Continuing with the newest Afghanistan metric, President Hamid Karzai’s whining has intensified, this time to the point where he follows up an attempt to walk back Thursday’s anti-western rant with a statement to a group of parliamentarians declaring that he’ll join the Taliban if he’s forced to be a U.S. puppet. One can only imagine Amb. Karl Eikenberry chuckling to himself about killing two birds with one stone.
More substantively, what Karzai wants is the ability to control an independent election-fraud monitor. It’s one thing to play up nationalist bona fides, particularly after stealing your own re-election. But look to see if Karzai develops this line of argument in order to win the U.S.’s acquiescence for his scheme:
Despite his displeasure with the U.S. government, Karzai made the trip to Kandahar to build public support for a top U.S. and NATO goal of combating the insurgency with a major military push this summer into the districts around Kandahar.
He asked attendees whether they are happy about the upcoming operation. A loud murmur echoed across the vast meeting room.
“Listen to me carefully: Until you’re happy and satisfied, we will not conduct this operation,” he said to loud applause.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal has publicly stated that he wants buy-in from local Kandahar notables before he sends NATO forces into the city and its surrounding areas. It’s a position firmly in line with the counterinsurgency principle of seeking local partnership, with the Afghanistan-centric tweak of seeking that partnership at very local levels, something that has the effect of circumventing Karzai. For all Karzai’s reliance on U.S. money and security, Karzai could force a revision in U.S. planning if he decides to become an obstacle to the Kandahar offensive later this spring. How far is he willing to take this?