Karzai’s skepticism

KARZAI’S SKEPTICISM…. When President Obama presented the details of a new U.S. policy in Afghanistan, my biggest concern was with the Karzai government. If America doesn’t have a reliable, trustworthy partner, then there’s no point in extending the war and trying to bring stability to the country.

Having confidence in Karzai and our partnership with him has proven to be increasingly difficult. The Afghan leader came under bipartisan fire in the U.S. after he accused the West of interfering in Afghanistan’s elections. Soon after, Karzai reportedly began threatening to hook up with the Taliban. President Obama has repeatedly urged the Afghan administration to crack down on the corruption and inefficiencies that plague Karzai’s government, and the erratic Afghan president doesn’t seem to care for the advice.

And today, the NYT reports that Karzai just doesn’t think the combined U.S./NATO efforts will succeed, and he’s making plans accordingly.

For that reason, Mr. Saleh and other officials said, Mr. Karzai has been pressing to strike his own deal with the Taliban and the country’s archrival, Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime supporter. According to a former senior Afghan official, Mr. Karzai’s maneuverings involve secret negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO officials.

“The president has lost his confidence in the capability of either the coalition or his own government to protect this country,” Mr. Saleh said in an interview at his home. “President Karzai has never announced that NATO will lose, but the way that he does not proudly own the campaign shows that he doesn’t trust it is working.” […]

If Mr. Karzai’s resolve to work closely with the United States and use his own army to fight the Taliban is weakening, that could present a problem for Mr. Obama. The American war strategy rests largely on clearing ground held by the Taliban so that Mr. Karzai’s army and government can move in, allowing the Americans to scale back their involvement in an increasingly unpopular and costly war.

Under the best conditions imaginable, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, now in its eighth year, is incredibly challenging. The Obama administration has put the pieces in place as best it can to succeed, but if Karzai doesn’t have confidence in us, and we don’t have confidence in Karzai, then success isn’t going to happen.

I realize that many right-wing Republicans have sided with Karzai over the United States, but the evidence is growing that their faith in the Afghan president is misplaced.