Monday, April 5, 2010

Should we double-dog dare Karzai?

To purloin a phrase, the man is being "unhelpfull", as well as ungrateful.

From the link (NYT)

The tensions between the West and Mr. Karzai flared up publicly last Thursday, when Mr. Karzai accused the West and the United Nations of perpetrating fraud in the August presidential election and described the Western military coalition as coming close to being seen as invaders who would give the insurgency legitimacy as “a national resistance.”

Despite a conciliatory phone call to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday, his comments over the weekend only expanded the discord.

On Saturday, Mr. Karzai met with about 60 members of Parliament, mostly his supporters, and berated them for having rejected his proposed new election law. Among other things, the proposal would have given him the power to appoint all the members of the Electoral Complaints Commission, who are currently appointed by the United Nations, the Afghan Supreme Court and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The Electoral Complaints Commission, which reviews allegations of voting fraud and irregularities, documented the fraud that deprived Mr. Karzai of an outright victory in the presidential election.

At the meeting, Mr. Karzai stepped up his anti-Western statements, according to a Parliament member who attended but spoke on condition of anonymity.

“If you and the international community pressure me more, I swear that I am going to join the Taliban,” Mr. Karzai said, according to the Parliament member.

A spokesman for Mr. Karzai, Waheed Omar, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

The article notes that there are basically four options available in dealing with Karzai. Door number one is to tell him where to insert his lack of gratitude and take out all NATO forces. Door two is to somehow present a credible threat of so doing, without actually going over the brink. Door three is to continue business as usual, using diplomacy, negotiations, deal making, etc. Door four is to "expand citizen participation in the government". By this I believe is meant, building strong local, provincial and district level governance, from which eventually a more legitimate national government will draw representatives, eventually replacing the Karzai government.

No doubt the best solution is the last, but it's a long term solution, a solution at which Karzai balks. Pressure in this direction is no doubt, the primary cause of his caterwauling. Diplomacy without teeth isn't working. We need a big stick. We need to call his bluff.

We should threaten to leave, and actually do so if Karzai does not convene a constitutional convention, the aim of which is to put in place democratic methods of populating local (provincial and divisional) governmental posts that are now filled by his fiat. Neither will he be allowed to pick the participants to this convention. Similar requirements will be expected with regard to national level offices he seems intent upon populating with his own minions. These office holders will be picked at the local levels with help of ISAF, NATO, and allied NGO aid, at national levels by monitored elections. (Jimmy Carter can show up if he'd like to lend his hand)

Someone needs to look Karzai in the eye and tell him that he can either choose to convene said convention with those conditions, and abide by its findings, or he can choose to place his trust in the Taliban, as he has threatened. To show him we are serious, we should move enough naval assets in place that can be used to take a first wave of our folks out. Have vessels anchored and standing by. Make a big show of it.

Karzai has got to be convinced we are deadly serious. I think he will back down, and in the process, be humiliated enough to step down, which by this time, I think we can see is needed if our nation building efforts in Afghanistan are not going to be a waste of money and blood.

Why do I think he'll blink first? Just ask yourself some questions:

Does Karzai really want us to leave, lock stock and barrel? What would his personal security situation be if we did? We get a strong indication that he fears the Taliban crime family, when we see him creating a great deal of sturm und drang about joining them if we push him 'too far.' Also, in light of his overtures to our enemies (Iran in particular), we can surmise that he is hedging his bets in that direction as well.

But, digging deeper, we have to ask why it is he fears for his personal security. Yes, as the head of the Afghan government, he is the titular head against which the Taliban fight, but the deeper and more abiding answer to that question is that he also worries about his popularity, and credibility (rather lack thereof), with ordinary Afghans. They are not particularly fond of him, ranking him as corrupt and incompetent. He lacks credibility with the people NATO ISAF and NGOs work with in day to day operations. They appreciate our being there, but as far as they are concerned, we are building infrastructure, schools, etc.. for an illegitimate regime, a partner that lacks local credibility, because it does not allow their participation in the national government.

The Afghans, hearing Karzia's flailing pronouncements, no doubt feel that he is all too willing to throw them over and upon the tender mercies of the Taliban, and justifiably feel that the present government is not worth fighting for. So, it needs replacing, and fast, if we are serious about removing ourselves any time within the next ten years.

Having said all that, Karzai knows the Afhans will be coming for him if we leave. Not quite Madam Defarge, but you get the picture. So, we threaten to pack up and go, and actually carry out the threat if necessary:

Once again from the NYT piece:

There is no point in having troops in a mission that cannot be accomplished,” said Peter W. Galbraith, former United Nations deputy special representative for Afghanistan, who was dismissed over what his superiors called Mr. Galbraith’s advocacy of Mr. Karzai’s removal — an allegation Mr. Galbraith has denied. “The mission might be important, but if it can’t be achieved, there is no point in sending these troops into battle. Part of the problem is that counterinsurgency requires a credible local partner.”

There are risks in going this route, chief among them, exposing Afghans who have worked with coalition forces to the wrath of the Taliban; once again opening up the country as a safe haven to AQ. But, the stakes require this sort of brinkmanship.

Having said all this, one wonders if Karzai is convinced that when push comes to shove we would not carry through on the threat. Would we? Tough question. It would be hard to look those kids in the eye with a clean conscience.

Opening Day! Go Tigers. And, Naked Gun baseball scene.

Ricardo Montalban as the bad guy. Naturally. Kahhhhn!

Monday Madness: March of the Gherkins