The Eva­sive So­lu­tion

Pres­i­dent Karzai has been mak­ing des­per­ate ef­forts to get the at­ten­tion of West­ern pow­ers but it all seems to be work­ing in the op­po­site direc­tion. Is there an­other so­lu­tion to the se­ri­ous prob­lem that is Afghanistan?

Southasia - - Region - By Ab­dul­hadi Hairan

While the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has tried to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan over the past two years, Pres­i­dent Karzai has stepped up ef­forts to ap­pease the in­sur­gent groups, os­ten­si­bly to per­suade them to end the in­sur­gency but in fact to keep the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity away from in­ter­fer­ing in his cor­rupt gov­ern­ment.

This has re­sulted in a dis­turb­ing con­flict of in­ter­ests be­tween Karzai and the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion as to how to form a fu­ture full of hope for this war-rav­aged coun­try. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is frus­trated with Karzai’s in­abil­ity to rein in his fam­ily mem­bers and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials

who are deeply and widely in­volved in corruption and the il­le­gal drug busi­ness. Un­der­stand­ably, Karzai is fed up with the med­dling of the West­ern al­lies in his ‘in­ter­nal busi­ness.’

Sev­eral of Karzai’s moves that he made dur­ing the last one year show how badly he wants to let the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity know of his in­ten­tions. As his first move, he forced two top of­fi­cials – Hanif At­mar, the Min­is­ter of In­te­rior, and Am­rul­lah Saleh, the In­tel­li­gence Chief – to re­sign. Karzai thought they were too much un­der the in­flu­ence of the United States. And now the news is that he is re­mov­ing two more im­por­tant min­is­ters, Ab­dul Rahim War­dak and Omar Zakhilwal. He has also re­ceived huge amounts of cash from Iran. These and some other moves seem to be aimed at dis­tanc­ing him­self from his West­ern al­lies.

Among the moves that Karzai has made to ap­pease the Tal­iban and other in­sur­gent groups, he formed a Peace Coun­cil of Jihadi com­man­ders and fired the deputy gov­er­nor of Hel­mand prov­ince just be­cause he had in­vited a fe­male singer to the Afghan New Year Eve con­cert.

The lat­est of these moves re­sulted in huge in­ter­na­tional trou­ble. A mo­ronic pas­tor in Florida burned a copy of the holy Qu­ran af­ter a mock trial in his small church in mid-March. The event was largely ig­nored by main­stream me­dia and very few peo­ple came to know of it. But at the end of the month, Karzai, pos­si­bly think­ing that he would make the ex­trem­ists happy, is­sued a state­ment in which he con­demned the pas­tor and burn­ing of the holy Qu­ran

This state­ment pro­voked vi­o­lent demon­stra­tions through­out Afghanistan. Re­port­edly, Karzai had asked his gov­er­nors and other of­fi­cials to spread the state­ment and in­vite peo­ple to demon­strate. Ac­cord­ing to some re­ports, the gov­er­nor of Balkh prov­ince, also a for­mer Jihadi com­man­der, told his pro­vin­cial coun­cil to ar­range for demon­stra­tions. The imams all over Afghanistan quoted the state­ment and ig­nited fury.

As a re­sult, on the first Fri­day of April, thou­sands of peo­ple marched from the Blue Mosque in Mazar-eSharif, a north­ern city known to be rel­a­tively peace­ful and sta­ble, to demon­strate against the Qu­ran burn­ing and at­tacked the UN com­pound. The vi­o­lent demon­stra­tors first killed five Nepalese guards at the com­pound and then three West­ern of­fi­cers, two of whom were be­headed.

In Kan­da­har, the next day, more vi­o­lent protests re­sulted in the killing of about 15 peo­ple while nearly a hun­dred more were wounded. The demon­stra­tors also at­tacked schools and other pub­lic prop­erty.

Surely Pres­i­dent Karzai and his of­fi­cials did not ex­pect things would turn so se­ri­ous. But that does not mat­ter as dis­turbed and con­fused lead­ers never know what to do and what to ex­pect. Sim­i­larly, the Afghan Pres­i­dent does not know what he will achieve by ap­pease­ment of the in­sur­gent groups and his new found re­la­tion­ship with Iran. And he does not care what will hap­pen to Afghanistan if the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity fails in its mis­sion of the global fight against terrorism and the re­con­struc­tion of Afghanistan.

As be­fore him, Tal­iban sac­ri­ficed Afghanistan and the en­tire Afghan nation to save Osama bin Laden. Now Pres­i­dent Karzai is try­ing to sac­ri­fice Afghanistan again, this time to save his cor­rupt rel­a­tives and of­fi­cials.

This ir­re­spon­si­ble attitude on Karzai’s own part and that of his of­fi­cials and rel­a­tives is a big hur­dle in the way of nation-build­ing and the im­prove­ment of demo­cratic sys­tem in Afghanistan. Af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama an­nounced in­crease in mil­i­tary pres­ence in Afghanistan in 2009, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity also shifted its fo­cus to train the Afghan army and Afghan po­lice. This was very im­por­tant as it was the only way to im­prove the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion and re­con­nect the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion with the gov­ern­ment in Kabul.

Just a few months ago, the se­cu­rity of some rel­a­tively se­cure cities was trans­ferred to the Afghan se­cu­rity forces from in­ter­na­tional troops. Mov­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity to the Afghan forces on such a level en­ables them to prac­tice their pro­fes­sional skills in an in­de­pen­dent man­ner. And this is sig­nif­i­cant for re­gain­ing the trust that peo­ple had lost be­cause of sev­eral grave mis­takes made by the West­ern forces and the Afghan gov­ern­ment, the most se­ri­ous of which were civil­ian ca­su­al­ties and wide­spread corruption.

How­ever, im­prove­ment in the sit­u­a­tion on a sig­nif­i­cant level is un­likely if there is no co­or­di­na­tion of ef­forts and no trust be­tween the Afghan gov­ern­ment and its in­ter­na­tional sup­port­ers. A se­ri­ous con­flict of in­ter­ests and pri­or­i­ties is likely to set them go­ing in two sep­a­rate di­rec­tions. That will not only give the Tal­iban and other in­sur­gent groups an op­por­tu­nity to re­gain their strength on the ground and trust among the peo­ple, but they will also try to re­verse all the ef­forts made dur­ing last 10 years and the con­se­quences will be a fail­ure of the in­ter­na­tional in­volve­ment as well as an end to the en­tire gov­ern­ment in­fra­struc­ture. The writer is a Kabul-based re­search an­a­lyst. He writes in English and lo­cal lan­guages for dif­fer­ent na­tional me­dia out­lets.

The re­cent protests and killings over the Florida Qu­ran burn­ing in­ci­dent is not good

news for a peace­ful Afghan tran­si­tion.

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