As Henry Kissinger once rightly observed, it is often more dangerous being America’s ally than its enemy.
Watching Washington’s growing anger Afghan president Hamid Karzai, one recalls the unhappy endings of such former US allies as South Vietnam’s Diem, Iran’s Shah, Indonesia’s Suharto, Nicaragua’s Somoza, and Pakistan’s Zia ul-Haq.
Washington has been loudly hinting it would like to oust Karzai, but so far it has not managed to identify a suitable replacement who commands any respect or tribal support from Afghans.
The Obama administration flirted with trying to replace Karzai by the North Alliance chief, Abdullah Abdullah, but he had too many Communist and drug-dealer skeletons in his closet.
The Obama administration is blaming the largely powerless Karzai, a former CIA `asset,’ for America’s failure to defeat Taliban.
Washington accused its man Karzai of rigging last year’s elections. That’s true. But the US pre-rigged the Afghan elections by excluding all parties opposed to Western occupation. The US is doing the same thing on Iraq’s upcoming elections.
Washington, which supports dictators and phony elections all over Africa and Asia, had the nerve to rebuke Karzai for corruption and rigging votes. Meanwhile, it appears the Pentagon was busy preparing the groundwork for a full military takeover of Pakistan.
You could almost hear Washington crying at Karzai, `bad puppet! Bad puppet!’
Karzai fired back, accusing the US of vote-rigging. He has repeatedly demanded the US military stop killing so many Afghan civilians.
Next, Karzai dropped a bombshell, asserting the US was occupying Afghanistan to dominate the energy-rich Caspian Basin region, not because of the non-existent al-Qaida or Taliban.
Karzai rightly described Taliban as a national resistance movement fighting Western occupation. He invited Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kabul, further enraging the Americans who will soon have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Last week, Karzai even half-jested he might join Taliban. This, after a whirlwind visit by President Barack Obama that apparently did not patch up their growing differences.
Washington had apoplexy. A vicious propaganda campaign was immediately unleashed against Karzai.
The `New York Times,’ which speaks for the Obama administration and is an ardent backer of the Afghan war, all but called in a custom-made op-ed column for the overthrow of Karzai and his replacement by a compliant general. Keep your eyes on the Afghan defense minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, whom I remember well, and with respect, from the 1980’s anti-Soviet war.
A louche American self-promoter, Peter Galbraith, who had been fired from his job with the UN in Kabul, was trotted out to tell media that Karzai might be both a drug addict and crazy.
Behind this ugly, if also comical, spat lay a growing divergence between Afghans and Washington. After 31 years of conflict, nearly 3 million dead, millions more refugees, and frightful poverty, Afghans yearn for peace.
For the past two years, Karzai and his warlord allies have been holding peace talks with Taliban in Saudi Arabia, which has long played an important role in Afghanistan – and will continue to do so in the future.
Karzai knows the way to end the Afghan conflict is to enfranchise the nation’s Pashtun majority and its fighting arm, Taliban. Political compromise with Taliban is the only – and inevitable- solution.
But the Obama administration, misadvised by Washington neocons and other hardliners, is determined to `win’ a military victory in Afghanistan (whatever that means) to save face as a great power, and impose a settlement that leaves it in control of strategic Afghanistan. US propaganda has so demonized Taliban that negotiating with it has become politically impossible for the Western powers.
Accordingly, the US thwarted Karzai’s peace talks by getting Pakistan, currently the recipient of $7 billion in US cash, to arrest senior Taliban leaders sheltering there who had been part of the ongoing peace negotiations with Kabul.
It was Karzai’s turn to be enraged. So he began openly defying his American patrons and adopting an independent position. The puppet was cutting his strings.
Karzai’s newfound boldness was due to the fact that both India and China are eager to replace US/British domination of Afghanistan.
India is pouring money, arms and agents into Afghanistan and training government forces. China, more discreetly, is moving in to exploit Afghanistan’s recently discovered mineral wealth that, says Karzai, is worth $1 trillion, according to a recent US government geological survey.
China, Pakistan’s closet ally, clearly does not want to see rival India become the new protector of Afghanistan.
Russia, still smarting from its 1980’s defeat in Afghanistan, is watching America’s travails there with rich enjoyment. Moscow has its own ambitions in Afghanistan. Happy to see the US fight Taliban, Moscow hopes to eventually pick up the pieces after the US and its dragooned allies become exhausted by the Afghan conflict, which will end up costing Washington at least $1 trillion.
This column has long noted that Karzai’s best survival option is to distance himself from American tutelage and demand the withdrawal of all foreign occupation forces.
Risky business, of course. Remember Kissinger’s warning. Karzai could end up dead. But he could also become a national hero and best candidate to lead an independent Afghanistan that all ethnic groups could accept.
Washington keeps making the same mistake of seeking obedient sycophants rather than legitimate, popular allies.