That task is especially hard because Afghanistan has never really functioned as a unified nation the way other countries work. They are more a collection of tribal-states run by local tradition and the main “national export” has, for the past 6 centuries, been opium. National governments have only existed through cooperation of the many tribal units across the country and this has been mainly the result of a lot of bargaining and deal making. This, combined with the influence of a pervasive and lucrative drug trade, has resulted in an environment ripe in corruption and one where the tribal units simply do not trust the central government.
The man elected by the Afghan people, Hamid Karzai, is a perfect example of this environment. He has come to power by being able to make deals with both the tribal leaders and with the various drug cartels operating in Afghanistan (many of whom are run by the Taliban). Like anyone who has risen to power in this way, he is both corrupt and is an egomaniac that will do anything, say anything and make any deal to retain his power.
Because Karzai is the legally chosen leader of Afghan people, the United States has been stuck with him and has tried very hard to work with him. It has been in vain. His corruption is too extensive and he just does not know how to operate in any other way.
As Afghanistan makes the transition to a more normal country and national identity, Karzai's behavior is coming more and more into light. He is known to have personal connections with the drug trade (his own brother is suspected of being a major drug dealer) and is rumored to even have a drug addiction himself. When the United States first became involved in Afghanistan, Karzai saw it as an opportunity to get power. He welcomed and encouraged a close working relationship with America. That worked well for him in the early days when there was a power vacuum to fill following the initial fall of the Taliban. Now that has changed. He is now under increasing pressure to clean up his personal act and to rid his government of corruption. The problem with that is that he just does not know how to operate any other way. What’s more, he sees that in a corrupt free Afghanistan, he will quickly lose favor with the Afghan people (something that has already started in earnest).
He is reacting by trying to now paint the United States as a “would be occupier” that only he can control. He regularly assures the US of his cooperation then turns right around and derides the foreigners (NATO and the US) as uncaring and indifferent to the needs of the Afghan people. He is playing both ends against the middle in a dangerous game he can not win.
His latest outrage was actually telling a group of tribal leaders that if too much pressure was put on him he would even consider joining the Taliban again (an idea I personally like as it would quickly end his very existence).
In the end the United States is going to have to face the fact that he is in the way of getting an honest and functioning civil government in Afghanistan. As much as we respect the sovereign right of Afghanistan to chose their president, this one just has to go.
Our job there is made much harder every day he is allowed to remain in office. The best way to get rid of him is to stop treating him with kid gloves. Investigate his corruption and drug dealing, get the evidence and charge him, in Afghan courts, with his crimes. Let the Afghan people see their government clean up their act, starting at the very top. –And Do It Now!
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