Playing with fire
Hamid Karzai’s vilification of America is risking his country’s security
Feb 1st 2014 | KABUL | Source Link
THANKS to its bewildering president, Afghanistan has seen relations with the United States plunge to new lows just two months before a presidential election. If Hamid Karzai cannot reach an agreement with America for some troops to stay, then NATO is scheduled to pull out completely by the end of the year. Thus, though Mr Karzai will step down at the end of a possibly drawn-out process of choosing his successor, his unpredictability, and his desire to settle scores before going, threaten his country’s interests far into the future.
Confirmation of serious trouble came first in November, on the occasion of a loya jirga, a grand assembly of 2,500 community leaders and tribal elders. The meeting was convened to approve a bilateral security agreement (BSA) with America that will allow a small number of foreign troops to continue training and assisting Afghan security forces. Without their presence, many Afghans fear that flows of foreign aid will dry up and that, unable to resist the Taliban, the state might collapse.
The BSA had taken nearly a year to negotiate, and the loya jirga overwhelmingly endorsed it. Yet Mr Karzai used the occasion to attack his American allies for myriad perceived failings and to announce new conditions for his signing the pact. He also suggested that the responsibility for doing so should probably fall to his successor. (Mr Karzai is constitutionally barred from contesting another term.)
Since then, Mr Karzai has continued to give free rein to his resentments. On January 25th he held a press conference in which he excoriated the Americans further. He accused them of engaging in a “psychological war” in their efforts to seal the BSA and acting as a “rival” rather than as a friend. For good measure, Mr Karzai insisted that America must start serious peace talks with the Taliban—an impossibility, given the Taliban’s hostility to the BSA. If the Americans would not accept his conditions, he added, “they can leave anytime and we will continue our lives”.