Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dead Man Walking?

America does its imperialism as it does its capitalism: when a business fails, blame employees.
A White House favorite -- a celebrity in flowing cape and dark gray fez -- in each of the seven years that he has led this country since the fall of the Taliban, Mr. Karzai now finds himself not so favored at all. Not by Washington, and not by his own.

In the White House, President Obama said he regarded Mr. Karzai as unreliable and ineffective. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said he presided over a "narco-state." The Americans making Afghan policy, worried that the war is being lost, are vowing to bypass Mr. Karzai and deal directly with the governors in the countryside.

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Meanwhile, the Obama administration will have to decide what it wants from Mr. Karzai as it tries to make good on its promise to reverse the course of the war. Or whether it wants him at all. (Dexter Filkins, "Afghan Leader Finds Himself Hero No More," New York Times, 8 February 2009)
Mr. Karzai may have sealed his fate by finally beginning to show signs of independent thinking last year and coming up with a sensible strategy to boot:
At a news conference in Kabul, the Afghan capital, Mr. Karzai coupled his offer of safe passage to Mr. Omar with a warning to the Western nations that support his government, saying that if they opposed an assurance of safety for Mr. Omar they would have to remove Mr. Karzai as president or withdraw their troops from Afghanistan.

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Mr. Karzai has recently toughened his tone when speaking of the American-led coalition in ways that appear to have been aimed at gaining wider support at home. Among other things, he has demanded that the coalition make more measured use of air power to reduce civilian casualties from bomb and missile attacks. With his warning that he would guarantee Mr. Omar's safety, he appeared to have taken one step further in marking his distance from the coalition. (John F. Burns, "Karzai Offers Safe Passage to Taliban Leader If He Agrees to Talks" New York Times, 17 November 2008)

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