Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Karzai's Decline (cont)

More analysis of the resignations of key security officials in Kabul.
The two men who resigned over the weekend, Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and the intelligence director, Amrullah Saleh, had strong relationships with American and British officials and were seen as being among the most competent of his cabinet members, said several Western officials in Kabul. Mr. Saleh, in particular, had built an intelligence agency that the West had come to depend on in a region where reliable partners are hard to find, they said.
But the following is not news:
Their ready dismissals have left the sense that, in trying to ensure his own survival, Mr. Karzai will not hesitate to make decisions counter to the interests of his staunchest Western allies or the Afghan government as a whole, or even to make decisions that seem counter to his own long-term interests.
This is just part of the pattern.  When running for re-election, Karzai essentially ran against NATO by focusing on the collateral damage ISAF was causing rather than the direct damage the Taliban were inflicting.  He then added notorious human rights abusers to his campaign team.  Then there is that business about rigging an election he was almost sure to win.  The funny thing is that this is one of the times that the US and its allies really did try to bet on institutions and not individuals so much, but Karzai has made that difficult.  Now, he has made it impossible as he undermines the two key institutions that are integral to the counter-insurgency campaign--the Ministry of Interior and the intelligence service.

So, it is striking but not surprising that a term used to raise questions about the future of Iraq has now been applied here:
“This is the beginning of the unraveling of the Afghan government,” said Haron Meer, a political analyst and former aide to Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, which fought the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan.

The blame seems to be placed on Obama:
“The root of this is the perception that President Karzai got last year from the kind of cold reception that he got from the American administration, and that made him feel insecure,” said Ahmed Ali Jalali, who was Afghanistan’s interior minister from 2003 to 2005.
There is one basic problem with this--it gets the timeline wrong.  Karzai was already busy undermining the government and ISAF before Obama's deliberations last fall. Perhaps Obama has made Karzai less secure.  Then again, Karzai was plenty secure when Bush was his buddy with the weekly video conference, and Karzai was not doing too much to help out.  Still, it does appear to be the case that either a second term or the Obama limited surge has perhaps encouraged Karzai to act against the interests of his donors/supporters from outside the country.  But the gamble is his, as he is the one most likely to be swinging from a lamppost if he encourages the US and its allies to depart.

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