Another COIN Skeptic: Hamid Karzai

August 17, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty got an exclusive interview with Hamid Karzai after yesterday’s presidential debate. The whole thing’s fairly predictable — Karzai lists his accomplishments in office and dismisses his critics — until Karzai slips this in:

at those parts of the country that are most important — and those typically, in an insurgency, are the population centers.” And sure, there’s a certain amount of expectation among U.S. observers that Karzai will and needs to pander to nationalistic sentiment. But it’s also difficult to spool those comments back should Karzai use them to win on Thursday. His point that there aren’t “terrorist sanctuaries” in Afghanistan anymore has been raised by counterinsurgency and Afghanistan-war critics for the last several weeks. By implication, Karzai is opening up more of a door to reconciling with the Taliban than he has to date — a good overview of that comes in today’s New York Times — by ruling the Afghan-centric organization out of the cohort of legitimate enemies.