Foreign Policy Blogs

Karzai's 'timetable for Success'

karzai010208_14720t.jpgLast Tuesday and Wednesday, with the latter in a joint news conference with the secretary general of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Afghan President Karzai voiced his displeasure with international NATO presence in his country and called for a timetable of withdrawal. In front of Scheffer, he used more careful language, calling for a 'timetable for success’, not withdrawal, but the point was made. Karzai went on to say:

"How long will this war go? Afghanistan can't continue to suffer a war without end."

These are valid questions anyone involved in this conflict should ask, but why is Karzai now starting to publicly criticize and be so demanding with US/NATO and all the international backing that helped put and keep him in charge? Is it because the Taliban seems stronger than at any point in the past seven years? Is it because he is speaking the voice of most Afghanis who are tired with the lack of progress and international footsteps all over their land? Or is it because Karzai is up for reelection in a matter of months and is using the international troops and presence as a political punching bag to make him appear more powerful and in touch with his citizenry?

All of these in some way probably true. Though the US/NATO/NGOS have made tremendous sacrifices for Afghan democracy and stability, progress in many areas has been minimal and violence is sadly still too much of an everyday occurrence for many Afghani's, especially in the south. Karzai himself, is an embattled leader trying to show his people that he, not the foreigners, is in charge. It is for this reason why you won't hear much backtalk from NATO or US officers or government officials (Condi Rice and Scheffer have already sidestepped the issue). The US/NATO want Karzai to appear and be strong to and for his people as they obviously want the Afghanis to take on more of the governing and letting Karzai voice his displeasure with NATO from time to time is part of this deal.

And it is not like there aren't issues for Karzai and the Afghan people to complain about. The Taliban are still creating havoc in much of their lives and making it very difficult for many to lead normal lives. Civilian casualties literally hit the homefront in many ways, as Karzai has rightly protested against military mishaps that have led to many unfortunate, tragic deaths. The ArmyTimes has pointed out how local Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), though have done some great and valiant work, in many ways undermine the local and federal Afghan government in their respected locations.

What do you think is behind Karzai's public denouncements and calls for a 'timetable’? How would you react if you were the international presence he was talking about? What would Karzai say if the US/NATO did decide that this was not an effort worth fighting for and then announce a withdrawal date? Can there really be something like a 'timetable for success’?

 

Author

Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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