Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Uncommon Sense on Afghanistan

America's ambassador to Afghanistan is standing up to the Pentagon's demands for more troops to fight the AfPak war.

Karl W. Eikenberry is urging his president to hold off on sending more troops until the wobbly government of Hamid Karzai demonstrates there's something worth salvaging in that country. Eikenberry's logic is that the corruption and mismanagement of the hapless government we've spent the past eight years propping up is undercutting our efforts, fueling the Taliban resurgence. In other words we're losing the fight with the Taliban while Karzai and his cabal of crooked warlords are busy stabbing us in the back. Ya think?

A statement released by the White House this afternoon suggests Obama is hearing Eikenberry's message:

"The President believes that we need to make clear to the Afghan government that our commitment is not open-ended. After years of substantial investments by the American people, governance in Afghanistan must improve in a reasonable period of time."

Eikenberry is a retired four-star general who commanded forces in Afghanistan in 2006-7.

It's hard to imagine how Karzai is going to rid his government of corruption given that his government is built on corruption. He owes his very presidency to the warlords who rigged the last election in his favour.

Sorry Mr. Obama but Mr. Karzai is already bought and paid for and there's nothing that General Stanley McChrystal or even bigger General David Petraeus can or will do to set that straight. Going after Karzai & Company atop the Taliban and other rebel factions would put us at war with about 80% of the country.


Scott said...

Unless we develop a comprehensive South Asia strategy, the most we can hope for is a temporary peace in Afghanistan.

What would such a strategy look like? Well, at the very least it requires some moderation of the strategic competition between India and Pakistan.

Without attention to this aspect of the problem, we really are only playing around at the edges of the conflict.

For more, see

penlan said...

Interesting to see Obama listening to more than just his Generals. It would be wonderful to see him just pull all troops out & end this war. Not gonna happen but am curious to see what he's going to come up with now.

The Mound of Sound said...

Scott, you're absolutely correct. The West does indeed need a new posture toward South Asia, one that addresses its often contradictory and self-defeating policies in the Middle East through the Far East also.

From the outset, that being the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, there's been nothing but folly in encouraging India's presence in Afghanistan. What useful purpose does that serve but the containment of Pakistan by its sole nuclear rival?

The people of Pakistan and their leaders have good reason to distrust the West. We wish Islamabad to act as though our forces were going to be a dominant presence in Afghanistan for the indefinite future. They, however, aren't that easily fooled. They're counting on us getting frustrated and fatigued which the past has shown to be the precursors of us pulling up stakes and moving on.

I think that Pakistan may see a destabilized Afghanistan, mired in civil war, to be not all that much worse than an unpopular, illegitimate and unviable but pro-India Karzai government.

The whole business is a mess and, like all great but under-resourced ventures, we are denied a coherent policy and left to run about stamping out fires.

Anonymous said...

Jingles says>>>>>>It is interesting what 29 year old MP Malalai Joya had to say about Afghanistan, the Americans and Canadians stationed there, on CBC last evening. She has been expelled for being outspoken and has to move every so many days because of death threats. As she says, freedom of speech is what Democracy stands for but yet she is not allowed to express herself. This is corruption in it's highest order. She has also said we are supporting corruption and the war lords by supporting Karzi. Here is excerpts from what she has said..

"In the constitution it forbids those guilty of war crimes from running for high office. Yet Karzai has named two notorious warlords, Fahim and Khalili, as his running mates for the upcoming presidential election. Under the shadow of warlordism, corruption and occupation, this vote will have no legitimacy, and once again it seems the real choice will be made behind closed doors in the White House. As we say in Afghanistan, "the same donkey with a new saddle".

This week, US vice-president Joe Biden asserted that "more loss of life [is] inevitable" in Afghanistan, and that the ongoing occupation is in the "national interests" of both the US and the UK."

Where is Canada's place in all this? We are not even mentioned by Biden. Does that mean we don't have an interest in this mess as well? Or are we there just out of the goodness of our hearts? We need OUT!! The funny thing is, it seems Karazi doesn't understand we understand what he is doing and how he got there. As Canadians, we need to be supporting people in Afghanistan like Joya so that they may develop their own Democracy and not by making it more difficut for people like Joya to operate.

If you are interested, you can read about her beliefs at

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi A.M. and thanks for the link. Yes, I know of this woman and what has befallen her. Even on the floor of the legislature indignant males were calling for her to be raped.

There are no war criminals in Afghanistan. One of the first acts of their ridiculous legislature was a vote to grant each other amnesty for their war crimes up to the ouster of the Talibs.

Karzai has the West by the short ones and he knows it. That enables him to ignore our demands for reform. Besides how can he reform when he owes his office to the very people we want him to expunge?

Afghanistan remains very much what it was before the Talibs were driven out - an unresolved civil war. We can't change that. Karzai knows it. The former Northern Alliance warlords who are reconsituting their militias know it. The Taliban and their allies, particularly Haqqani and Hekmatyar, know it. The Pashtun on both sides of the Durand Line know it. Islamabad knows it and so does the Pakistan military and, especially, the ISI intelligence types.

Karzai understands the reality of Afghanistan and his position in it. We continue to see their problems through Western eyes, to seek Western responses to obtain Western solutions. There's a reason why the answers we insist on continue to elude us. Any guesses why?

Anonymous said...

"Karzai understands the reality of Afghanistan and his position in it. We continue to see their problems through Western eyes, to seek Western responses to obtain Western solutions. There's a reason why the answers we insist on continue to elude us. Any guesses why?"

12:46 PM, November 14, 2009
That's why we have to listen to people like Joya. She is one of the people who holds the answers to this dirty problem not we Canadians. Christ, we can't even take care of veterans living on the street. We are so darned self-rightous just like the Americans and Brits.

The Mound of Sound said...

In a society where brute power will always dominate the weak, at least for the immediate centuries to come, Joya does not have the answers. The answers lie in strength, raw power. She has none nor is she likely to change that even with our participation. We've long since written off our earlier, fanciful notions of a Western-style, secular, democratic Afghanistan with a full menu of civil and human rights.

At this stage we'd readily welcome back the Taliban if only they would promise to keep al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan. Afghan women and children are dirt under our feet.