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The Killid Group
Public Concerns about Karzai's Remarks
Sunday, 11 April 2010 10:36
In Afghanistan, all eyes are focused on the upcoming operation by Afghan and coalition forces in the restive province of Kandahar. The offensive is scheduled to be in full swing by June. Few details have been release as yet in terms of how the operation will be carried out but it is expected that it will focus on both the city of Kandahar and its surrounding suburbs. Further, General Stanley McChrystal, NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, pledged to work towards securing stability across the entire province.
Military plans for the operation have already been drawn up by US military officials, who are now looking for Afghan leadership to help launch the offensive. However Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a visit to Kandahar this week, told a gathering of elders that the offensive will not be launched until the residents are onboard and give their consent. Karzai asked tribal leaders and local elders to coordinate with the Afghan government to ensure peace and rule of law throughout the province. But, to Karzai's surprise, instead of discussing the upcoming offensive, the gathered crowd expressed their dissatisfaction with the Kabul government's tackling of corruption and its inability to provide security and stability across the country.
It is in fact corruption that has been a lasting and driving source of insecurity across Kandahar province, that has yet to be seriously addressed, and that has allowed the insurgency to not only thrive but grow.
As it stands, there are three pashtoon tribes in Kandahar-the Barakzay, Popalzay and Alakozay-who have been sharing power under the Karzai government. This has left the Noorzay, Alizay and Eshaqzay tribes out in the cold. Over the past eights years, President Karzai, who is of the Popalzay tribe, has paid little attention to these opposition tribes. Furthermore, Ahmad Wali Karzai, the Afghan president's brother and head of the Kandahar Provincial Council has fueled his brother's troubles not only in Kandahar but also in neighboring provinces, particularly Uruzgan, Helmand and Farah.
The manner in which the president reins in his brother's ambition and rebalances tribal dynamics will have far reaching effects on Kandahar's stability.
Despite Gen. MacChrystal presence on the Kandahar visit, Karzai took the opportunity to continue to lambaste foreign intervention in Afghan affairs, a line of vitriol, which began in the aftermath of US President Barack Obama's trip to Afghanistan last week. Curiously, he called on the Taliban to follow his example by freeing themselves from foreigners. It's still unclear what restriction and limitations were imposed over Karzai and how exactly he removed himself from under them.
It's true that the US and its allies are blaming Karzai and his team for failing to tackle corruption. We noted last week that Karzai is in turn fingering foreign firms in Afghanistan as the country's main source of corruption. Yasin Osmani, Afghan Head of Oversight Corruption Commission, believes that approximately 80 percent of corruption in Afghanistan is being carriedout by foreigners.
Admiral Mike Mullen, U.S. Chief of Joint Staff, told reporters at a press conference in Kabul that if the performance of the Afghan government in Kandahar is not improved it will frustrate the military operation as well.
Ahmad Wali Karzai is believed to be the most influential and popular figure in Kandahar province; his reach even extends into neighboring Helmand where his fingerprints are thought to be all over the narcotics trade and the armed groups who orbit it. One top US commander warned Ahmad Wali Karzai that if he didn't stop supporting, arming and funding insurgents he would be targeted for arrest or death. Such threats against President Karzai's family cannot help ease tensions between Kabul and Washington.
President Karzai will likely go along with McChrystal's plans but his love/hate relationship with international supporters is unlikely to fade. Karzai knows he's dependent on international donors for his entire government. With 130,000 coalition soldiers currently standing between him and the Taliban, Karzai cannot afford to isolate himself too much from foreigners. But how much of his nationalist rhetoric the US will be able to tolerate remains unclear. The international community understands that, for the moment, there is no alternative to working with Karzai.
There are whispers in parliament, where frustration with Karzai is running high, and amongst political analysts that the president may be rejected from power by a two thirds vote. Karzai and his allies, in the meantime, are concerned over the upcoming National Assembly elections which could usher in an even more adversarial parliament.