Karzai’s swan song
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said last Thursday that the US and the NATO forces were responsible for instability in Afghanistan. While talking to media, he asked Americans to hand over the Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo bay to the local forces, adding that no security agreement would be signed with the US until his demand was fulfilled warned. Since his second term in office will expire in the first half of 2014, before the scheduled withdrawal of most troops from the NATO-led coalition, his statements can be described as ‘swan song’. One more recent example is that on the sidelines of trilateral meeting in Ankara, Hamid Karzai said “he had had good conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari about the abortive life attempt on Afghan spymaster Assadullah Khalid”. He was in fact hinting that the planning for such attacks is done in Pakistan, and he had taken up the matter with President of Pakistan.
According to a press report, a Taliban envoy supposedly carrying a message of peace was allowed to enter a fortified National Directorate of Security guest house in Kabul for a meeting with Khalid. Once inside, he detonated a hidden explosive that injured Assadullah Khalid and killed one of his bodyguards. No lesser disastrously revealing was the episode of an imposter impersonating as Taliban’s senior leader Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour and receiving a red-carpet treatment from the Afghan regime, the American occupiers of Afghanistan and their NATO allies. He was Britons’ find, who had arranged his trip to Afghanistan for his meeting with the Afghan officials and even President Hamid Karzai. According to Karzai’s chief of staff “the Britons were insisting they had made an exclusive contact with the Taliban”. After the fact came to light that he was an imposter, they tried to shift the responsibility on to one another for having been duped and having paid a huge sum to the imposter for bringing the Taliban leaders on negotiating table.
But for how long he has to live on charades and ruses, adamantly refusing to come to terms with objective ground realities in Afghanistan? The Taliban had owned up the responsibility of this failed assassination attempt. But Karzai dismissed their claim asserting that the action was too sophisticatedly planned to be within the Taliban’s pale, hinting that Pakistan was involved. He has failed to understand that the Taliban are war-hardened fighters, whom the combined American and NATO forces failed to defeat during eleven year long massive campaign. More often than not, they have been penetrating the highly-secured bases of the occupying and their allied Afghan forces and fighting pitched battles with the defenders. Are those attacks any lesser professionally planned and executed? Instead of seeking out the scapegoats and whipping boys, when indeed will Karzai admit to some home truths? The failed murder attempt on Khalid was undeniably a total security collapse, as was the earlier fatal suicide assault on Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Karzai is well-advised not to throw the burden of his regime’s frustrations, despondencies and collapses on the shoulders of Pakistan and should rather put his own house in order. Pakistan, he must understand, is the only country that sincerely wishes a stable Afghanistan at peace with itself, as no other country has suffered as much as has Pakistan on account of the chaos and turmoil in Afghanistan over these past several decades. So much so, it has become a horrific victim of militancy, terrorism and religious stridency that have become the Achilles’ heel of its national security, cohesion and solidarity. If his spymaster was hobnobbing with his attacker, it was surely not at Islamabad’s behest but on his own volition and at his own initiative. And Karzai should know this and accept this inexorable reality. Pakistan has gone extra mile to help Afghan government in its peace efforts. It is to this end that it has already released several Taliban leaders and is agreeable to release many more.
It appears that despite the rhetoric of drawdown the US is not inclined to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and is making plans to remain in the region with potent military presence to check influence of China and Russia, and also to plunder the resources of Afghanistan and Central Asian republics. It has to be mentioned that the US and NATO forces have also failed to control drugs cultivation and trafficking from Afghanistan. The success of Afghan government’s initiative of complete transition of security responsibilities from NATO to Afghan Security forces by 2014 is doomed to failure, unless the policies are made to win the hearts and minds of majority of the Afghans. Instead of acknowledging Pakistan’s sacrifices, President Karzai always makes Pakistan a whipping boy for his own foibles and lapses and rapping its knuckles at the behest of others. Despite incontrovertible evidence regarding fugitive Fazalullah and his associates hiding in eastern Afghanistan, US/ISAF did nothing to capture or kill him.
The safe havens for Pakistani militants inside Afghanistan tend to increase distrust between US and Pakistan; therefore addressing Pakistan’s concerns and threat to Pakistan’s stability must be listed among the priorities of US/ISAF forces, as a stable Pakistan is in America’s own interest. They should understand the situation on ground. Ever since the ouster of the Taliban, the whole lot of Afghanistan’s south and east has stayed out of Kabul’s writ. Taliban has also proved their mettle in North and West as well. President Karzai’s control on the rest of the land has been, at best, only tenuous, carved up into fiefdoms of warlords and ethnic factions. And under him, Afghanistan visibly turned into a narco-state with organised criminal gangs. So far his writ is concerned, it is confined just to his presidential palace where he lives under the protection of foreign security guards and the state security and intelligence apparatus, which is predominantly under the thumb of his Northern Alliance allies who wield an authoritative power in the Kabul regime.