Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has played a multi-faced game to stay in power during his entire tenure. His survival instinct to play all sides of the political game in Afghanistan has both kept him in power and made our mission there more difficult.
Karzai was protecting his own political backside late last week when he openly criticized the United States from bringing the person charged with the systematic killing of 16 civilians back to the U.S. to face trial.
Karzai and his people would have preferred to see Staff Sergeant Robert Bales face trial in Afghanistan and face that country’s eye for an eye system of justice.
With the country reeling from various controversial incidents involving the U.S. Military, Karzai didn’t have much of a choice but to take the side of his countrymen and announce his outrage and demand that the U.S. leave.
However, even though Karzai seems to be genuine in his demands, they are in fact as duplicitous as his usual political actions. His own government proved it by qualifying his demands less than two days after he made them.
Karzai knows that if he didn’t demand that the U.S. leave immediately in the wake of the murder of innocent civilians, his own people would rise up and take him out of power.
But Karzai also knows that if the U.S. somehow caved in to his demands, he would be at even greater risk of losing power to the vacuum created by the absence of the only force that has enabled him to stay in power this long.
The Taliban have been licking their collective chops for the U.S. to leave the country because they know it will be far easier to knock Karzai out of power once we leave.
Karzai is no idiot. He understands the balance as well, as does his government, obviously. He knows he couldn’t just sit by and accept the explanation from the U.S. and trust that Bales would be brought to justice. But he also knows the real score.
To keep himself popular enough to remain in power, Karzai must demand the U.S. to leave. But two days after his demands, his government was quick to offer him cover by saying the negotiations of the U.S. departure will take months.
I expect Karzai will find even more reasons to demand more American resources to keep the peace. He’ll phrase the demand in such a way that makes it look like he is still calling the shots, but he knows he needs the U.S. to keep the Taliban at bay.
Karzai is a prime example of the frustrating nature of the war in Afghanistan. His duplicitous demands show that there is no clear path to a clean departure for the United States. We will be forced to accept some sort of compromise if we wish to not be there for many more years.
Sadly, with Karzai’s continued presence or a refreshed Taliban regime as the two most likely futures that face Afghanistan, the United States may need to accept the fact that our war in Afghanistan has done very little to significantly change the face of that country.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.