In Defense of Hamid Karzai

by Joshua Foust on 9/28/2010 · 5 comments

I have had it to HERE with all the talk about Hamid Karzai. Face it: we’re stuck with him. And because we’re stuck with him, we better figure out why things aren’t working. Corruption is too simple an answer, and misses a much more important aspect to his failed tenure as President. I explain for the AfPak Channel:

Karzai also has very real constituencies at home to which he must appeal. He’s representing a population that is growing increasingly disillusioned with Western promises and actions. The Taliban is making steady progress in affecting vast swaths of territory. There is incredible pressure in Kabul to negotiate some sort of end to the fighting — and not necessarily on terms the U.S. wants to see. Karzai only has two real bargaining chips: political influence, and money. When the United States installed him in Kabul in 2002, no one considered Hamid Karzai a particularly corrupt individual — certainly not by Afghan standards. But to fulfill the duties of his office, Karzai had no choice but to trade money and money-making positions to get even minimal results.

There’s more – lots more – so read it and get back to me.

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This post was written by...

– 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 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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Joshua Novak September 28, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Brilliant Article….I second the motion….He and Afghanistan are not a lost cause. More of this kind of logic and we might be able to see a way to refocus this.

We need to stop blaming Karzai…and the Afghans and get on with some real policy and the simplistic jury rigged judgements we have. Lets try to understand the dynamics of a place for the very first time and make something positive out of the current situation.

Great Article…

Boris Sizemore September 28, 2010 at 9:23 pm

The Blame Karzai club is large.

Who are the main leaders….??

A. Eikenberry. He has done more damage to our relationship with Karzai than any man in History. He needs to go. And Now. You can not have an Ambassador without any credibility at all.

B. Holbrooke: Say no more. Total non communicator in a place where communication is everything.

C. Khalizad. Say no more. It is better I do not say a word.

D. The Corruption is us crowd. If you want corruption go to ISI HQs or Egypt(but go soon, it is going explode) Karzai is far from the most corrupt leader we work with. But lord knows, he gets wiretapped more than Mubarak or Kiyana.

E. Anyone looking for an excuse for failure. If things are going bad it is Karzai. If the COIN is failing it is Karzai. If a tree falls in Siberia it is Karzai-do you hear it? This is the weak link of all of our excuses.

sayke September 29, 2010 at 8:30 am

whooo boy. i had to respond to this. post pending review =)

CostOfWarBlog September 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm

As I said on your AF-Pak, this is a fantastic piece josh.
what frustrates Karzai to the verge of tears is that the enormity and the difficulty of the task is overshadowed by the talk of his incompetence and corruption. In the popular opinion in the west, Hamid Karzai has turned into the image of corrupt governance and insecurity. This would enrage any dignified man who took the task of leading the country understanding that the world was aware of the enormity of the task. today, the world has forgotten the context and simply considers him as the problem

I argue that no-one is more concerned about the problems in the country than he is. But most people are forgetting the realities that he has to deal with and turning against him instead:

Boris Sizemore September 29, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Joshua-Great Piece…

We do need to work with Karzai and quit trying to string him up a tree. And Karzai is a nice person. Yes, he has to cater to constituencies. But he is also part of the problem.

You pointed out well the schizophrenia of our policy. The I love you-I love you not reality of how we have treated him.

Most decent Afghans hate him. Not because of the Americans but because of how he does what he does. He has picked some real liars and some real snakes in the grass to work with. He is not respected as a Pashtun leader, and uses his relationships with the foreigners has his main hammer.

Some examples. Shirzai. He is in his position because the Americans favor him, and Karzai (the man) has allowed this. Most Afghans would love to just watch him burn in an IED. Shirzai is everything bad in Afghanistan. Karzai (the man) should have got rid of him a long time ago.

Dostum. He made a very strong pact with the Devil when he allowed a confessed mass murderer in as second vice president. No one made him do this.

Fahim: Fahim and his brother and the people Karzai have let in are the nouveau power brokers and they are the ones that Karzai has let in. It is not only the position it is the lack of leadership. If you are saying well we need to train him and work with him and change him. I agree but his leadership is suspect. It is not “just his position”

I could go on on about the bad choices he makes. He does not push for real honest leadership. This is HIS fault not the position. We need to reform this man, if not, collapse will happen sooner or later. If he does not change this government is not long for this world. The population is seething at this man.

Karzai for all his emotional tender side is a pathetic liar. He promises this and that position to about 20 people. I know 5 people he promised the Mayor of Jalalabad to. I know 3 people he promised the Communications Ministry to. It goes on and on.

This is not the position it is Karzai. He is a weak leader.It is not only the position it is the lack of leadership. If you are saying we need to train him and work with him and change him as per the Novak paper, I agree but his leadership is suspect. It is not “just his position” He is a terrible leader and Afghans do hate him now.

IF we do not change him, then we need a unity government with him and Abdullah before the crisis gets too deep.

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