Karzai acting strange (finally!)

You've most likely seen the recent 'strange' statements of Karzai. He begins to sound like a contra-foreigners politician.

I actually wondered for a long time whether and when this would happen.

The good news is that the Western media (and apparently the MilBloggers as well) seem to play their part of the script really fine.

Karzai's statements are in my opinion the best news from Afghanistan for a long time. I don't buy his statements at all, so I've got no problems with them.

Let's recall how it worked out in Iraq: The Americans staged their 'surge' show and the Iraqi head of government began to play the strong man. Then came the Basra battle. The British had caught quite some flak for their loss of control over Basra.
The new Iraqi security forces arrived, settled the affair their way and took over Basrah. Their head of government had won credibility and support and the Iraqi security forces were able to gain control of pretty much the whole country without much fighting.
Mission accomplished (not necessarily the foreigners).

It looks quite the same in Afghanistan. Karzai complained weakly about civilian casualties for quite a while. Now he's setting himself up as a strong leader who's not a mere puppet. He suggests that he can or will block the next foreigner's offensive, showing off some might. The message: He's the master in his own house.

Next, he'll probably send Afghan troops to take over some important places that suit themselves well to such a takeover*. The other places will follow suit.
The Afghan troops - freed from foreigner's control - will employ Afghan methods and are many times as numerous as the masters of Afghanistan of the 90's ever were.
His suggestions that he could join the TB to face foreigners if necessary can be read as a diplomatic solution for the conflict. His positioning against the foreigners is a quite obvious trick to boost Afghan unity (or to invent it).

I may be wrong with my interpretation of the script, but I'm sure that it's naive to simply believe the superficial story in the news.

The script -if it exists - could be the long-missed great strategic idea for a conclusion of the conflict. ISAF could achieve its mission (provide security forces till the mayor of Kabul's troops take over) while OEF-A might eventually clam victory as well on the basis that AQ (not the TB) was defeated in the area.
Again - just as in Iraq - the war went too badly to expect permanent & strong Western influence in the country. The result is a conflict (chapter) conclusion on the basis of a compromise.

The Western/Karzai alliance is sacrificing its white queen in AFG. Such a move is often decisive & highly interesting. Maybe the strategic dumbness of the 2002-2009 period has finally found its end.

Finally some context. I bought a gift booklet for a friend years ago - it was about Japanese wisdoms. The quick test-reading was satisfactory, and I recall one story very well. It was impressive.
A successful, famous Japanese leader worried that his highly successful reign might cause a very tough beginning for the future reign of his son. He began to act foolish up to a point where nobody saw the great leader in him any more and everybody got impatient about the succession. He finally died and his son proved to be a highly successful prince as well.
The lesson is of course that sometimes you need to shed some prestige to achieve what you want. This readiness to sacrifice something is crucial (and it doesn't always need to be whole armies in war). The West may do exactly this; step back, allow Karzai to gain in the process.

On the other hand, maybe we have neither a good strategy nor wise people in charge. Maybe it's really as the mainstream media asserts; a puppet officially out of control in a really stupid war gone really, really wrong.

Sven Ortmann

*: I hope he's got an invitation from Kunduz, but that's probably a too unimportant place. Maybe Kandahar will be the pivot..


  1. I like your analysis, but it's obviously too soon to judge exactly what's happening. The warlords might be threatening to turn against the foreigners in response to foreign pressure against them, or perhaps Karzai has been somehow politically isolated. Press reports in the West just don't give you a very clear picture of the internal politics of Afghanistan.

    Knowing Karzai, I'd say he's still our man in Kabul, and he's saying what he's saying for domestic political purposes. Even if there is some sort of compromise with the Taliban and Karzai takes control, he'll still be under strong western influence. Sure we might not be able to keep slaughtering Afghan civilians, but we'll get any economic concessions we want, and probably even airbases in Afghanistan. The Afghan government will remain a slave to foreign aid for quite some time.

  2. I like your analysis here too, although of course it's too soon to tell for sure.

    But Karzai has to "act up" or else he has no credibility at home. At least a fig-leaf of foreigner-hating is necessary for him to be politically acceptable in his right in Afghanistan.

    On the other hand, I seem to remember Nguyen Cao Ky made the odd rant against the Americans, back in his day.