Karzai's Remarks, Not News!
- Written by Malali Bashir
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, for the last three days, has been reported by the media to be repeating himself that the Taliban insurgency benefits the foreign forces in Afghanistan. "The Taliban are serving the foreigners and are not against the foreigners," Karzai, speaking in Dari, said two days ago.
The next hour, media outlets around the world carried his remarks in bold and some interpreted them in their own way. Even though the president did not say directly that the Taliban and the International Forces i.e. Americans were cooperating with each other, the media did not shy away of saying “Karzai accused the United States of America for colluding with the Taliban”. What he said was more about Taliban hypocrisy. If you listen to his original remarks, he said that the Taliban are benefiting the foreigners by providing them an excuse to stay longer in Afghanistan because if there is violence, NATO will not leave. The primary focus of this particular part of his speech on International Women’s day was to unfold the double game Taliban are playing. He was talking about Taliban’s double-dealings towards the ordinary Afghans or that they are not fighting for Islam. President Karzai repeated those words in Helmand today and said foreign troops should have fought their war on terror in Pakistan where terrorists are sheltered and trained instead of fighting it on Afghan soil.
This is not the first time the Afghan President Hamid Karzai gives such statements. He had made similar comments (in Pashto) during the Peace Jirga in Afghanistan in 2010. “Foreigners say we will not go [out of Afghanistan] unless the Taliban are defeated. Taliban say we will not go [towards peace] unless the foreigners are out. It seems like you [both] are agreeable with each other and we don’t know about this [secret association]. You may be tricking us,” he said.
President Karzai directly and clearly said almost the same thing three years ago that the Taliban and the Americans might have secret relations but no media outlet highlighted these comments then, despite the fact that these 2010 comments are more controversial and direct than the ones he made today and yesterday.
Legally, Hamid Karzai’s term of presidency will come to an end next year in 2014. And many suspect that he is trying to be a hero in his last year of power just like Soviet-Union-backed Afghan President Dr. Najibullah did in his last ruling years from 1989 to 1992.
Today, many love Najibullah for what he had been saying all those three years. He is considered wise and is admired among the ordinary Afghans for predicting the future of his country. And when Taliban dragged him to the streets of Kabul while abusing and subsequently hanging him in a crowded square of the city, he automatically captured the status of a hero among Afghans.
Najibullah, as a president, might have done little what Afghans wanted but has said exactly what people wanted to hear. In his post-Soviets withdrawal speech, Najibullah talks about a Mujahideen commander who sent him a letter to accelerate the process of Soviet forces withdrawal from entire Afghanistan. “I asked him, if the Russians pulled out their forces, what if American advisers, Arab Wahabis and Pakistani Majors and Generals take over instead?, he (the commander) replied me ‘in that case, we are Afghans too. You prove your Afghaniyat first and we will also prove our Afghaniyat.’ I recently wrote him that I told you these [foreigners] will come and they did,” Najib recounted.
Unfortunately, in Afghanistan words speak louder than actions and Karzai knows that. Many Afghans do not understand the complex nature of the ongoing conflict and have a lot of doubts about the American led war on terror. Many believe that the US is not serious about disabling and defeating the Taliban or seriously pressurizing Pakistan for supporting terrorism and sheltering Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents. Ironically, some Afghans do not trust president Karzai either because, according to them, he was “installed” by the Americans. However, the fear of Taliban and warlords re-ruling Afghanistan once the NATO troops leave is bitter and more haunting than Americans not winding up the war.
Sarah Chayes in her book “The Punishment of Virtue” writes about this dilemma of the Afghans, “In Afghanistan, there are ways you know things. Outsiders call it ‘rumor-mongering’ or ‘conspiracy theorizing’ and when they ask you for some evidence, for something concrete to substantiate this gut feeling of yours, you shrug a little sheepishly because you have to admit they’re right -- you’re only speculating. But still, you know. There is a tuning fork vibrating inside you to the true pitch.”
Gradually, by the end of 2003, Afghans started raising their eyebrows and one could hear in taxis, cafes, and shops talks about the Taliban and Karzai being two stones in the hand of the United States sandwiching ordinary Afghans. Anecdotally, it seems that a good number of Afghans believe that the Americans have done little to smash top Taliban commanders, and have let them do whatever they want with the condition that they do not harm Americans and America. However, media reports suggest that more than 3,300 insurgents were killed in 2012. And, according to iCasualties.org, a website that keeps track of military casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq -- 402 coalition forces (310 of them American soldiers) were killed in 2012. Meanwhile, a U.N. report said that civilian casualties had decreased by 15 percent in the first half of 2012, including 1,145 killed.
When the Taliban was forced out of power in 2001, war-weary Afghans had great hopes for reconstruction and development of their country. They thought God was finally going to answer their prayers and put those to justice who were responsible for the destruction of their country and nation. Now, many have lost hope in what they see as a corrupt government ruled by brutal warlords and witnessing the Taliban blowing up schools and cutting ears off of teachers. These atrocities, combined with homes being destroyed and their family members being killed in foreign troops’ bombardments, make for a dreadful combination.
It is time for President Karzai to let Afghans know that even though his government was set up with the help of the international community, he is now a democratically-elected president. His intelligence agencies should be able to coordinate efficiently with the U.S. and more cooperation should be assured among the U.S. and Afghan security forces to reduce civilian casualties so that the public does not see the U.S. as being equal to the Taliban in terms of atrocities against them. Karzai should also make serious efforts to wipe out corruption, taking bold moves to remove corrupt officials -- without preferring one over the other. When Karzai got elected for the first time, he came up with a slogan: “Right People In Right Places.” He should stick to that by bringing deserving people in for suitable jobs, and not playing by the normal political rules.