Foremost among the setbacks, insiders say, was a dramatic confrontation on Feb. 20, when rising tensions between Canadian security officials hired to oversee the project and members of Watan Risk Management, a group of Afghan mercenaries with close ties to the Karzai family, culminated in a “Mexican standoff” — the guns hired to protect the project actually turned on each other in a hair-trigger confrontation.Ok, so the guys we hired to help protect this project actually posed a threat to the Canadians hired to oversee the effort, and these bad guys are tied to whom? The Karzai family. This one kleptocratic, power-aggrandizing group is doing its best to make me feel pretty foolish for recommending that Canada and NATO stay the course. I knew the Karzais were pretty problematic, but they seem committed to antagonizing the outsiders. Again, I supported the surge and I advocated Canada sticking around because I had hoped that we might get a chance to try to do it right once, after years of doing the minimum. I am reaching the point where Obama and NATO should re-evaluate in 2011 and start the process of pulling out. Yes, there will be consequences, but if we cannot get the government of Afghanistan, which is Karzai in Kabul and Karzai #2 in Kandahar, to move in a positive direction, we will just be spinning our wheels.
“As a Canadian taxpayer, it makes you weep,” one well-placed source said of the influence the Karzais wield over the project.
“The Taliban are supposed to be the bad guys. So who are the good guys, Ahmed Wali Karzai and Watan? You ask the people of Kandahar who they are afraid of, they won’t say the Taliban. And you ask the Canadians on this project who are living like prisoners inside that compound, unable to move without Watan’s permission . . . you will get the same answer.”I think I am reaching my turning point on this, but the problem is that departing is not really a solution either. Are we doing more good by staying than leaving? Perhaps, but if we cannot make progress, semi-sustainable progress, then it is probably not worth the dollars and, more importantly, the lives.