Archive for the ‘Karzai’ Category

For Obama, Three Afghanistan Tests

March 28, 2009

Three time bombs are buried within the new and ambitious strategy for Afghanistan that President Obama unveiled Friday. Their detonation — which would cripple the international mission to stabilize the country and perhaps cripple Obama’s presidency — is not inevitable. But defusing them will take an exceptional performance by U.S. military commanders and diplomats, some skillful politicking by the president — and maybe a little of the unexpected good fortune that blessed the U.S. surge in Iraq.

By Jackson Diehl
The Washington Post

The first fuse is burning down toward Aug. 20, less than five months from now. On that day, Afghanistan is due to hold a presidential election whose outcome and perceived fairness may determine whether most Afghans continue to view U.S. and NATO forces as friendly. By then, too, the 17,000 additional Marines and Army troops authorized by Obama last month should be deployed in the two southern Afghan provinces, Helmand and Kandahar, where the Taliban is strongest, along with scores of new American civilian advisers.

This first test is twofold: Can the new U.S. forces clear the enemy from the large areas near the border with Pakistan where they now rule with near impunity — something that inevitably will mean a spike in violence — without appearing to use disproportionate force? And will Afghans be secure enough to cast ballots in an election in which they will be offered alternatives to incumbent President Hamid Karzai, with the assurance that their votes will be fairly counted?

U.S. commanders are pretty confident they can pass the military test, in part because for the first time in the seven-year war they can mass enough forces to overwhelm the Taliban without heavy reliance on air power, which causes 60 percent of civilian casualties. The election will be trickier. Karzai’s government is perceived as feckless and corrupt by much of the Afghan population, and his relations with the United States have deteriorated sharply in the past year. Yet, in part because of a lack of strong challengers, he appears likely to win reelection. If the vote seems rigged, or if Karzai wins a new mandate without offering a credible promise of improvement, Afghans may irrevocably sour both on the central government and its foreign sponsors.

“This election has to be viewed as free and fair,” said one U.S. military officer in Kabul. “And there has to be some discussion of corruption by Karzai so that in the first 100 days after the election there can be some visible action taken.”

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Read also Peter Bergen of the New York Times on why the historic record for Afghanistan does not have to predict the future…


Afghanistan to take part in US strategic review

February 15, 2009

The Afghan government will take part in a U.S. strategic review of the war in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai said Sunday in a sign of increased cooperation at a time of strained relations.

Karzai recently sent President Barack Obama a letter with a proposal that Afghanistan join a war review currently under way.

By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer

The U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said at a joint news conference that Obama had “welcomed the suggestion.”

Karzai said his foreign minister, Dadfar Rangin Spanta, would head the delegation. The U.S. has several reviews of the situation in Afghanistan under way, and it was not immediately clear which one Afghan officials would take part in.

The U.S. is studying the situation in Afghanistan at a time of spiraling violence. Taliban attacks have spiked the last three years, and militants have swept up wide areas of countryside that the Afghan government has not been able to control.

Obama has said the U.S. will increase its focus on Afghanistan and draw down forces in Iraq under his watch. The U.S. is contemplating sending up to 30,000 more troops to bolster the 33,000 already in Afghanistan.

Karzai told the news conference he was “grateful” for an agreement announced Thursday between Afghanistan and the U.S. military that Afghan forces would take on a greater role in the planning and execution of missions with the aim of reducing civilian casualties.

He said he hoped the agreement would “reduce civilian casualties and prevent nighttime raids.” Overnight raids by elite U.S. Special Operations Forces cause many of the civilian deaths that Karzai has repeatedly denounced, but the agreement made no mention that such targeted missions would end.

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U.S. to Fund Afghan Militias, Applying Iraq Tactic

December 23, 2008

The Afghan government will formally start a U.S.-funded effort to recruit armed local militias in the battle against the Taliban in remote parts of the country, exporting the tactic to Afghanistan from Iraq.

The first militias will be established in Wardak Province, in eastern Afghanistan, in coming weeks, officials said. If the effort in Wardak is successful, U.S. commanders hope to create similar forces in other parts of Afghanistan in early 2009.

The militia push is part of a growing American effort to bypass the struggling Afghan central government and funnel resources to Afghan villages and provinces. Senior American officials have stepped up their criticism of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in recent weeks, making clear that they believe his government needs to do more to fight corruption and deliver basic services.

The Wall Street Journal

In Iraq, the U.S. decision to recruit tens of thousands of Sunni Arab fighters, including many former insurgents, is widely credited with improving the country’s security situation.

“Afghanistan historically has been known as a country where local communities took care of themselves,” U.S. Ambassador William Wood said in an interview in Kabul. “The way to counter the Taliban today is to make the communities themselves stronger, so they can protect their villages, their fields, their towns and their valleys.”
During a weekend visit, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. focus on establishing a strong central government in Afghanistan may have been “overstated.” He said the U.S. would now focus more on “enabling the communities, the tribes and their leaders.”

“How strong the central government will be in the future, I think, is yet to be determined,” he told reporters.

The militia push is controversial. Karzai vetoed an earlier American proposal to create local forces…

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