned his commanders Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., U.S. Centcom head Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III and U.S. Special Operations chief Adm. William McRaven to apply pressure on Karzai for a security deal.
Bluffing his way to an eventual deal, Karzai has no choice to use the U.S. military for his own survival. Last November, Karzai refused to sign a deal which would give the U.S. military immunity from any collateral damage. Karzai also insisted on meeting the Taliban demand of releasing prisoners held by the U.S. “These parties were encouraged by the president’s stance on the bilateral security arrangements and his speeches afterward,” said Aimal Faizi. “The last two months have been very positive,” getting lulled into a false sense of security. For years, since he came to power Dec. 22, 2001, there have been crebible complaints that Karzai had warned the Taliban about expected U.S. troop movements. U.S. military commanders haven’t shared intel with Karzai for years with good reason. Some U.S. officials believe that Karzai’s recent overtures have been made with bogus Taliban officials.
Regardless of what happens to Karzai when the U.S. pulls the plug, the U.S. should learn its lesson following former President George W. Bush’s doctrine of democratizing the Middle East. All attempts to impose U.S.-style democracies have backfired, especially in the Gaza Strip and Cairo. Two certified elections in both places turned the governments over to Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood, respectively. Paying lip-service to free elections, the U.S. found out the hard way what happens when you impose free elections, letting well-organized terror groups determine the outcome. With Gaza controlled by the Taliban and Egypt under martial law, democracy has only made matters worse in the Mideast. Keeping a U.S. presence in Afghanistan only puts U.S. troops and assets at risk. Karzai’s fence-sitting should give Obama the perfect way out for the U.S.
Blamed by conservatives for getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan too soon, Obama can’t please either his base or military hawks. With 2,309 deaths in Afghanistan since Oct. 7, 2001, it’s difficult to make the case for more U.S. involvement. Conservatives argue it dishonors the dead to allow Iraq or Afghanistan to fall by the wayside. As the Soviets found out after losing 14,453 troops in under 10 years in Afghanistan, the U.S. too has nothing to gain and much to lose cutting an unfavorable security deal placing U.S. troops in harm’s way. Karzai’s ongoing play for Taliban proves his intent to joining his Kandahar-based Pashtun brothers once the U.S. calls it quits. Given Karzai’s dual loyalties, Obama should make a clean break. After years of Karzai boasting about his security services, and, more recently, his clandestine deals with Taliban, it’s high timefor the U.S. to get out.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.