Patrick Cockburn writes of the impotency of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s seven years in power. Karzai was at the State Department this week for a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari to discuss a joint strategy against terrorism, though the visit was inconveniently soured by the killing of as many as 100 Afghan civilians or more by US military strikes. However awkward, Karzai refused to allow the this symbolic display of ‘unity’ pass by and expressed his gratitude for Clinton “showing concern and regret” and added that “we hope we can work together to completely reduce civilian casualties in the struggle against terrorism.” Yet on Friday he adopted a markedly different tone to the media and demanded an end to US air strikes. With elections looming clearly Karzai recognises the political implications of his past grovelling and schmoozing with the Americans. Biting the hand that feeds you springs to mind.
When President Hamid Karzai drove to Kabul airport to fly to America earlier this week, the centre of the Afghan capital was closed down by well-armed security men, soldiers and policemen. On his arrival in Washington he will begin two days of meetings, starting today, with President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari about their joint efforts to combat the Taliban. Karzai is also to deliver a speech at the Brookings Institution think tank on “effective ways of fighting terrorism.”
The title of his lecture shows a certain cheek. Karzai’s seven years in power since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 have been notable for his failure to prevent their resurgence. Suppose the president’s motorcade this week had taken a different route and headed, not for the airport, but for the southern outskirts of Kabul, he would soon have experienced the limits of his government’s authority. It ends at a beleaguered police post within a few minutes’ drive of the capital. Drivers heading for the southern provincial capitals of Ghazni, Qalat and Kandahar nervously check their pockets to make sure that they are carrying no documents linking them to the government. Continue reading “Afghans to Obama: Get Out, Take Karzai With You”