Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Karzai's Gambit and Obama's Betrayal

Whatever else Hamid Karzai may be, he's always been a survivor. And now he's trying to survive the Obama Administration. Karzai knows that unlike Bush, Obama has no commitment whatsoever to Afghanistan. What Obama wants is to pull out as quickly as possible in time for his own 2012 election. And he wants to do it without the appearance of a disaster and a defeat. And there's only one way to do that, cut a deal with the Taliban.

To that end the Obama Administration is operating on two tracks. Track 1, the public and visible track, is the  military approach that Obama got pushed into, a temporary surge to push back the Taliban and allow him to declare victory ahead of a pullout. Meanwhile behind the scenes Track 2, the invisible diplomatic track, is meant to sideline Karzai with a coalition of pragmatic "moderate" Taliban, who will end the fighting and provide an appearance of normalcy for the pullout to come.

The surge was supposed to be a show of force, to force them to the table, but the real gambit was to put the Taliban back in power. 

For Obama, Afghanistan is a threat to his political neck. For Karzai, it's a threat to his actual neck, and Karzai is a survivor. And so he in turn began sabotaging Obama's Track 2. If the Obama Administration wanted a show of force and some high profile prisoners, he helped give it to them, by routing Pakistan's capture of top Taliban leaders who were willing to negotiate with the US. Meanwhile Karzai was using Pakistan's ISI, which had helped fund the Taliban, to conduct his own talks with them. The resulting situation is one in which both Karzai and the Obama Administration are competing to cut a deal with the Taliban-- even as they're fighting them.

This disaster was brought to you courtesy of the Obama Administration, which demonstrated its absolute disregard for the future of Afghanistan and tried to cut Karzai out of the loop in order to make a deal with the Taliban. Karzai's response, within the context of the Afghani system, is completely unsurprising. A successful US deal with the Taliban would mean that Karzai is on his own. And so Karzai rushed ahead to double cross us first.

With both the US and the "legitimate" Afghani government courting Taliban factions, the chaos has grown incrementally, with internal betrayals by the Taliban and the collaboration of ISI yielding spectacular captures. This has led to some short term successes, but the real problems are only growing.

Both Karzai and the Obama Administration now essentially agree that the Taliban will take over again, the disagreement is who will cut the deal and on whose terms it will happen. Karzai wants to stay in power and maintain a stable coalition with his own warlords. Obama wants a problem-free pullout, with no video of US helicopters abandoning pleading crowds in Kabul. But whichever of them gets their way, the pleading crowds will still be there, because the people we promised to liberate have been sold out instead.

Neither Obama nor Karzai care very much about what will happen to the girls' schools we set up, to the women escaping their husbands, to the translators who worked with us, and all those who really believed that we were bringing a new day with us. Some of these will get visas to come to the United States. A few will even get invites to the White House for a convenient photo op, so long as they keep their mouths shut. The rest will be back under Taliban rule, because a deal might be cut to let Obama wave his "Mission Accomplished" flag, or one to let Karzai maintain a coalition, but the day to day Islamic law will be back either way.

Worse yet Afghanistan's future will send a message once again that no one should put their faith in the US. That any liberation that comes will be strictly temporary and then the people we drove out will be back. And that means the next time we come after the Taliban or terrorists anywhere else, allies will be much harder to come by.

The lesson we've taught is that not only will we negotiate with terrorists, but we'll sell out those who helped us and replace them with the very people who were killing us. We did it in Iraq not too long ago. So it's no surprise that we're set to do it again in Afghanistan. Karzai knows it too, so unsurprisingly he's threatening to join the Taliban. And why not. If we reserve our best rewards for our worst enemies, then it pays more to be our enemy than our friend.

Don't believe me? Just ask Israel, which has spent the last two decades being blamed for every Muslim terrorist attack and hostility toward America by Muslim regimes. Just ask Taiwan which stood by the US while the Communist Chinese were sending battalions into Korea. Or would have if we hadn't done our best to keep our distance even then. Just ask Columbia, which stood by us, only to face an administration eager to take its showers with Chavez. Just ask England which fought with us in Afghanistan and Iraq, only to be shown the bottom of Obama's shoe. Why would Karzai or anyone else want to be the New Israel, berated, belittled and sold out at every turn. Much better to be the Taliban. Much better to bomb Allied convoys and then demand cash and concessions to stop.

Karzai is a survivor, if nothing else, and he knows exactly what he can expect from Obama. Both men are products of similar environments and cultures, but Karzai is a professional at the game, while Obama is an amateur. Obama has the power, but Karzai is demonstrating that he still has the leverage. If Obama wants to hug a Taliban, Karzai will not only become the Taliban, but become a bigger threat than the Taliban. If Obama wants to cut a deal with the Taliban, he will have to make a deal with Karzai first, and deal with the Taliban through him. That's something the bright foreign policy boys in foggy bottom still don't understand, because while they were getting their oxfords polished, their opposite numbers in Afghanistan were slogging rocket launchers through the mud and cutting each other's throats in the dark.

Under the Bush Administration, Afghanistan was meant to demonstrate that we could take the darkest Islamist corner of the world and bring light to it. Obama instead is demonstrating the brand of Realpolitik that will end any such hope in order to score some political points before his own election. And so another dream dies in betrayal and lies.


  1. Mikec8/4/10

    Of course the biggest betrayal of all is to the American people, especially those who voted for O as a 'shining light'.

    This guy is what the world has always feared, a rogue POTUS with no conscience. A despot in the making...

  2. Anonymous8/4/10

    But is it right to lay all the blame on the Obama misadministration.
    Surely, anyone could have forseen the possibility - no, probability - of a President such as Obama being elected and pulling the rug out from under the whole, "winning hearts and minds" and "nation building" adventure.
    The whole project strikes me as impossible from the beginning given the nature of the region and Islam,ill-conceived and grossly negligent on the part of the Bush administration.

    Maybe the Bush administration meant well, but gosh, how incredibly ignorant and naive they were.
    But surely, no one can be that stupid. Incredible.
    How many millions will be slaughtered this time?

    Democracies do not provide the continuity of leadership and policy needed for successful "nation building".


  3. mike elmore8/4/10

    Any nation building in an Islamic Republic of Whatever, is never ever going to reconsile with democratic values of the Western World. The sooner we get out of those shit holes and quit spending blood and treasure the better. Will we learn a leason? Hell no. The enemy is Islam plain and simple. Recognize that or just keep on dying and spending. Because it's so simple it won't be grasped.

  4. Daniel, I was just talking about you with someone. Someone mentioned you to me and I had to say, in all honesty, you have become my favorite blogger. Keep up the good work. I loved the Pharaoh post, in particular. You are a deep thinker and we need more deep thinkers in our national debate!

  5. that's great, and thank you for saying so

  6. Hi.
    I must say this article is the most accurate discription of the Afghan situation that i have read so far.
    My compliments,great job !

  7. Great piece, Daniel. Agreed. Karzai thinks like a Muslim. Obama tries to think like a Muslim, but instead thinks like a UC Santa Cruz grad from 1982...Columbia, etc.

    Israelis continue to believe in American good will, because most Israelis in the 'establishment' can not and will not embrace a true notion of Jewish sovereignty, in part because of the runny-nose hostility towards 'authentic' Judaism.

    And so the world goes round, and round and...

  8. Anonymous9/4/10

    There is something bizarre about the Obama Presidency.

    Obama's rise in politics has been meteoric and apparently charmed, with all obstructions smoothed.

    All Obama's records are under lock and key.
    Who the heck is this guy?
    He won't even reveal his birth certificate or education records.

    The Sultan reminded us in a recent article that Obama's full name is reminiscent of two recent Muslim enemies of the U.S.A.:
    Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
    Heck, it's almost as if Obama was created by a committee, and his name chosen for maximum psychological impact by a team of psychiatrists, based on post-9/11 trauma and cashing in on the leftist guilt following the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    What the heck is going on?


  9. I may be cynical but I think the attraction to Afghanistan is it's poppy fields and not much else.

  10. Anonymous9/4/10


    'Manchurian candidate' keeps coming to mind.

    Did you used to post on LGF long long time ago?

  11. Anonymous9/4/10

    "Did you used to post on LGF long long time ago?"

    Yes, DP111, a few posts back in about 2005.
    My concern at the time was that the Cold War was not over and that the emphasis had simply shifted to cultural warfare.
    I believe I made a few posts referring to Gramsci, "New Lies for Old" by Anatoliy Golitsyn, Yuri Bezmenov, etc.

    It all seems to be coming to a head now.
    The West seems to be self-destructing just as Russia and China are building militarily.
    Maybe my concerns were justified.

    Obama strikes me as a "useful idiot"; someone the Russians and the Chinese and sundry Islamic despots and others such as Chavez can play like a fiddle.

    If Obama is a Manchurian candidate, you have to hand it to the Russians; they have done a masterful job setting America up for this catastrophe over the past several decades.


  12. commonsense10/4/10

    Daniel/Sultan: This is a remarkably illuminating article, the first one to provide a fully fleshed out analysis as to the motive for Karzai's threat to ally himself with the Taliban. It makes perfect sense. However, I must add that I fully agree with the remarkable Hugh Fitzgerald of, whom I know you admire as well, that our protracted involvement in Afghanistan makes no sense regardless of what strategies we employ, and which faction(s) we support. We cannot, and moreover, should not be attempting to rebuild Muslim states where the basis for whatever law exists is Shari'a. Our goal, rather, should be to promote the natural fissures within dar al-Islam to rupture, escalating the more than millenium-old hostilities that persist between Shi'ite and Sunni, Arab and non-Arab, and, in this century, the oil-rich Muslim states and those which wallow in self-inflicted misery and poverty due less to a lack of oil than, primarily, to Islam itself. Our focus, rather, should be, inter alia, on countering Muslim proselytizing, stopping the influx of Muslims into infidel lands where creeping Shari'a and stealth jihad are the primary consequences, and preventing Muslim influence peddling (via Saudi petrodollars)in our universities, mass media, and in the political system. Let us look aghast at what is happening in Europe; the transformation of Europe into Eurabia is continuing unabated. We should be alarmed at this, and we should be working furiously with Europeans who wield some influence to reverse this, and to stop America from suffering the same fate. It may already be too late for Europe. The expenditure of lives, money, and materiel on Muslim pestholes like Afghanistan, which is a pesthole primarily because of the supremacy of Islam, is insane, criminal, and self-destructive.
    I absolutely agree, however, that the USA's inept, feckless foreign policy has indeed led to the betrayal of many of our allies, but Afghanistan is not, and was never, and can never be, an ally. It's a different situation.

  13. All I can say is that I'm extremely happy I found this site. You're an intelligent man and your writings are superb. Thank you!