Karzai’s Tantrum and Kandahar
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?