Afghan president Hamid Karzai speaks a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, June 23, 2007. Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday accused NATO and U.S.-led forces of mounting “careless operations” that killed more than 90 civilians in the last 10 days. (AP Photo/Farzana Wahidy)
Update: Fitzgerald: A tribute to Hamid KarzaiÂ
Slick, oleagineous, is Hamid Karzai, but not more than one is used to in such regions. Think of Hussein of Jordan, in his celebrated role as plucky little king. Hamid Karzai, when he first appeared on the world scene, in that beautifully-colored robe he wears, seemed okay. He had brothers and a sister running restaurants in Maryland and Massachusetts. He was the son of a civic-minded Afghan. He seemed — okay. He seemed to be one of those “Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only” Muslims, or as close to it as one might hope for outside of Azar Nafisi and Fouad Ajami. He was not able to fess up to it all himself, but still…or so one thought.
Then came the Speech of Mahathir Mohamed, the sober-toned, yet hysterical and telling speech, at the O.I.C., when he made an appeal for the world’s Muslims to use their brains, not in order to investigate the nature of the brain or DNA or of the atom or the origins of the universe, but only — the only thing he meant by “science” — to acquire military technology, and to defeat, among others, “the Jews.” Smooth Hamid Karzai, oily Hamid Karzai applauded. Interviewed just after, Karzai was enthusiastic about Mahathir’s speech. The oleaginous Karzai said he found the speech deeply impressive. He said he had found the speech wonderful, inspirational, tip-top. Well, that was it as far as Hamid Karzai was concerned.
Never mind that the poppy trade is flourishing and Karzai is weak. Never mind that he is a better than the Taliban. His Muslim solidarity, of the kind he expressed after that speech, leaves a permanent impression: he is not to be trusted. Oh, he’s more to be trusted than any conceivable Arab leader. He’s more to be trusted than any conceivable Pakistani leader. But he’s not to be trusted. That’s it.
His government is famously corrupt. Oh, not as corrupt as that of the Al-Saud. Not as corrupt as that of Mubarak. Not as corrupt as that of Arafat and his successors and collaborators in the so-called “Palestinian” “Authority.” But corrupt. And the American and NATO forces are tearing their hair out.
But he wants, he wants, he wants. A year or two ago he was lamenting all the money spent in Iraq because he thought it should go to Afghanistan. He wants, he wants, he wants.
And he wants the Western powers to prop up his government — why? — but to fight exactly as he wishes them to fight, obeying Marquess of Queensberry rules that will only cause more Western casualties, and that make no sense in the Afghani context.
He wants, he wants, he wants.
* Hamid Karzai is upset.
Really, Karzai is shaking his prayer beads in anger:
It seems lately that NATO forces have learned a few lessons, such as never to trust their so-called Afghan ‘allies’- and since they do that, they are roasting Taliban in good numbers. Inevitable that some ‘civilians” are getting killed in the process, because the Taliban and the jihadists who joined them are using women and children as cover. But Hamid doesn’t like that NATO forces are doing their job. He rather sees them get killed, otherwise it wouldn’t be ‘fair’-, right?
Hamid doesn’t mind when NATO-soldiers are being shot and Talibs are unmolested. Hamid is a great admirer of the demented ex-premier Mahatir Mohamed of Malaysia, a chap he quite likes. Hamid really seems to believe that he could survive, even after the coalition troops leave the country, something we would call the ‘Najibulla-syndrome’-
But no; Hamid knows (or does he not?) that he wouldn’t last 24 hours without NATO-protection.
However, Hamid wants to call the shots:
Karzai warns NATO: Afghan life not cheap
By Rahim Faiez, Associated Press Writer | June 24, 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan –President Hamid Karzai accused NATO and U.S.-led troops Saturday of carelessly killing scores of Afghan civilians and warned that the fight against resurgent Taliban militants could fail unless foreign forces show more restraint.
“Afghan life is not cheap and it should not be treated as such,” Karzai said in an angry rebuke that drew a contrite acknowledgment from NATO that it must “do better.”
In the past 10 days, more than 90 civilians have been killed by airstrikes and artillery fire targeting Taliban insurgents, Karzai said. The mounting toll is sapping the authority of the Western-backed Afghan president, who has pleaded repeatedly with U.S. and NATO commanders to consult Afghan authorities during operations and show more restraint.
“Several times in the last year, the Afghan government tried to prevent civilian casualties, but our innocent people are becoming victims of careless operations of NATO and international forces,” Karzai said at a news conference in his Kabul palace.
The casualties listed by Karzai bring the number of civilians killed in NATO or U.S.-led military operations this year to 211, according to an Associated Press tally of figures provided by Afghan and foreign officials and witnesses.
That tops the 172 civilians killed in militant attacks.
“If NATO forces want to be successful in their fight against terrorism and in bringing security to Afghanistan, they should coordinate with the Afghan government, no matter if the operation is small or big,” Karzai said in a mixture of English and his native Pashto.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force responded contritely.
“President Karzai has a right to be disappointed and angry over the scale of civilian casualties in the last few days,” ISAF spokesman Nick Lunt said. “We need to do better than we have been doing so far.”
Foreign commanders insist they take great care to avoid civilian deaths while trying to beat back the Taliban so that Karzai’s frail government can deliver services to the impoverished south and east.
Both U.S. and NATO forces, however, rely heavily on devastating air power. That helps minimize foreign troop casualties while inflicting heavy losses on militants — but also regularly harms innocents.
“Every single ISAF commander knows and says that we can do our job here if we have the consent of the people. But unlike the Taliban, we do not set out to cause civilian casualties, and that is a critical difference,” Lunt said.