Much has been made of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent insistence on a ‘change of US policy in Afghanistan.’ However, his call for increased focus on militants in Pakistan and decreased civilian casualties is nothing new — if anything, it aims to deflect domestic and international criticism of his own regime. The war of words between the US and Karzai highlights just how difficult it is to keep the peace in a country like Afghanistan. Karzai’s comments came on the heels of a coordinated strike by the Taliban on two US bases in Afghanistan. Worryingly, recent reports that some of Karzai’s aides are on the CIA’s payroll will not help the president strengthen his image at home. It is said that that the Taliban use these rumours to recruit young Afghans into the fold. And perhaps most problematic of all, alleged corruption in Karzai’s regime has been thrown into the spotlight again as a top Afghan prosecutor was dismissed for refusing to block probes into suspect officials.
The challenges, then, are immense. And while Afghanistan and its president have a tough fight ahead, nothing can be gained from engaging in a rhetorical tussle with the US. This is not to say that Afghanistan’s concerns are not valid. Civilian casualties do cause resentment among the Afghan people. Under former military commander Stanley McChrystal and current head of US forces in Afghanistan General David H Petraeus, steps have been taken to reduce the war’s impact on Afghan civilians. Quashing militant activities in Pakistan too is important. But more than anything else, Afghanistan and America need to work together towards their common goals — strengthening Afghan institutions, eradicating extremism and handing responsibility for security back to the Afghan people.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2010.
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