Karzai: I Might Join the Taliban

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In 1999, prominent Afghan politician Abdul Ahad Karzai was gunned down by Taliban assassins for criticizing their regime. His son Hamid Karzai, a moderate and well-liked politician, lobbied Western governments for help in ousting the Taliban, which he got in a late 2001 international assault. Now President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai may be having a little change of heart. Afghan legislators told the Associated Press that, at a closed-door meeting this weekend, Karzai threatened to quit the presidency and join the Taliban. This is probably unlikely for a number of reasons (for example, Karzai and Taliban leaders have been trying to kill each other for a decade), but it threatens to exacerbate the growing diplomatic tension between Karzai and the U.S. Here's what people are saying.

  • Hyperbole, but Damaging  The A.P.'s Amir Shah writes, "Lawmakers dismissed the latest comment as hyperbole, but it will add to the impression the president — who relies on tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO forces to fight the insurgency and prop up his government — is growing increasingly erratic and unable to exert authority without attacking his foreign backers."
  • He's Planning Post-U.S. Rule  Time's Tony Karon suggests, "Karzai, moreover, is humiliated and shown to be powerless when his protestations over such operations are ignored by his Western patrons. So while he may have been installed by a U.S.-led invasion, if Karzai is to survive the departure of Western forces, he will have to reinvent himself as a national leader with an independent power base."
  • We Have to Live With Him  Commentary's Max Boot sighs, "Bottom line: we don’t have any choice but to work with Karzai."
  • Crazy Like a Fox?  The Australian's William Daley speculates, "given his weak position both domestically and internationally, it is possible that his objectives are to reduce his dependence on the US by cutting a deal with the Pakistan-backed Taliban and Hekmatyar's Hezb, and moving closer to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. On the other hand, he may be seeking to reduce his local vulnerability by trying to geld the parliament and establish an autocratic system of rule."
Karzai’s troubles with his allies all boil down to his sense that he and his government are not sovereign in Afghanistan. They appear to exercise little control or influence over tactical military operations. Complaints about the heavy use of firepower against civilians—usually voiced after a bombing raid has struck a funeral or wedding party with great loss of innocent life—seem to go unacknowledged. Military mistakes are often covered up with an aggressive official disinformation campaign. The United States is operating a prison system in Afghanistan with no obvious connection to Afghanistan’s law or courts.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.