The Afghan president played the terror card, too, to get propped up.
Regrettably, I haven’t brought this point up—outside of casual conversations and a line or two in briefs focused on the Afghan government—but I’ve felt it for a couple of years. R.A., at his Economist blog, raises the issue—via a couple of insightful quotes—of why the U.S. government is dealing with the Karzai clan and cronies.
The point he raises is that the Afghan government is raising the threat level of U.S. withdrawal. There’s little reason to believe Afghan President Hamid Karzai isn’t using a ‘me or the terrorists take over’ angle to work the Obama Administration—as his did the Bush Administration. It seems pretty rational, in the reactionary sense, that Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is doing the same. The former’s submission to U.S. interests in Afghanistan requires courting—yet suppressing the resistance from—the Taliban as the latter’s is to the Sadrist bloc.
There is actually an incentive for the Afghan president to perpetuate inefficiency in the Afghan National Security Force because minimizing counter-resistance raises the efficiency of the resistance to the government and U.S.-led occupation. The response becomes to throw more money, troops, airstrikes, night raids and regional surges at the resistance. The U.S. and Afghan government fully understand these measures are short-term fixes and counterinsurgency is more a political means than military, but every military mission calls for further development of the Afghan government as the monopoly of force in the territory.
Understanding that this monopoly is not realistic in the foreseeable future, the Afghan government’s interest is to remain in ambiguous incompetence.
In the long-term, the reality of power should overwhelm and—as the slogan goes—there ain’t no power like the power of the people ’cause the power of the people don’t stop. The Afghans—like the Kashmiris and Pakis and Iraqis and Palestinians, etc.—can only be suppressed and oppressed for so long from inevitable self-determination. Forcing the delay of this inevitable will only fuels the future fire.
Hans Nichols and Nicholas Johnston reported at Bloomberg late this afternoon:
“We are reaffirming our shared goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda and its extremist allies,” Obama said. He and Karzai said they have overcome friction that had been building over Afghan government efforts to fight corruption and improve services to the civilian population.
Pres. Obama said “reports about their differences ‘were simply overstated'”, Jonathan Landay reports at McClatchy today.
Translation: The U.S. government is deliberately overlooking the existential illegitimacy of the Afghan government due to near-sighted circular reasoning.
EDIT2: Talk about a resounding boom from Professor Stephen Walt at his Foreign Policy blog:
The problem is a familiar one. Once a great power commits itself to a weak client state, its prestige is on the line and it loses most of its potential leverage over the people it has chosen to back. Why? Because clients can always threaten to lose—which is the one thing the great power doesn’t want—and so threats to pull the plug on them aren’t very credible. Clients are even less likely to reform when their local support depends on patronage networks and other forms of corruption, and when they want to make sure they have enough money in their Swiss bank accounts to finance a lengthy exile should things go south.