Perhaps, more than anything else, our region needs a sense of clarity and certainty regarding what is to happen next. In this context, the scheduled US troop pull-out from Afghanistan next year comes as a moment of immense significance, which may decide a great deal about the future. The failure then on the part of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to lay things out before all to see and allow planning for the future on the part of all stakeholders is not encouraging. Indeed, it complicates things to a considerable extent and opens up all kinds of questions — including those about President Karzai himself.
In a move that surprised many, the Afghan leader declined to put his signature on a new law that would allow the Americans to retain a presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Without the law, the Afghans would be left to fight an aggressive Taliban force on their own and many question if the country’s army has the capacity to do so. US forces have, of course, been present in Afghanistan since late 2001. At a meeting spread over several days, 2,500 Afghan tribal elders had approved the new law, which would allow American forces to stay — should the need be felt. However, after an angry, public exchange with jirga leaders, President Karzai walked away without signing the law, stating at one point he would do so only after the Afghan presidential election due in April next year.
President Karzai has always been something of a maverick. This has made the task of dealing with him considerably harder for all others concerned in the Afghan question, notably Washington and Islamabad. In his own country, it is thought that his latest act of drama may be intended to shake off the widespread perception that he is a puppet of the West. It is unlikely the refusal to sign the law will really help alter opinions on this count. But what it does do is add to the uncertainty about the future and this is certainly something we would have wished to avoid given the multiple problems the region faces.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2013.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ