Karzai Lives to Rule Kabul for Another Day

by Joshua Foust on 4/28/2008 · 3 comments

In a brazen display of Chutzpah (the original Hebrew pejorative, not the Yiddish compliment) Taliban militants attacked Hamid Karzai during the Mujahideen Day parade, which celebrates the day Najibullah was run out of office and the super successful mujahideen government took over. At least six people were killed.

This is, sadly, an enormous propaganda coup for the Taliban, who have seen their cachet in Afghanistan increase during an escalation of activity over the last year that had previously peaked at the attack on the Serena Hotel. The implications are dire: for years, the running joke has been that Karzai is only the Mayor of Kabul and not President of the country; this attack, which is the second deadly attack on high-profile targets in Kabul in four months, demonstrates just how little control he has even over Kabul. What’s worse is, the apparent ease with which two fire teams got within a few hundred feet of the President indicates that increasing segments of the population are allowing militants to roam freely.

Whether this stems from ideological similarity, fatigue with the international community’s systemic and quite intentional neglect, or simple fear remains to be seen. But the dynamic this portends is ominous indeed. Arif Rafiq sees this as the dread Spring Offensive. I don’t; this was a jab, not a movement. But it very easily could become one. That, along with the very poor way this reflects on Afghan security forces, is the deeper danger.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Inkan1969 April 28, 2008 at 11:34 am

I was looking through e-ariana and found two articles by Syed Saleem Shahzad of the Asia Times


In this article Shahzad makes the same points you’ve made, Joshua. But he also refers to a NATO victory that recently happened. he wrote in detail about that victory in this article


While noting the ceremony attack, Shahzad also claims that “In a change from previous years, NATO has made it a priority to understand the workings of the Taliban”. In the other article, he claims that the Taliban’s attempt to choke the Khyber pass is a “dream…now in tatters” because NATO paid off trader Haji Namdar to betray them. Negotiations such as that being conducted by the Pakistani government “could lead to a whole new batch of betrayals. ” So in the wake of this disaster in Kabul, it might be that NATO, the Pakistanis, and the Afghans might in fact be changing to more intelligent tactics. We can only hope.

Admiral April 29, 2008 at 5:01 pm

On the other hand… this post seems to carry the day. You do not give credit to Stephens’ point that the perception of control can be just as, if not more important, but it seems like everyone agrees on it. Things are not going well.

Joshua Foust April 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm

The good admiral is referring to this post.

The “perception of control?” Who has control, if the Taliban or other militant groups can walk mortar teams within a few hundred feet of the President and murder half a dozen people during the most secure public event of the year?

In stark contrast to Stephens’ uncritical cheerleading, the reporter Inkan cites, who has done some uncannily perceptive reporting from the region, gives actual reason to hope things might not remain as dire for long.

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