Thursday, November 19, 2009

Karzai's Second Chance

Via The Independent:

Karzai set to sacrifice lambs, not wolves

Afghanistan's beleaguered President Hamid Karzai makes his inauguration speech tomorrow [Thursday], acutely aware that his disgruntled international backers will be poring over it for signs that he intends to mend his ways. But while he may carry out a cull of ministers, diplomats are expecting them to be minor sacrificial lambs rather than the worst offenders.

Mr Karzai's two running mates are expected to be confirmed as his vice-presidents: Muhammed Qasim Fahim, accused of drug trafficking, and Abdul Karim Khalili, charged in a human rights report with alleged war crimes.


Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum, who US President Barack Obama has declared should be investigated over the killings of thousands of Taliban prisoners, is unlikely to face any charges as he delivered a large portion of the Uzbek vote to Mr Karzai. Indeed, the former Northern Alliance commander, who once reportedly killed opponents by crushing them with his tanks, felt confident enough about his position to return from semi-exile in Turkey to congratulate the Afghan president on his victory.

Critics point out that Mr Karzai will be annointed president in the same week that a new report showed Afghanistan slipping down the corruption ranks to second from bottom.
Back in January, just days after Obama's inauguration, The Independent reported that Obama was ready to "cut Karzai adrift". That's obviously not going to happen any time soon. Obama decided to send 17,000 troops to Afghanistan last February "to help stabilize the situation there in preparation for new elections" - elections so fixed that Karzai's main challenger Abdullah Abdullah refused to eventually participate in the runoff.

Hillary Clinton, in Kabul for Karzai's inauguration, said that she's pleased with his promises:

"I was very pleased to hear today when President Karzai said that he hopes that within three years, the Afghan security forces will have the lead in important areas and within five years [the length of his second term] -- which is an ambitious goal, but he stated it -- the Afghan security forces would have the lead throughout the country."
Quite the pipe dream.

Meanwhile, according to a new Oxfam report:

Seventy per cent of Afghans surveyed see poverty and unemployment as the major cause of the conflict in their country, according to new research by international aid agency Oxfam and a group of Afghan organisations. Ordinary Afghans blame government weakness and corruption as the second most important factor behind the fighting, with the Taliban coming third, followed by interference by neighboring countries.

The survey of 704 Afghans from across the country reveals:

* one in six Afghans are currently considering leaving Afghanistan;
* one in five Afghans have been tortured since the wars began in 1979;
* three quarters of Afghans have been forced to leave their homes since then.
While Obama takes his time to decide what to do about the war, American weariness grows - in the polls and within the military:

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — President Barack Obama drew repeated cheers and applause during a speech to U.S. troops here Thursday — except when he mentioned that some may deploy once again to a war zone.

Wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and red tie, Obama spoke of service in Iraq and Afghanistan to about 1,500 servicemembers who stood 25-deep in a high-ceilinged warehouse draped with camouflage netting.

“You volunteered in a time of war, knowing that you could be sent into harm’s way,” the president said. “Many of you served in Iraq.”

The comment brought applause and affirmative shouts of “Hoo-ah!”

“Others among you served in Afghanistan.”

More applause and hoo-ahs.

“… Others among you will deploy yet again,” he said.

This time, barely three or four people in the crowd made sounds of approval, then quickly fell silent.
NATO has reportedly decided to delay talks about Afghanistan until Obama's plans are revealed.

'Liberation was just a big lie'
Outspoken Afghan MP says Canadian mission is a big waste of time

Karzai has vowed to launch anti-corruption investigations under pressure from Washington. But, Joya insists, Canada is wasting blood and treasure on keeping his government in power.

"Canada should pull its troops out now," she said in Toronto on Wednesday, where she was promoting her book A Woman Among Warlords, co-written with Canadian peace activist Derrick O'Keefe.

And, she says, U.S. President Barack Obama, who is considering a surge in troop levels to battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban, should think again.

"The United States should go, too. As long as foreign troops are in the country we will be fighting two enemies instead of one."

Yes, she says, there is a risk of civil war, as happened when the Soviet Union gave up the fight against U.S.-backed Afghan Islamists 20 years ago. But it would still be better than "night raids, torture and aerial bombardment" that killed hundreds of Afghan civilians while the Taliban made steady gains.

"Liberation was just a big lie." Joya believes Afghans are now better prepared to battle the Taliban alone – if the warlords are disarmed, and the international community helps build a society that can push back against extremism.

It is a tall order, she admits. But "resistance has increased, and people are becoming more aware of democracy and human rights. They need humanitarian and educational support."

But not, she adds, at the point of a gun.

Canada spending millions on private security in Afghanistan

Ray McGovern: Afghan Lessons from the Iraq War

Amnesty International: Afghanistan Human Rights

Human Rights Watch: US: Reform Afghanistan Detention Policy

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