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November 24, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2644

Taliban Affairs Expert: "Making President Karzai a Scapegoat for the Collective Western Failure in Afghanistan May Help Influence Public Opinion in Western Countries, But It Cannot Win Them a Decisive Military Victory Against the Taliban"

November 24, 2009
Afghanistan | Special Dispatch No. 2644

In a recent article, titled "Karzai after re-election," Rahimullah Yusufzai, a prominent journalist based in the Pakistani tribal region and a Taliban affairs expert, underlined the need for continuing the Western support to President Hamid Karzai in order to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Noting that President Karzai has emerged "bruised and weaker" from the fraud-marred August 20 presidential election in Afghanistan, Yusufzai added that supporters of Dr. Abdullah, the challenger to Karzai, too were responsible for rigging the polls in the conflict-ridden country.

Warning that the Taliban are "enjoying the spectacle" of President Karzai and his Western backers' bickering over a way forward in Afghanistan, the prominent Pakistani journalist added that the Western countries too are responsible for the strengthening of corrupt warlords in Afghanistan.

Following are some excerpts from the article: [1]

"Despite His Victory, the Electoral Fraud Will Haunt President Karzai During His Next Five-year Term in Office. In Fact, He has Emerged Bruised and Weaker from the Election"

"It won’t be fair to blame only President Karzai for the fraudulent election. He obviously had more power and resources as Afghanistan’s president for the last eight years to rig the poll. His men holding the reins of power in Pashtun-populated southern and eastern Afghanistan, and in the northern and central provinces dominated by warlords Abdur Rasheed Dostum and Karim Khalili, left no stone unturned to arm-twist, buy-off and charm voters in favor of candidate Karzai.

"But powerful supporters of [Karzai’s challenger] Dr. Abdullah, the man who had been President Karzai’s foreign minister for sometime and benefited from Western largesse, were not to be left behind as they hunted for votes for the half-Tajik, half-Paktun [Pashtun] candidate from Panjshir Valley. One such supporter was Ata Mohammad Noor, governor of the northern Balkh province, who vigorously campaigned for Dr. Abdullah and even threatened not to accept Mr. Karzai as a legitimate president owing to the fraud in the election.

"That anyone with the gun and the resources played a role in rigging Afghanistan’s presidential election is evident from the European Union’s report that a third of the disputed 1.5 million votes were fraudulent, and that this included one million polled for Mr. Karzai and 300,000 for Dr. Abdullah.

"Despite his victory, the electoral fraud will haunt President Karzai during his next five-year term in office. In fact, he has emerged bruised and weaker from the election. His Western backers, who not long ago were charmed by his English-speaking ability, his traditional Afghan robes and his relatively clean past compared to the other Afghans in power, are now determined to make him accountable for his actions. From President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and from UN special representative in Afghanistan Kai Eide to the leaders of all Western nations with troops in the country, the message to President Karzai is loud and clear: rid your government of warlords and drug-runners and clean up corruption if you want our continued support.

"It seems that the criterion for backing the beleaguered Afghan president has become tougher and now he must meet certain stringent conditions to qualify for Western support in the form of troops and resources [so that he will be able] to battle the resurgent Taliban, to sustain himself in power, to pay for the expenses of his cash-strapped government and its feeble institutions, and also to rebuild the war-wracked country."

"It is the Western Powers which Brought Back to Power the Afghan Warlords Who had been Defeated by the Taliban and Discredited Due to Their Corrupt Practices and Their Excesses Against the Afghan People"

"It is strange that an Afghan president dependent on NATO forces and Western money for survival is being tasked to do things beyond his power. It is the Western powers which brought back to power the Afghan warlords who had been defeated by the Taliban and discredited due to their corrupt practices and their excesses against the Afghan people. But now they want the weak Afghan president to ditch these powerful men holding positions as governors, corps commanders, ministers and advisers.

" Out of fear of making more enemies the U.S. and its allies, with 103,000 troops in Afghanistan, are also primarily responsible for the record rise in opium-poppy production and drug-trafficking as well as for their failure to take action against drug barons [most of whom] are part of the Afghan government. But their wrath is directed against Mr. Karzai, who on his own cannot do much to curtail the power of the drug-runners and warlords.

"Like all rulers in countries with weak democracies, he had to make alliances with powerful warlords and moneyed people to win [the] election and survive in power. It isn’t something proper; and much-needed reforms, which are already written into Afghan law but are not implemented, must be enforced in to give the Afghan people hope and a better life. However, expecting President Karzai to accomplish on his own the wish-list drawn for him by his Western sponsors amounts to wishful thinking."

"At a Time When President Karzai’s Government and Its Impatient Western Supporters Bicker among Themselves as to What Needs to Be Done to Right the Wrongs in an Increasingly Unstable Afghanistan, the Taliban Appear to Be Enjoying the Spectacle"

"At a time when President Karzai’s government and its impatient Western supporters bicker among themselves as to what needs to be done to right the wrongs in an increasingly unstable Afghanistan, the Taliban appear to be enjoying the spectacle. They were able to partially disrupt the presidential election and ensure a low turnout.

"The electoral fraud and the crucial Western role in resolving the issue of the disputed vote validated the Taliban’s argument that the poll was a tool of foreigners aimed at installing a subservient government in Kabul. The misgivings about each other’s intentions between the Afghan government and the NATO member-states taking part in the fighting in Afghanistan will further help the Taliban cause."

"The 103,000 Foreign... and the Over 150,000 Afghan Soldiers and the Police Should Be More Than Enough to Tackle the Less than 20,000 Taliban if the Afghan People were Convinced that the West... Could be Trusted"

"Making President Karzai a scapegoat for the collective Western failure in Afghanistan may help influence public opinion in Western countries, but it cannot win them a decisive military victory against the Taliban. That will require acceptance of the ground realities in Afghanistan as deployment of extra Western forces in the country will provoke resentment among most Afghans and give a fillip to the Taliban resistance.

"The 103,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan and the over 150,000 Afghan National Army soldiers and the Afghan National Police should be more than enough to tackle the less than 20,000 Taliban if the Afghan people were convinced that the West and its partner in Kabul, President Karzai, could be trusted to put their homeland on the path of progress and prosperity.

"Until that happens, neither any increase in resources and troops nor the holding of elections will be able to defeat the Taliban and stabilize Afghanistan."

Endnotes:

[1] The News, Pakistan, November 10, 2009. The article has been slightly edited for clarity.

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