Does Karzai really mean it?

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s off-the-cuff remarks very often make big news. Though his allies and critics keep on guessing as to what he means whenever he makes a policy statement, its impact and outcome can’t be just brushed aside.

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Published: Mon 15 Nov 2010, 8:36 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:47 PM

Karzai made many eyebrows rise when he called on the Taleban to join his government, and moreover went on to say that the Pakhtoon militia is indispensable for permanent peace and security. Of late, the embattled Afghan president, who miserably feels his writ confined to the four walls of Kabul, said that it’s high time the foreign forces bid farewell to the war-weary country and ‘must’ reduce the visibility and intensity of military operations. This pronouncement on his part, however political that may be, is quite promising. It will definitely go on to win over the estranged elements, which believes that no headway could be made in rebuilding the country until and unless the coalition of the willing roams around.

Now what Karzai needs to do is to build on this policy prescription by taking into confidence the allied forces in Afghanistan. It goes without saying that even in their ninth year of occupation, the International Security Assistance Force is groping in the dark, and it seems the country can’t bet with certainty when it comes to the prospects of peace and prospects. Irrespective of Karzai’s weaknesses, he should be credited for taking the initiative of reaching out to the Taleban, and the grand jirga that was convened recently is a point in case. With the understanding that the second tier of Pakhtoon militia is in talks with the government in Kabul, one can hope that Brussels and Washington will pick up the right signals emanating from the scattered political leadership, and make way for a complete transfer of sovereignty without any let or hindrance.

Karzai’s scepticism with the United States, however, has some definite reasons. One of them is the attitude of Washington towards his reelection, which the international community and the US itself believed was highly rigged and manipulated. So Karzai’s aptitude of talking loud against the coalition forces and, at times, threatening to walk into the Russian camp could be interpreted as brinkmanship. But this should not come at the cost of the people who are already in a mess at the hands of an allegedly incompetent and corrupt administration. Karzai’s words will mean a lot only if he puts his house in order, and then demands for a withdrawal schedule.

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