Thomas Barfield at Scott Horton's No Comment blog.
And we're counting on this guy to be more skillful than every other Afghan ruler of the last century. Wonder how that will work out? It's going badly right now, in fact:
Karzai’s attacks on the United States and the coalition are a response to this threat, but not a credible one. No Afghan believes his government could survive without direct U.S. support. He thus wins no domestic credibility for biting the hand that feeds him and loses the confidence of his international backers who now doubt his reliability. Karzai’s overtures to the Taliban are viewed as a sign of personal weakness, not strength. In Afghanistan, the perception of being a winner (or loser) often plays a decisive role in turning that perception into reality. Why should members of the Taliban defect or compromise if they believe that Karzai is not a credible foe? Hasty overtures to the Taliban also alienate the half of the country that is non-Pashtun. They oppose any attempt by Karzai to cut a deal with his co-ethnics at their expense—and the non-Pashtuns constitute the core of the new Afghan National Army.Another interesting quote:
During 2002 and 2003, the U.S. committed only 7,000 troops to a country that is the size of France with a population of thirty million people. It also initially discouraged other countries from deploying troops, and their willingness to cooperate soon evaporated in the wake of the Iraq war. In the absence of a real Afghan national army (in 2004 it numbered only 9,000, of which only half could be deployed), the existing militia leaders stayed in power. Only with the return of the Taliban to active fighting in 2006 did the consequences of such a short-sighted policy become clearly visible. Had the United States only devoted a fifth of its current effort in 2003 and 2004 and used it to create viable Afghan institutions, we might not be facing an insurgency in the country today.Could "you get what you pay for" be a defining slogan for the aughts?
Updates after the jump.
UPDATE: Taliban Attacks Shake Afghan Peace Gathering (h/t Balloon Juice):
Mr. Karzai opened the jirga with an address that appealed directly to Taliban insurgents, blaming foreign forces in part for excesses that had driven people to join them.UPDATE II: Well, some good news out of the jirga, after all:
“I am telling you, dear brother Talib-jan, this is your country, come and have a peaceful life in the country,” he said. “Jan” is an affectionate suffix that Afghans often attach to the names of their friends.
The Taliban’s reply came before the president even finished speaking, as a rocket exploded in the compound, within a few hundred yards of the jirga tent. “Some are trying to fire rockets,” he said, shrugging off the attack. “Everyone is used to it; even my three-year-old son is used to it.”
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, reached by telephone while the attack was underway, said, “Our main purpose is to disrupt the peace jirga.” Minutes after Mr. Karzai concluded his speech, a second, larger explosion rocked the jirga tent, and the session was suspended for 90 minutes as the police battled the insurgents, killing two suicide bombers and arresting a confederate of theirs.
Originally announced by Karzai in January, the jirga was to have included representatives of the Taliban, apparently including Mullah Baradur, the No. 2 Taliban official, who had engaged in secret contacts with Karzai and the UN. But in February, Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, threw a monkey wrench into the planning for the jirga by arresting Baradur. His arrest was widely seen as an act by Pakistan to assert control over the Afghan peace process, a message to Karzai that his efforts would fail unless they brought Pakistan into the center of the talks.From Afghan Jirga: Talk to the Taliban, Robert Dreyfuss, The Dreyfuss Report at The Nation, June 7, 2010.
It’s likely that the firing of the interior minister and the chief of intelligence by Karzai is meant to smooth the way for just that: talks with the Taliban in which Pakistan will play a key role.
Though activists for women’s rights, among others, aren’t happy about the idea of reconciling with the Taliban, and although Afghanistan’s petulant opposition leader, Abdullah Abdullah, the runner-up in last August’s presidential election, foolishly led a boycott of the jirga, the three-day meeting did bolster Karzai’s prestige, and it could set the stage for a lengthy peace process that could, in fact, end the war. Staffan de Mistura, the savvy UN official in Afghanistan, said that the jirga could indeed create conditions over the coming months that could lead to a political breakthrough. The Taliban are watching very carefully what is happening,” he said. “They are not naïve, as you know, neither blind, and they are also in my opinion tired.”