Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why Karzai Expelled Euro Diplomats

In case you missed it, Afghan president Hamid Karzai has ordered diplomats representing the EU and UN to leave his country. The official line is that these two - Michael Semple, acting European Union mission head, and Mervyn Patterson, a senior UN official - were endangering Afghanistan security by negotiating with the Taliban.

Talking to the Taliban? Please. Who isn't talking to the Taliban? Leave it to The Guardian to put Karzai's motives into perspective:

On the face of it they have been threatened with deportation for talking to Taliban leaders in Musa Qala, the town retaken by British and Afghan troops just before Christmas. The suspicion is that they have actually become caught in a political battle, perhaps involving the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. Faced with the probable arrival of Paddy Ashdown as a UN envoy, the president may have wanted to show he retains sovereign authority by expelling officials from the bodies Lord Ashdown is supposed to oversee, the UN and the EU. The Afghan president is unlikely to have been shocked by the fact that the men were in contact with Taliban leaders, since he has done the same thing. Nor is Lord Ashdown opposed. Writing in the Guardian in July, he argued that "success is not measured in dead Taliban ... modern war is fought among the people ... the battle for public opinion is the crucial battle".

Indeed, the idea of an opposition force that can clearly be identified as the Taliban, and which should either be attacked or talked to, according to preference, is misguided. In a country fragmented along tribal, regional and religious lines, and with no history of central command, concepts such as government and insurgency are only partly helpful. British forces in Helmand province have been fighting Taliban soldiers, but the difference between them and local leaders is not always large.

The Taliban is at times as much a way of mind as it is a coordinated force, and to overcome it will need more than military might. It will require local negotiation and reassurance of just the kind the Secret Intelligence Service is said to have been carrying out."

Since I asked the question of who isn't talking to the Taliban, I suppose I should take a stab at answering it. I guess that would be our own Furious Leader, Little Stevie Harpo, and his trained chimp/waiter, Peter MacKay. The idea that the Taliban aren't going to be defeated in battle isn't one that passes through their wee minds. No, stay the course, for Sharper and PmacKay. Beats the hell out of having to come up with a workable solution, eh?
In a rare interview, Harper said he doesn't understand whether Canadians appreciate what is at stake in Afghanistan. "So I don't know whether Canadians do – or don't – understand. I think Canadians are deeply troubled by the casualties." What does he mean he doesn't know? This is the guy who spends vasty more on polling than any prime minister before him. Harper knows that Canadians are fed up with "the mission" and that he can take his full share of the credit for that. It's been his job, after all, to lead Canadians on this one, to persuade them to support this adventure. He's failed, completely, but - apparently lacking the ability to accept responsibility for his failure - and with no one else he can pin it on, he's reduced to saying he "doesn't know."


Borges said...

I think that despite Afghanistan's desperate situation, it's government should be able to excercise it's sovereignity over the admittance of foreign nationals (and diplomats), and pursue its own policy, whatever that may be. If the elected Karzai government decides that there should be no negotiations with any armed opposition groups- "the Taleban"- then that should be respected, even if it is seen as an incorect policy)

The Mound of Sound said...

I understand your point but I don't think that Karzai has ever been particularly interested in delineating his country's sovereignty. There's not much point in asserting sovereignty if you're not able to stand on your own feet. Without the US and NATO Karzai would pretty much be the mayor of a beseiged Kabul. Had Karzai actually refused to talk with the Taliban his upset over the diplomats' actions would be understandable. It's a little less convincing when he openly states that he himself has several conversations with Taliban leaders each and every week. Karzai is within his rights to order these diplos out of his country. His reasons are less justifiable.