The following is a translation of an Arabic Q&A:
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Question: Ever since Obama has taken over the new US administration, it is being observed that the statements by some American officials as well as Hamid Karzai indicate a worsening of relations between Karzai and the United States. Put it together with Karzai’s moves towards Russia and China as seen in some of his statements regarding supply of arms to Afghanistan by harnessing the position of Afghanistan as a prominent member of the Shanghai organisation. So, have their relations really soured to the extent that America no longer wants to sustain Karzai anymore either by preventing his nomination or by bringing him down in the coming presidential elections later this year? Or even by assassinating him? Or is it that this whole episode of such statements is a mere façade created by mutual agreement to give the Afghan people the perception that relations between him and the US have soured? Which will make Karzai acceptable to the Afghan people and help him win the elections? Further, can America find a similar agent who will remain a stooge to them, who could that person be?
1. To begin with it must be reminded that the Democratic Party’s policy towards Afghanistan were fundamentally different with respect to the policy of the previous Bush administration. Joseph Biden, the current US vice president was the conspicuous face of the Democratic Party who worked on the Afghanistan and was very critical of the Bush administration’s Afghan policy.
The American newspaper New York Times varied a report about the visit of Joseph Biden and other US Congressmen to Afghanistan in February last year where during the course of the official dinner, they ‘interrogated’ Karzai regarding the rotten advisory mess in his government. Karzai denied any such problem which infuriated Biden so much that he declared: “the dinner time is over” and cut short his visit before schedule!
The same newspaper stated on 8th February, 2009: “The situation has changed for Karzai and Afghanistan as Karzai considers himself unwanted both by his people and Washington.” The paper added: “Indeed Obama considers Karzai as untrustworthy. It also reported Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying: “Karzai presides over the nation of narcotics.” The paper concluded saying: “The Americans regret and fear defeat in their war on Afghanistan, and they perhaps intend to override Karzai and deal directly with the provincial rulers and regional governors.”
However it is clear that the current Obama administration accords top priority to Afghanistan in its foreign policy, it wants a fundamental change in Afghanistan especially because Obama had been focusing on bringing about a change during his elections campaign speeches. Karzai on his part is aware of this reality and realizes that as an American agent, he cannot seek assistance from any other country like Russia or China in order to retain his position and he does not exercise control over any Afghan city and his position hinges on the support of the US armed forces.
2. In it is this context that Karzai’s relations with Russia and China can be understood in their proper perspective which is that these relations are decided and approved by the US to seek these countries support in its war with the Taliban.
As for Russia acceptance of Afghanistan as an honoured member of the Shanghai Organisation, it does not mean that Karzai can afford to be free of America; rather it implies that Russia itself allowed even US agent countries to enter the SCO club (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) to ensure security and peace for the SCO countries. This in itself does not mean that Russia is not trying to gain of influence in countries loyal to the America, rather it implies that it has ruled out any attempts to gain a foothold in Afghanistan, at least in the foreseeable future.
As for the Russia agreeing to supply arms to Afghanistan, and President Medvedev’s letter to Karzai regarding Russia readiness to cooperate with Afghanistan in the defence field, it means that America itself has asked Russia to assist because the Afghan armed forces have Russian weapons which require Russian spare parts.
In fact this was stressed by the Karzai government’s spokesman Humayun Hamid Zadeh who said: “Despite Karzai request to Russia for defence assistance, Afghanistan remains committed to its relations with the NATO and the United States.” He added: “The request to Russia for assistance has a technical angle, the equipments of our armed forces, the aircrafts and armoured tanks are Russian made and we are strategically committed to the NATO and the US.” The spokesman was referring here to the presence Russian made aircrafts in Afghanistan since the Soviet Union’s war with it.
This indicates that Karzai’s relations with Russia are a routine matter and they do not reflect a global conflict…
3. Based on these it can be said that Karzai is aware that his days in Afghanistan are numbered and he also realizes that the Obama administration has taken a decision to bring about a change including him. His recent criticisms are nothing more than theatrics by which he hopes to highlight himself as the real president.
In other words the Obama administration intends to try its luck with a person other than Karzai who has outrun his utility and is no longer suitable for continuing as president.
As for the new face, the Americans will try to find another person more acceptable to the Afghan people than Karzai whom everyone regarded a worthless toy of the Americans.
The popularity of any future Afghan president will depend on his being from the Pashtun lineage because it represents the Afghan majority and it is for this reason that the US will rule out important and popular personalities belonging to the Uzbek, Hazara and Tajik minorities like Younis Qanuni, Qayyum Faheem, the deputy to Ahmad Shah Masood who was killed some years back, or Ismail Khan, the governor of Heart, Rashid Dostum, Burhanuddin Rabbani or any other person from the Northern Alliance who conspired with the Americans to bring down the Taliban in the aftermath of the war in 2001 C.E.
As per the information available until now, it appears that Ali Ahmed Jalali; the former Interior Minster is the Americans’ best bet to replace Karzai in the upcoming elections scheduled for August/September next. This is because first of all he is a Pashtun, then he is a military man; and this is what the Americans want. As for other Pashtun leaders who are in the running for the president’s post, we do not believe that they possess similar qualifications.
However, the political situations and equations change rapidly and it is expected that of the Americans fail to find a suitable replacement for Karzai, the elections may be postponed and Karzai may remain in office until and a suitable and pliable stooge is found. In other words, Karzai’s term is just a matter of time. As for the chance that the US may even kill Karzai in order to eliminate him, it looks far fetched and unlikely since more than being an American stooge, he is a faithful US employee.
In conclusion, what appears to be a confrontation between Karzai and the Obama administration, is nothing more than theatrics designed to give the perception that the post of Afghan president is a real one and he is not a mere puppet.
Finally, we can say that the present Obama administration intends to change its course in Afghanistan which will be different to the direction taken by the Bush administration which failed miserably. A necessary requirement in this change of course is replacing the soiled face of Karzai and with this; the US hopes to improve the grim and deteriorating situation in Afghanistan which will reduce the security pressure on the US and its allies’ armed forces…
16th Safar, 1430 A.H
10th February, 2009 C.E