Karzai, Taliban Begin Angling for Afghanistan Dominance, Confirming Failure of US Mission

The Ides of March has not been kind to the US mission in Afghanistan. Despite Barack Obama and David Cameron putting their best spin on the situation yesterday and claiming that NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will not be accelerated by the recent atrocities perpetrated by US forces, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban both took moves today indicating that they are now angling for dominance in an Afghanistan that is soon to be rid of occupation by western troops. These moves by Karzai and the Taliban appear to me to be signalling that they independently have come to the conclusion that the COIN strategy of “training” Afghan security forces to take over by 2014 as NATO forces are drawn down is no longer viable.

Karzai’s move is to call for western troops to withdraw from their smaller operating outposts in villages back onto large bases. From the Washington Post:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded Thursday that the United States pull back from combat outposts and confine its troops to military bases, an apparent response to Sunday’s shooting rampage by a U.S. staff sergeant.


Foreign troops in Afghanistan must withdraw from village outposts and return to large NATO bases, the president’s statement said. Karzai also said he wants Afghan troops to assume primary responsibility for security nationwide by the end of next year, ahead of the time frame U.S. commanders have endorsed.

The Post then goes on to play into the hands of the Taliban (see below) by painting Karzai as powerless to affect US actions in Afghanistan:

Karzai does not have the authority to enforce a pullback of foreign troops, however. And the United States has rebuffed previous demands that it halt night raids, ban private security companies and immediately transfer control of prisons to the Afghan government.

Virtually simultaneously with Karzai’s demand for withdrawal from villages, the Taliban announced that they have ended their preliminary talks with the US that many hoped would lead to a negotiated end to hostilities in Afghanistan. From Reuters:

U.S. and Taliban negotiators were believed to have had preliminary contacts aimed at establishing an office for the Taliban in the Gulf state of Qatar to launch peace negotiations.

“The Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend all talks with Americans taking place in Qatar from (Thursday) onwards until the Americans clarify their stance on the issues concerned and until they show willingness in carrying out their promises instead of wasting time,” the group said in a statement.

In a clear signal that the Taliban believe US influence in Afghanistan is about to end and that they are in a struggle with Karzai’s government for future control of the country, they attacked Karzai as a US puppet. Returning to the Post article:

The Taliban also took issue with Karzai’s suggestion that his administration was playing a role in the talks. The statement said Karzai “cannot even make a single political decision without the prior consent of the Americans.” It called negotiating with Karzai’s government “pointless.”

Writing at The Agonist, Steve Hynd sums up the impact of Karzai’s demand on US strategy in Afghanistan:

No NATO troops out in the countryside means no security for reconstruction teams and NGOs, which will largely halt work. It means the ANA and Afghan police, notoriously inefficient and corrupt, will be the only security Afghans have unless they turn to the taliban to provide it – and they will. If Karzai sticks to his statement – and this time he just might – it means that COIN as a strategy in Afghanistan is a very definitely a dead parrot.

It has been clear that Obama wanted to use the May NATO summit in Chicago as the backdrop for another “victory” announcement in the same way that he wanted to use the State of the Union speech to announce his victory in settlement of foreclosure fraud. The actual victory announcement on the fraud settlement was delayed and the deal itself turned out to be a mess so atrocious the government delayed releasing details for a month. I expect a very furious six weeks of work by Obama’s spinmeisters to try to come up with a new strategy that will somehow justify declaring victory in Afghanistan and withdrawing much sooner than the current plan, rather than the previously planned victory announcement that would have made more false claims on progress in training Afghan security forces and in defeating the Taliban. That is, unless Obama decides to nail the parrot back onto its perch and claim that it is merely “pining for the fjords“.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
7 replies
  1. rugger9 says:

    Considering the agitation by Karzai for our departure, we should give him what he asks for. As it is, our presence there is not helping, the “training” isn’t working [and since there is a timetable now] won’t work down the road. They’re just waiting us out. It’s a lesson we keep having to learn.

    We need to leave. There will be a significant cost to the Afghan civilians as Karzai and the Taliban duke it out, and no matter who wins the oppression will be on. It will be wrenching to watch [and I’m not looking forward to this by any stretch], but we have no real business there except for the what the oil companies want the DOD to pay for in $$$ and lives. We already demonstrated we can’t handle the humanitarian project, either.

  2. frandor55 says:

    @rugger9: The “oppression” is already on. Violence perpetrated on the populace by US/NATO and mercenaries is not a benign form of violence it kills and maims just like violence from the taliban or whoever.

  3. sona says:

    afghanistan is being set up to be a colonial outpost of pakistan whose isi controls/advises the taliban
    karzai is not going to stay in afghanistan – he will move to pakistan or even india, perhaps the latter since in pakistan he will be severely constrained by the isi
    so after 10 years what was all this about? it sure wasn’t about getting obl dead or alive since he was being protected and sheltered by the pakistanis, the strategic US ally and anyway, dubaya upped and left to get sh in iraq bc sh cocked a snook and took a potshot at his daddy
    alice in wonderland with absalom, the smoking caterpillar, makes more sense

  4. Arbusto says:

    I wish someone, such as Juan Cole would again delineate the various groups the US(NATO) is fighting. My remembrance is the Taliban (not the original ruling group we fought) is one of many insurgent groups in Afghanistan. And regardless, again we leave a nation worse off on our exit than our invasion.

  5. Jeff Kaye says:

    Goodbye Afghanistan, hello… Syria! The tuned-out US public will forget the Afghan debacle, as they turn to supporting “our boys” in a new Mideast conflict.

  6. Kestrel says:

    And so the lessons of the past are never learned. The politicians play the people like a fiddle and another war is waged. Been there, done that –Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan — another generation is used again, and still the people parrot the propaganda of their own manipulation. It is all about the spin. The collapse of the American Rome is inevitable.

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