Whose side is Karzai on?
That’s the question Americans should be asking themselves after Afghan authorities last week released 65 men suspected of terrorism.
A true ally wouldn’t release prisoners suspected of terrorism, but that’s exactly what Karzai has done. According to the U.S. military, the suspects had direct involvement in planting bombs that killed American military personnel, Afghan civilians and security forces. Some of the suspects were caught red-handed with bomb residue on their hands. State Department Spokesperson Marie Horf called the released individuals “dangerous” and said that “they pose threats to the safety and security of the Afghan people and the Afghan state.”
Now, those terrorists are free to kill and maim Americans and Afghans — again. Apparently, Karzai has no objection to the Taliban deliberately killing his own people. It’s when Americans accidentally kill civilians with anti-terrorist drone strikes that he becomes livid. Last month, his government released photos of widespread damage inflicted on civilians by an American drone strike. The problem was that the photos were phony. Some of them had been posted two years ago on a Taliban website. In March, Karzai made the outrageous claim that “foreigners” — read “Americans” — were behind a bomb blast that killed 18. That fact is, according to the U.N., the Taliban have killed far more civilians than American airstrikes have.
An ally would be interested in keeping the Taliban at bay, but Karzai seems intent on doing exactly the opposite. In one more act of treachery, Karzai has balked at signing a security agreement that would permit up to 10,000 coalition troops to remain in Afghanistan. Those troops would provide critical counter-terrorism training to Afghan troops and act as a powerful deterrent against any Taliban resurgence. Afghan security forces have yet to prove themselves capable of effectively battling the Taliban. Without a strong American military presence remaining in Afghanistan, the country could deteriorate into the same terrorist playground that it was in 2001.
As Karzai bends over backwards to placate the Taliban at the cost of American security, he should remember where he’s been getting his paychecks from. For years, the CIA has been funneling to Karzai tens of millions of dollars of cash to keep his allegiance. If Karzai keeps up his alignment with team Taliban, he may find himself having trouble paying his bills. And it’s not only President Karzai who has benefitted from the CIA gravy train. Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, an alleged opium dealer, has received millions from the CIA as well. Ahmed Karzai has also been accused of using his own paramilitary force to strike at Afghan officials.
Karzai’s treachery doesn’t only extend to the U.S. It also extends to the people he is supposed to provide with a democratic government. Ever since he assumed power, his government has been rife with corruption, depriving Afghans of a true representative government. He has stuffed ballot boxes, intimidated political rivals, supported drug trafficking. He has ordered his thugs to rough up one of his government’s top negotiators. His despicable and corrupt behavior has undermined efforts to put in place a legitimate democratic government in Afghanistan, and at the same time has empowered the Taliban and al-Qaida to offer themselves as more trustworthy governing alternatives.
Those whom Karzai has chosen to be in his government are equally corrupt. Thanks to a revelation that came to light courtesy of WikiLeaks, we now know that Drug Enforcement Agency agents nabbed Karzai’s vice president with $52 million in cash — cash that he was trying to smuggle into the United Arab Emirates.
Karzai’s belief in strange conspiracy theories has also undermined U.S. efforts to win the hearts and minds of Afghans. According to WikiLeaks, he has accused the United States of trying to weaken Afghanistan and of trying to divide Pakistan. What’s critical in the Afghanistan mission is to convince the Afghans that the United States is doing all it can to provide stability and prosperity to the war-ravaged nation. Karzai has been doing all he can to convince them of the opposite.
In April, the Afghans will have another opportunity to elect a leader of their country. Karzai, according the constitution, is ineligible to run again. The U.S. has only supported him for lack of any other alternative. Meanwhile, Karzai is doing all he can to discredit the 13-year U.S. effort to rebuild the nation, paid for with more than $640 billion and 2,155 deaths. In order for that tremendous investment in money and lives not to be in vain, the United States has to make sure that whoever replaces Karzai will not simply take U.S. money and aid, but will give the Afghan people a long-lasting stable and secure country. Karzai’s departure should be a happy day in Afghanistan’s history.