promoting the unwanted, redheaded stepchild that is individual liberty

Who is Hamid Karzai?

In foreign policy, war and peace on April 5, 2010 at 12:17 am

Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, has a closet overflowing with skeletons. Karzai has been portrayed by western media as a democratically-elected leader bent on waging a war against the evil Taliban. In reality, he is a corrupt former mujahideen who has a history of Taliban association.

Most Americans, if they have heard of him, have no knowledge of who Hamid Karzai really is. Karzai’s approval of a controversial bill specifying a wife’s sexual duties and restricting when a woman can leave home in 2009 hinted at the president’s true self.

Retired US Army officer Matthew Hoh who resigned in protest of the Afghan war called the Karzai government “corrupt and illegitimate” in an interview with Russia Today.

“American soldiers, European soldiers, soldiers from NATO should not be dying to support or prop up the Karzai government,” he said. “We’ll look at ourselves 5, 10, 15 years from now and wonder why did we allow our young men to die in support of that government.”

But the Afghani president is more than just corrupt — he is dangerous.

Karzi, like Osama bin Laden, was among the original mujahideen or “freedom fighters” employed by the CIA to overthrow Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 80s. The president’s official website states:

“Hamid Karzai traveled to Pakistan and joined the Mujahideen resisting the Soviet occupation of his homeland. When the Mujahideen Government was established in Kabul in 1992, he was appointed as its Deputy Foreign Minister.”

But the website makes no mention of Karzai’s initial support of the Taliban. Instead, it briefly describes the “civil war between various Mujahideen groups” and highlights Karzai’s fight against the Taliban. Referring to Kazai’s father, the release says:

“In August 1999, Abdul Ahad Karzai, who was organizing resistance to the Taliban from his base in Quetta, Pakistan, was assassinated by the Taliban and their foreign supporters. This tragedy did not shake the Karzai family’s commitment to ridding Afghanistan of this foreign menace, and the son continued his father’s struggle against the Taliban. Hamid Karzai returned to Uruzgan province in October 2001, and worked to coordinate local efforts to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and their supporters.”

But according to a PBS Online News Hour Report, Karzai initially viewed the Taliban as a force for good:

“When the Taliban first began to emerge in the early 1990s, Karzai supported them. A native of the region around Kandahar, he saw the Taliban as a force that could finally end the violence.”

The report goes on to say Karzai withdrew his support after suspecting the Taliban to be under foreign influence.

Writer for The Washington Post, Ann Marlowe, describes the notion that Karzai is Afghanistan’s defense against the Taliban as an “illusion.” In her article, Two Myths About Afghanistan, Marlowe points to Karzai’s praise of the Taliban:

“On Aug. 20, 1998, the day the United States sent cruise missiles to kill Osama bin Laden, Karzai told The Post that ‘there were many wonderful people in the Taliban.’ Yes, Karzai fought the Taliban — for a month in 2001, when we insisted.”

One thing is for certain, Afghanistan does not pose a simple good-vs.-evil dilemma. The country has a long history of foreign (especially US) intervention, corruption and oppression. Karzai appears to be one of many interested in self promotion at the Afghan peoples’ expense. The United States should not be taking part in what officer Hoh describes as a “35 year-old civil war.”

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  1. Jessica,

    Sounds something like “proping up” President Diem’s government in Siagon long ago, doesn’t it.

    However I must ask, given all that you say about the current Afghan leader (he was elected) what do we then do?

    My guess is your answer is withdraw and stop fighting. Am I correct?

    Anson

  2. Afghanistan’s long history of foreign hegemony was long before the U.S.’s operations against Soviet occupiers and the Taliban & Al Queda. It’s a nasty region to become involved with. (Ask the British.)

    Karzai is possibly not as significant as some of the many complications which our State Department experts would have noted in assessments, circa 2001. This is, indeed, not “a simple good-vs-evil dilemma.”

    Some good things may be found amidst the difficulties. Our relationship with Pakistan has evolved and progressed due to this situation. It is possible that Pakistan will develop effective suppression of radical elements in the border region. The international community has long sought to diminish tensions between Pakistan and India. The successes there have been slight. Every improvement will allow Pakistan to move troops from the Indian border to the Afghan border, and save the U.S. from additional sacrifices there.

  3. Jim,

    Good observations. I agree, for what it is worth.

    Anson

  4. Jim,

    I agree this was a pretty good discussion of the conundrum by all. Judging by recent reports, Karzai has been acting pretty nutty lately regarding his negative feelings for his US allies and this would appear to support Jessica’s post. Thanks for the insight, Jessica.

    I read nothing here that makes me want to edit my post, “Is Afghanistan the Next Viet Nam?”

    Anson’s point about how to withdraw is relevant. Jessica, are you too young to know Uncle Remus’ fable of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby? If so, it is easily found on Wikipedia. It is a seminal tale of the difficulties of disengaging. Afghanistan, as was Viet Nam, is a Tar Baby.

    Jim too.

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