January 31, 2014 - 5:09:31 am
To say that relations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the US are strained will be a cliché. To say that it has reached a point beyond repair will not be an exaggeration. It’s surprising that the leader of one of the most unstable countries in the world, which is waiting to be devoured by the Taliban, is locked in an acrimonious battle with a country which has been responsible for installing him in power. And this is a battle which both will lose because it’s coming at a time when both sides should actually be standing united.
According to reports, Hamid Karzai has compiled a list of dozens of insurgent-style attacks that he believes the US government may have been involved in. The Afghan president even thinks that the Americans may have been behind a deadly attack this month on a Lebanese restaurant frequented by foreigners in Kabul. This shows the new nadir, emerging from which is a must for Afghanistan to move forward.
With Washington going ahead with the withdrawal of its troops, and a consensus eluding on the future role of US forces in Afghanistan after 2014, there is more uncertainty than certainty about the future of this insurgency-plagued country. Whatever the reasons for the worsening of relations between Kabul and Washington, the time has come for a consensus on a minimum programme failing which Afghanistan stands to lose its hard-won gains. Both have a vital interest in preserving the hard-fought gains of the past dozen years — from the construction of a minimum democracy to the education of girls. The US is free to quit the country without leaving a single soldier behind, but that would be tantamount to throwing billions of dollars spent on Afghan mission to the garbage bin, and virtually handing the country back to the Taliban. The government of Karzai is free to govern the country on its own, without any foreign help, but he has to think if his troops are equipped to take on the might of Taliban.
Two days ago, in his State of the Union address, Obama said that the war in Afghanistan is finally coming to an end. “Together with our allies,” he told Congress on Tuesday, “we will complete our mission there by the end of this year,” he said. That, of course, is not true. For Afghans, no end to the conflict is in sight. What Obama meant was just the end of US combat operations in Afghanistan. Karzai has refused to sign the bilateral security agreement he negotiated with the Obama administration. Without the agreement, which sets the legal basis for a continued US presence, the United States would be forced into a full withdrawal.
A continuation of the stalemate will only bring instability. It seems it will take some time for both sides to see reason.