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The administration goes after Karzai

Today’s papers are once again full of leaks by administration officials heaping scorn on Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- the leader with whom the United States will have to work if U.S. forces remain in Afghanistan. Among other things, according to the Post’s news story, “U.S. officials were particularly irritated by an interview this week in which a defiant Karzai said that the West had little interest in Afghanistan and that its troops are there only for self-serving purposes.”

The Post helpfully provides the offending statement, from an interview Karzai gave to PBS’s "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer":

The West is not here primarily for the sake of Afghanistan. It is here to fight terrorism. The United States and its allies came to Afghanistan after Sept. 11. Afghanistan was troubled like hell before that, too. Nobody bothered about us.

Where could Karzai have gotten this purportedly infuriating analysis? Well...maybe from President Obama. Here’s what the president said on NBC’s Meet the Press program on Sept. 20, just as he was kicking off what has become a two-month reconsideration of his Afghanistan policy:

We are going to see how this is fitting what I think is our core goal, which is to go after the folks who killed 3,000 Americans during 9/11 and who are still plotting to kill us -- al Qaeda.
The questions that I’m asking right now is to our military...[are] how does this advance America’s national security interests, how does it make sure that al Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot attack the United States homeland, our allies, our troops who are based in Europe?...
And if supporting the Afghan national government and building capacity for their army and securing certain provinces advances that strategy, then we’ll move forward. But if it doesn’t, then I’m not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan....

Imagine, Karzai daring to say that the United States is more interested in preventing another 9/11 than in helping Afghanistan!

The Afghan president has plenty of faults, to be sure. But he often seems to get in hot water in Washington for making statements that are blunt but true. For years Karzai complained about U.S. airstrikes and the civilian casualties they caused, saying they did far more harm than good and should be curtailed. U.S. commanders fumed -- right up until the moment when chief commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal arrived this summer and drew exactly the same conclusion.

If Obama is to succeed in Afghanistan, Karzai will have to be cajoled into undertaking major reforms -- from purging corrupt officials from his government to allowing more local autonomy. It’s hard to see, though, how tearing down the president in public, through a steady stream of public statements and leaks, will accomplish that aim. And if American officials are going to insist on public truth-telling about the Afghan leader, they hardly have grounds to complain if he does the same about them.

By Jackson Diehl  | November 12, 2009; 12:51 PM ET
Categories:  Diehl  | Tags:  Jackson Diehl  
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I'm showing my age, but I remember the debate in the '70s about Vietnam. The big question then (and now) is what exactly are we doing there? What is the mission that justifies the death of thousands of our young soldiers and the cost to our citizens? LBJ had to withdraw from re-election because of the resistance to Vietnam.

So, are we in Afghanistan to look for Bin Laden? Well, he's in Pakistan. Are we nation-building (whatever that may mean), trying to accomplish what the Russians could not? That's pretty ambitious. Are we there to keep the Taliban from invading Pakistan, grabbing nuclear weapons and bombing India and the U.S.? Sounds like a techno-thriller.

So, my question is: why are we there NOW, as in why are we remaining there, and what has to happen before all the troops can come home, and we leave Afghanistan to find its own destiny?

Aside: I think Karzai is blunt but accurate.

Posted by: shadowmagician | November 12, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

The recent escalation of attacks on Karzai by the Obama administration and his MSM lackeys is another example of Obama's ineptness and ignorance.

He and his political handlers have been trying desperately to find new excuses to NOT follow the advice of his hand-picked military experts whose unanimous opinion is that more troops are urgently needed.

Ramming through his unaffordable social agenda and incessant campaigning seem to take precedence over a war that he has repeatedly championed.

Obama has been "reconsidering" Afghan strategy since March and after eight months he's still incapable of making any decision.

Cheney was being kind when he said Obama was "dithering". Obama is frozen by political considerations while our troops are awaiting reinforcements.

His political cowardice is disgusting and is bordering on criminal.

Posted by: spamsux1 | November 12, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

This is the public preparation for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The reason that the generals are calling for more troops is that they have been tasked with the defeat of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and they see that they require more resources in order to achieve this. If, however, the mission changes, then so will the generals' requirements for resources.

If the White House determines that they no longer wish to pursue the war in Afghanistan then they need to prepare public opinion by bringing Karzai into disrepute. Similarly, Karzai needs to publicly state that US troops are not there for the benefit of Afghanistan, also in preparation for the withdrawal.

It seems that the US and Afghan governments are positioning themselves for a statement by Obama.

Posted by: QuincyPynke | November 12, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Obama is a complete dolt. what is taking this guy so long? i thought he could walk and chew gum at the same time? and its not like he has been busy going to commenurate the fall of the berlin wall.

hurry up barry, we're losing confidence in you, and quickly too!

Posted by: dummypants | November 12, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

This war in Afghanistan if both futile and counterproductive should not be escalated, but ended. Just a few facts;

Afghanistan is an artificial construct, useful as such only so long as its composite ethnicities think it in their best interests. And they no longer do.

By a CIA google search, it is Pashtun 38%, Tajik 25%, Hazara 19%, minor ethnic groups (Aimaks, Turkmen, Baloch, and others) 12%, Uzbek 6%. When asked, anyone there identifies themselves in one of the former groupings.

Most Pashtun reside in Pakistan, with the phony Durand Line dividing them. They have been shattered and radicalized by some 30 years of slaughter. Call them Taliban if slogans and chimera suit you, but what they are is Pashtun.

All we have really accomplished in our nine year war there is to further radicalize the Pashtun, and to near fatally destabilize Pakistan, which also is largely one more artificial construct, bound together by no more that opposition to India, Islam, and the English language. But they now have nukes, and the last thing in our better interests is to shatter Pakistan. Most people know this. Most people know that the only mission for us is the safe haven argument, but that too is futile as plots can be hatched from anywhere in the world.

I don't know what President Obama will do, but what he should do is to say, I have studied this over in detail, and regretfully have come the conclusion, it is not a war of necessity, it is a war of futility. They must find a domestic solution if there is one at all. It cannot successfully be imposed by our force of arms and western concepts of how they should run their society. Therefore, we will conduct a phased withdrawal, and mitigate the damages as best we can.

And then the Republicans (who know all this is true) will tear him to shreds for cynical political advantage as a coward, a fool, a cut and runner, screaming, Who lost Afghanistan?

Posted by: tarquinis1 | November 12, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone remember what happened to Ngo Dinh Diem? If Karzai knows the answer to this question he had better get out of Afghanistan soon. My best guess is NATO will give 0 the excuse he wants to get out of Afghanistan by NATO pulling out their forces thus forcing 0 to bear more and more of the cost in manpower and money. 0 can't finance the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Healthcare, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so goodbye Hamid.

Posted by: nickjay3 | November 12, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

We've got a lot of different players in Afghanistan with different institutional interests and perceptions. The result is that we are often working at cross-purposes. One group thinks time is of the essence - they give a no-bid contract to a politically-connected firm. Are they fostering the corruption we wail about? An aid agency needs and office - they rent a house built by opium money., Karzai's brother is a prime example of OUR conflicting interests.

In this atmosphere, it is too easy for WH aides to make statements that some factions will find irresponsible.

Once Obama finishes his deliberations, he needs to begin to rationalize our operations across agencies and make sure that everyone in the administration knows what the message its.

Posted by: j2hess | November 12, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

If Obama is dithering, WTF was the last administration doing for 8 long years????
Were they really resolute?

Posted by: wise_pharaoh | November 12, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Obama critics relish calling him names, but don't provide any believable arguments in favor of sending more troops, other than for the sake of keeping things from getting worse. If we "reinforce," but the government remains weak, our casualties increase, and our only "friends" are the recipients of graft, what end does that serve? If the "mission" is to do what Aghans can't or won't, it will fail. That strategy did not work for Russia. The critics will damn him if we withdraw, but hoot with glee if we double the troops, proceed nowhere, and merely magnify the failure. To replace Karzai with a new face will do as little good as swapping Diem for Thieu or the Soviet's appointment of Afghan officials.

Posted by: jkoch2 | November 12, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

What is the purpose of this article. anyone with half a brain cell knows America could give a $%#@ about an Afghani. The war is not about the average Afghani citizen, don't delude yourself. Hell at this point I don’t know why we are there, except to keep the militarists awash in money, because this war on terrorism is about the transfer of wealth to the military industrial complex.... Come to think of it 16 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, or something like that…
We all talk about we must win in Afghanistan, but there is nothing to win. No nation has ever won in Afghanistan, but the blind “ideological patriotism” of uninformed Americans, the 85%, and their handlers, the 10%, keep telling themselves we can and must win. The only difference is the 10% profit from war....
So is the authors intent to try and blemish Obama by putting Karzai on a pedestal? Karzai spoke the truth, you know it , I know it, the congress knows it and the president knows it, we are not there to bring democracy to the Afghan citizen....

Posted by: wise_pharaoh | November 12, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Well, well. This is one of the few articles by Diehl that I would have ever agreed with. But then again, you have to go back to the senior Bush administration with Larry Eagleburger and James Baker before you see a foreign policy apparatus that was managed overall with any kind of consistency and professionalism, although there have been professionals scattered here and there in the three administrations since. I was hoping that this administration would restore that kind of professionalism, but I don't see it yet.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | November 12, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

"He(Obama)and his political handlers have been trying desperately to find new excuses to NOT follow the advice of his hand-picked military experts whose unanimous opinion is that more troops are urgently needed."
Posted by: spamsux1
I've been hearing a whole lot of interesting stuff about Obama's "handlers". The problem is that none of the people who refer to these handler ever identify them. It's time to either put up or shut up.

Posted by: st50taw | November 12, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

shadowmagician is on the right track. I don't mind Karzai speaking blunt truth, that's not the problem at all.

Going back to Vietnam, we should have learned that supporting a government that is viewed by it's citizens as corrupt, self-serving, and not providing basic governmental functions is not likely to be successful. Afghanistan is not just a military problem, rather it is much more a political problem, both in Kabul and Washington. Without a political solution, the military will have an impossible task.

Posted by: gjhinnova | November 12, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

This is Vietnam all over again. A bunch of old, inside the box thinking, guys "managing" the war and managing to make sure we lost it and lose this one too.

Here's two plans; Plan A. Get out now. Plan B. Develop a strategy and provide an overwhelming force designed to win big by doing what army's do.

Maybe Plan B is not doable or winnable but Plan A certainly is. Just show leadership and cut out the foolishness.

Posted by: yarddawg50 | November 12, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Obama is being duplicitous as usual. He ran as a hawk on Afghanistan, now he's acting like a chickadee, flitting about and doing nothing. Karzai talks like a man who knows he and his people are about to be betrayed by the American and European left.

It is a truism in war that if you are doing nothing the enemy is getting stronger. That's the case here. Obama ran as a hawk to get elected and now he's reverting to his true self, which is a pacifist leaning leftist who doesn't have the stomach to stand up seriously for American security interests or for democrats who believe in us abroad. It will be a tragedy when Afghanistan ends up back in the hands of terrorists and their allies, but we will know who blame: the American and European left. Afghanistan will make Cambodia look like a love fest when the Islamic butchers return to power. Things will also be much tougher for our Pakistani allies if the US cuts and runs.

Posted by: theduke89 | November 12, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

I didn't vote for the man and won't next time either...but I do agree with him on this. We should be looking for ways to get out not in deeper. That way we can save some cash and the Afghans can go back to their age-old inter-tribal warfare as a cultural socialization process...which apparently they are quite happy with.

Posted by: PanhandleWilly | November 12, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Vietnam was a war of colossal mistakes, egos, and mistaken ideals. Our government leaders at the time, and their minions, were all on different paths, most not leading to the same conclusion. The entire episode was a huge and wasteful blunder. It was a war that is unfortunately, still killing ex-servicemen by the hundreds as we battle the chemical agents that infiltrated our bodies.

Today, our involvement in Central Asia is much the same. I see little difference in America’s approach to the issue. Our current leaders and their minions haven’t learned a thing from the past. What is it going to take for our government leaders to realize that most Americans do not want to fight a war far, far away, one that has no important goal that would do anything to protect our rights and freedoms?

We have to put a stopper in our bottle of military genie’s. The continued and expensive chase to arms is killing this country in terms of lives and treasury wasted. We absolutely have to quit creating more military veterans. America is not about to be overrun by hoards of screaming Muslim terrorists. We have already been overrun by hoards of illegal aliens, the effect of whom is nearly the same. We are losing our culture and becoming balkanized.

Stop the fighting now. Bring all our troops home from around the world.

Posted by: surfer-joe | November 12, 2009 10:03 PM | Report abuse

For those idiots calling Obama a coward for not rushing to say yes to sending more troops, the question is when are you going to enlist to fight?
President Obama does not have to show any particular valor for combat he is not going to be fighting the Taliban, but he damn should show respect and consideration for the lives of people who may die on his order. To this end, I am pleased he is taking time to do so particularly since all of the troops so called desperately needed could not get in country for nearly a year. These heroic John Waynes who want to rush someone's son and daughter to die because Bush started it and let it sit and deteriorate for seven years are complete idiots AND probably never spent a day in the military. Chicken Hawks! I spent nearly two years in Nam and no one can tell me what we gained at the cost of more than 50,000 lives...nothing? We are now trying to trade with Vietnam while they offer tours to our sons and daughters to NhaTrang, DaNang, etc where our soldiers were killed. Bring ALL of the troops home from Iraq and Afganistan in 18 months....Send the Rush Limbaughs and Glen Becks and anti-Obama bigots to fight the Taliban for the next ten years.

Posted by: october30 | November 12, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

What is interesting, and INSTRUCTIVE, about watching Afghanistan and the corrupt Mr. Karzai, is how it echo's here. It now appears that someone "fixed" the vote count in New York's 23rd District Congressional race. Officials claimed that Owen's had won an overwhelming victory, even taking Hoffman's stronghold in Oswago County. Furthermore, in a disgraceful rush, the Democrat's swore in Owens, who immediately reneged on several campaign promises and voted for the healthcare bill. It now appears that Hoffman actually won! So, vote fraud, vote fixing, rigged election outcomes, and all of the rest of that nasty stuff we hear of from Afghanistan is common right here!

Now, this really ought to be front page news. It's a REAL STORY, not a press release from the White House. But there is not any mention in the Post, in the NYT, on CNN, or any media outlet. Get with it, Mr./Ms. Editor, or stop calling yourself a "newspaper".

Posted by: mibrooks27 | November 12, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

It's hard, isn't it? Too see the PBS Special about those teenage girls in Afghanistan with no life, to abandon them. Or to see the other ordinary citizens there, that Our troops come across, doing ordinary things like fixin cars, listening to the radio, planting crops, etc.. All with hopes and dreams for the future. ... Only to realize that the "Taliban" won't just go away. ... Heart breaking stuff.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | November 12, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Here is a time saver for anyone wondering what Diehl means: "War is good".

Diehl and the rest of the Post's armchair warriors just love war. It is difficult not to despise the Post and its War Cheer-leading.Kagen Hiatt Diehl war war war.

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