US Doubles Down on “Crazy Karzai” Meme

As the US military bumbles and stumbles toward an ignominious exit from Afghanistan that is looking more and more like it will follow the script from the Iraq exit, it appears that the final ploy from Washington is an effort to paint Afghan President Hamid Karzai as detached from reality. This current ploy seems to be serving two purposes. First, it attempts to set the stage for an end-run around Karzai in a last-ditch effort to get some other party to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement allowing US troops to stay in Afghanistan after the end of this year. Second, it is obscuring yet another incident of indiscriminate US air raids and affiliated operations resulting in civilian casualties. Totally missing from these US actions is any awareness that Afghans cooperating with the US in this operation could well be motivated by the upcoming elections or an appreciation that the willingness of some Afghan citizens to participate in fabricating charges against the US isn’t necessarily an endorsement of the Taliban as much as it represent the intense desire of many Afghans to get the US out of their country after 13 years of war.

The current circus was precipitated by the January 15 incident in the Ghorband District of Parwan province. As I noted right after it happened, distinctly different accounts of what happened appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post. Karzai appointed a commission to investigate the incident. Leading the commission was Abdul Satar Khawasi. He is a member of the Afghan Parliament and represents Parwan. He also is known to be anti-American, and articles about the commission’s report from both ToloNews and the New York Times mention a video in which he appears and:

Mr. Khawasi is heard urging a crowd of angry Afghans to wage a holy war against Americans, saying, “Anyone who sits silent is a traitor.”

The Times pointed out just after the report was released that at least one photo in the report was from 2009, but now the entire report is being questioned by the Times because of that one photo:

The CD-ROM contains nine other photographs, all of which appear to be frames from a video clip on the disk. The video purports to show the funeral of villagers who were killed in the airstrikes and houses that were destroyed. The graphic images include some of a woman whose face is gone.

The Times’ examination found no physical clues in the video that would help determine where or when it was shot. The file’s creation date is Dec. 18, nearly a month before the raid, though it may not be accurate; digital time stamps on the accompanying photos say they were created in April 2014, and the video’s embedded data could be similarly unreliable.

Even if the video is actually of a funeral in Wazghar, some Afghan and Western officials said there was no way to tell from it whether an airstrike or some other gunfire or explosion had killed the people seen being buried, or who was responsible.

But even though an Afghan villager was brought out to “identify” fellow villagers in the false photo in question, this whole episode of discrediting the commission’s report still has one major problem:

There is no dispute that American airstrikes on Jan. 15 did hit Wazghar, a few hours’ drive west of Kabul in a valley controlled by the Taliban, and that some civilians were killed there. The American-led coalition put the number at two, and said the airstrikes were called in after a force of Afghan commandos and their American advisers were pinned down by heavy Taliban fire from the village and were unable to retreat.

The bottom line is that a US air strike hit at least one house with civilians in it. Whether Taliban were in the house and firing at coalition troops or not does not negate the fact that US bombing of civilian homes has been at the heart of Karzai’s objections to US actions for years. He has tried multiple times to get the US to halt any attacks on homes (whether they are air strikes or night raids), but the US always ignores these entreaties and does exactly as it pleases.

But the US was not content merely to discredit the report prepared by Khawasi’s commission. An article in the Washington Post now clearly is aimed at painting Karzai as so deranged that he now believes the US is actively taking part in raids otherwise attributed to the Taliban:

President Hamid Karzai has frequently lashed out at the U.S. military for causing civilian casualties in its raids. But behind the scenes, he has been building a far broader case against the Americans, suggesting that they may have aided or conducted shadowy insurgent-style attacks to undermine his government, according to senior Afghan officials.

Karzai has formalized his suspicions with a list of dozens of attacks that he believes the U.S. government may have been involved in, according to one palace official. The list even includes the recent bomb and gun assault on a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, one of the bloodiest acts targeting the international community in Afghanistan, the official said. The attack, which left 21 people dead, including three Americans, was almost universally attributed to the Taliban.

This whole article is based on anonymous quotes from “senior palace officials” and seems to rely on only one of them for the wildest claims. And yet nowhere in the article do we get any acknowledgement that Afghanistan will soon have a Presidential election in which Karzai cannot run. The article tries to remove doubts about the leaking official by saying that he is “sympathetic to the president’s view”.

Somehow, remarks by Karzai in March of 2013 have been allowed to shape this entire story about him blaming the US for attacks attributed to the Taliban. But if we go back to the Post story linked in the current Post smear, we have this from Karzai:

In a televised speech about violence against women, Karzai said two fatal bombings carried out Saturday, including one outside the Defense Ministry, should not be interpreted as a Taliban show of force aimed at undermining the U.S. military, which is considering keeping a small force in Afghanistan after its wartime mandate expires at the end of 2014.

“In reality, the bombs that went off yesterday under the name of the Taliban were a service to the foreigners,” Karzai said, casting doubt on the assertion of responsibility made by the Taliban, which said that the attacks were carried out to mar Hagel’s visit. Karzai said the blasts helped Americans justify a prolonged troop presence in Afghanistan. “We have been down this road before too many times,” he added.

If we look closely at what Karzai actually said here, it is almost exactly the opposite of the current accusations. Last year’s words read to me as if he is telling the Taliban that their attacks that kill civilians play into the hands of the US and provide further justification for the US wanting to stay in Afghanistan. Even then, it was the Post saying that Karzai was blaming the US for the attack rather than Karzai actually saying it. Somehow, the current “controversy” relies on this inversion of Karzai’s words that is almost a year old .

It’s clear that both the US and Afghanistan are deeply into information operations with very high stakes as we come down to final days on the decision of whether US troops will stay in Afghanistan after the end of this year. With so much deliberately false information being offered up, truth remains far out of reach.

11 replies
  1. ArizonaBumblebee says:

    How many times do the American military and their civilian leadership need to relearn the lessons of Vietnam? There are only two businesses booming in Afghanistan: the opium trade and war profiteering. Meanwhile, the American military is doing its best to antagonize the local population that brings to mind the title of a recent book about Vietnam (Kill Anything That Moves). Unfortunately, the book title reminds us that the outcome likely will be the same: a humiliating defeat for America. The only reason the American military wants to stay in Afghanistan is for politicians and generals to avoid any responsibility for the TV footage that will show the American embassy in Kabul being evacuated as the Taliban recaptures the capital.

  2. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    “How many times do the American military and their civilian leadership need to relearn the lessons of Vietnam?”

    The beatings will continue until morale improves.

    IOW, as long as foreigners and low-level US military are the only ones paying a real price for the mistakes, the mistakes will be repeated over and over.

    There needs to be a real fear that leaders will have to explain their actions in front of a war-crimes tribunal.

  3. Don Bacon says:


    “Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission — training, advising, assisting Afghan forces.”

    Sounds sweet — training, advising, assisting. But that’s not all.

    This failed operation describes the future–

    …it is believed that several recent attacks on Bagram Air Base were carried out from the area.

    So Obama — shocking news! — wasn’t telling the whole truth regarding the extent of the coming US mission, which will primarily include (1) special-forces aided clearing operations in Taliban-controlled areas such as Ghoorband Province adjacent to Bagram air base (2) air attacks on civilian houses (and wedding parties) believed to be (not known to be) threatening US bases with (3) killing of innocents which creates (4) more forces threatening US bases.

    In other words, Operation Resolute Support is merely a continuation of the failed Operation Enduring Freedom, and it won’t matter who the Afghan president is (constitution requires new president May 23).

    Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, will be in Washington this week.

    Proposed US bases in Afghanistan–
    Kabul, Center, Camp Eggers
    Bagram, Center, Bagram Airfield
    Mazar-e-Sharif, North, Camp Marmal (German)
    Jalalalabad, East, FOB Fenty, Jalalabad airfield
    Gardez, East, FOB Gardez
    Kandahar, South, Kandahar Air Base
    Helmand, South, Camps Bastion/Leatherneck
    Shindand, West, Shindand Airbase
    Herat, West, Camp Stone
    (The camps also have airstrips, except in Kabul.)

  4. Frank33 says:

    It is crazy for Hamid Karzai to suggest the US Military is behind the Taliban attacks. It might be true that the Intelligence Community did support the Taliban and Bin Laden and Al Qaeda at one time. But that was long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

    And it is true that there have been some crazy US Generals winning the war, year after year, while chasing the Tampa Twins year after year. Specifically, General McChrystal, General Petraueus, and General Allen have been winning the war for years, and at least two of these were going to Jill Kelley’s parties. But the neo-con Generals and Admirals are very good at multitasking.

    The current General winning the war, General Dunford is not amused, although he might be deranged. General Dunford has spent 12 years bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. To suggest otherwise is deranged and does a great disservice to all the Generals who have been winning the war.General Dunford might need 12 more years.

    It is a long, long,long…war.

    . “We have spent 12 years trying to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan in the face of threats from terrorist and insurgent networks . . . to suggest otherwise does a grave disservice to those who have sacrificed for the people of Afghanistan.”

  5. Don Bacon says:


    General Dunford in his relations to the president of the country he’s supposed to be assisting has been a tyrant, parceling out sovereignty and continuing to kill civilians despite years of protestations. And a military force bringing peace and stability? No. Obviously not, judging from the results.

    The US objectives are to bring war and instability, and it’s been quite successful in that regard, when one looks at the countries between India and the Med, Pakistan to Lebanon, and then throw in North Africa for good measure.

  6. P J Evans says:

    @Don Bacon:
    It’s also possible that he doesn’t know about those until they hit the news.
    Middle-managers and up tend to not want to know about things like that, until they absolutely have to (usually when legal action happens).

  7. Michael Murry says:


    “In an interview with Pham Van Dong, one American asked the North Vietnamese foreign minister how he could call the Saigon government an “American puppet” when it acted with such consistency against American interests. “Ah,” replied the minister, “it’s a puppet, all right. It’s just a bad puppet.” — Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (1972)

  8. Michael Murry says:


    “The point needs to be made, and made clearly before a new mythology becomes accredited which blames the military setbacks of 1963-64 not upon the military and civilian bunglers who are responsible for them, but on the Buddhist monks or the American press corps in Saigon.”

    “The hard and brutal fact is that, for a variety of reasons which can be as coldly analyzed as the French defeats described earlier in this book, the strictly military aspect of the Vietnamese insurgency was being as rapidly lost in 1961-62 as its socio-political aspects were.” — Bernard Fall, Street Without Joy: the French Debacle in Indochina (1961)

    Back in 1969 at Counter Insurgency School (Coronado Island, San Deigo) we had to read Bernard Fall’s book as well as some other materials on the French experience in Indochina over many decades. The textbooks told us to “win the hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese natives while our instructors translated that into the equivalent U.S. military undertanding: “Just grab ’em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow.” No learning takes place, much less any re-learning when the self-interested political and military career “professionals” desire that no learning occur in the first place.

    Once again the actual lesson: “We lost the day we started and we win the day we stop.”

  9. Don Bacon says:

    President Karzai is well aware that the US worked against his re-election in the last presidential, and also he is aware that the US backed Islamic radicals against US ally Gaddafi in Libya and caused his downfall and murder.

    Currently the US is backing al-Qaeda linked Islamic radicals attempting to overthrow the government in Syria, which in this case is not a US ally.

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