Karzai Discredits Democracy in Afghanistan

In a recent speech given at the American-Afghan business conference, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy to the UN, and one of the enthusiastic proponents of using American "hard power" to reorder the Muslim world, finally admitted to the myriad problems facing the international community in its efforts to resolve the Afghan conflict. That these pronouncements were now trite, since they were well-known facts to all who had the misfortune to deal with the gangs of Afghanistan these past six years, didn’t faze the speaker a jot.

"There is [a] serious problem of governance in Afghanistan," he asserted boldly.

"At the national level, corruption exists at unacceptable levels. At the provincial and district levels, especially in contested areas, government, particularly police, too often is weak, ineffective, sometimes nonexistent, and sometimes even predatory," he added.

To complete the list of woes, he said that there was "too much polarization" among Afghan political leaders, a growing opium economy, high unemployment, and the lackluster pace of reconstruction.

I am sure that members of the audience must have been nodding vigorously in agreement with Khalilzad’s assessment of the current debacle in Afghanistan, waiting with bated breath for Dr. Khalilzad’s prescription for curing the plague inflicted on the Afghan people by the good doctor’s previous policy recommendations.

"Key reforms must include: making appointments based on merit, countering corruption, implementing programs for institutionalizing the rule of law, and working systematically to extend state authority and good governance to provincial and district levels," he continued, with appropriate gravitas.

By this time the audience must have been ecstatic – there might even have been shouts of "Zal, you’re my man!" But wait: who was to take on the Herculean task of ordering Afghan society in accord with King Zal’s new wishes?

"President Karzai has committed himself to this objective, he has promised to direct his government to advance these goals. We look forward to seeing the concrete steps that are needed to realizing this vision, and NOW," he thundered.

The sense of disappointment, at least among the Afghans who know all about the government of the Karzais, by the Karzais, and for the Karzais, must have been palpable – the Karzai mob and clean government? Either Zal needed the help of men in white coats, or American society had become so changed that it was possible to "fool all of the people all of the time."

On cue, Karzai parroted Khalilzad’s charges against the congeries of his fellow scoundrels in the Afghan "government" and "parliament" in his next public speech.

"All politicians in this system have acquired everything – money, lots of money. God knows it is beyond the limit. The banks of the world are full of the money of our statesmen. The luxurious houses [built in Afghanistan in the past five years] belong to members of the government and parliament, not only in Kabul but here and there. Every one of them have three or four houses in different countries," he accused.

"With the support of the world community – money, aircraft, and their soldiers – and with full sympathy of the Afghan people, the Afghan politicians were able to return to their country. Unfortunately, I see now that they did not learn the lessons of the past. They should know that the Afghan people will rise against us. And this time, there will be no place [abroad] for us to flee," he lamented.

These Karzai statements revealed two things: First, that there’s no honor among Afghan thieves, and second, that the reason for the Karzai gang’s desperation to hang on to power, irrespective of the cost to the international community in blood and treasure, is because this time there will be no place for them to flee!

The chutzpah of Messrs. Khalilzad and Karzai is astounding – here are two people who’ve been responsible for so much death and destruction, all resulting from their own self-serving aims and actions, yet they address the resulting chaos as if it were somebody else’s mess. It brings to mind a friend’s old Labrador who used to fart and then get up and leave the area of his stench, looking accusingly at anyone else in the vicinity.

During the immediate aftermath of the "leftist" coup that brought down Prince Daud’s government, I happened to be sitting and discussing the possible future course of events with an Afghan ambassador. He was one of the old breed of American-trained technocrats: he’d been sent abroad on an Afghan-funded scholarship to one of the Ivy League universities and had taken a degree in one of the "hard" subjects, unlike the subsequent "Khalilzad generation," who were given American government scholarships and shepherded and mentored through "soft" subjects like sociology essential to playing their future roles in Afghanistan.

The discussion ended with the ambassador saying: "You’ll see. The semiliterate Khalqi and Parchami self-styled ‘socialists,’ through their brutality and stupidity, will inevitably cause the people to rise against them. In the process, they will not only cause endless strife but will also disgrace themselves and communism." And that is exactly what happened.

The "socialist" revolution was followed by Mullah Rabbani‘s "Islamic Republic." The long-suffering Afghan people soon found that these people followed neither Islam’s tenets nor republican ideals – money and power were their motivating factors. As one of them was forced to admit recently, all of the people who stayed in obscene luxury in Peshawar, while they sent young men to their deaths in the jihad against the Soviet Union, were really interested in obtaining ya naam, ya naan, meaning "either status or livelihood."

The years of "Islamic clerical rule" of Rabbani & Co. added to the physical and moral destruction of Afghan society to such an extent that the people welcomed the advent of the Pashtun-dominated Taliban movement, because at least it brought peace and security to Afghanistan, albeit with the Afghan rural traditions and Islamic values so resented by the relatively small urban "educated" population.

One of the canards purposely propagated about the Pashtun Taliban, particularly by their Tajik opponents, is that they brought Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to Afghanistan. All serious students of Afghan affairs know that this is the big lie that is continually repeated in the hope that it will be accepted as historical truth. The reality that Osama bin Laden first arrived on the scene during the time of U.S.-supported Afghan jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan is conveniently ignored by the Tajiks’ foreign supporters and their allied corporate media.

The al-Qaeda network was expanded during Rabbani’s tenure as president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. In fact, it was Rabbani who in 1996 "allowed Osama bin Laden to shift from Khartoum [Sudan] to Jalalabad [Afghanistan]," as confirmed recently by B. Raman. Furthermore, Rabbani’s Tajik government facilitated al-Qaeda’s recruitment efforts by issuing visas and Afghan passports to hundreds of foreign extremists, all under the guise of "Islamic solidarity." And people conveniently forget that Rabbani and his associates started their political careers by joining the Muslim Brotherhood.

The cardinal sin of the Pashtun Taliban was not any particular commitment to the al-Qaeda cause; it was their pride and stiff-necked resistance to U.S. demands that these people, who claimed sanctuary with them, should be handed over to the U.S. authorities for judgment. Pashtun honor codes made this impossible.

The events following 9/11 provided a renewed opportunity for three groups of people to play a decisive role in the ensuing Afghan tragedy:

  • Ahmad Shah Massoud’s Northern Alliance of mujahedeen-cum-Communist ragtag militias, who were cowering in a small mountainous strip of northern Afghanistan.
  • The majority of the Afghan diaspora in the West, who were either living on welfare in European countries or eking out a modest living in the United States.
  • The royalists, who agitated on behalf of the politically sedentary ex-king in the hope of one day riding his coattails to high office in Kabul, if the Taliban relinquished power as part of a UN-negotiated settlement.

While everyone else joined or supported one of these three groups, the Karzai clan not only had a foot in each of these camps, but they also associated themselves for a time with the Taliban – that is until the association was terminated when Karzai’s father was killed for allegedly misappropriating Taliban funds in Pakistan. Obviously, the Karzais subscribed to Bob Hope’s precepts: when asked why Hope attended both Christian and Jewish religious functions, he quipped that he did not want to miss going to heaven on a technicality. The Karzais adapted the Hope theory to Afghan affairs, though they aimed to reach financial heaven.

The U.S. intervention in Afghanistan allowed all these disparate and bitterly opposed rival groups to occupy center stage on the Afghan political scene.

An analysis of the process leading to the Bonn Accords and subsequent political maneuverings would require the space of a tome. Suffice it to say that at every juncture, Khalilzad and his fellow sociologists either proposed and implemented ill-thought-out and dubious policies or were outsmarted by their opponents. Even ignoring the kleptocracy that they managed to install and foster in Kabul, it takes incompetence bordering on stupidity to be responsible for bringing a previously anti-Iranian country within Iran’s sphere of influence. What were their assumptions and why?

Contrary to what people may think, politics in Afghanistan during Khalilzad and his contemporaries’ time was restricted to Kabul. The population of Kabul at the time was perhaps half a million, if not less. Of these, fifty thousand or so were in government employ, the majority being the Tajiks living in Kabul. At the top of the pyramid sat the royal household. Consequently, Afghan politics consisted of trying to acquire or keep royal favor, or at least get near the centers of power, which emanated from the palace.

The rest of the country, making up almost 90 percent of the population, was content to be left alone to work their land and raise their crops – as far as they were concerned, the less government attention turned toward them, the better. To them, "government" meant taxes from which they saw no benefit and their sons being taken from them and conscripted into the Afghan army. This situation bred a total disconnect between the population of Kabul and those living in the rest of the country.

The divisions were so marked that the relatively small urban population and the majority rural population appeared almost to live in different countries. Crucially, the two populations’ perceptions of government, and the limits of its power, differed.

The residents of Kabul, particularly those at the extreme edges of the circles of power, mostly the offspring of government employees, were ignorant of the limits of government power in Afghanistan. They wrongly assumed that just as they and their fathers were in awe of even minor government officials, the same fear pervaded the hearts of Afghanistan’s rural population.

Consequently, Zalmay Khalilzad and others who espoused democratic ideals, and before them, the young urbanized officers who staged a coup espousing socialist ideals, were deluded – their acquisition and use of the government’s "monopoly on violence" consistently failed to overawe and shock the rural population into submission. Instead, the "educated elite," flying the flags of convenience of either leftist or rightist ideology, and their foreign mentors have themselves been shocked and awed by the rural population’s resistance to the imposition of imported political and social paradigms. In the process, the elites have succeeded in discrediting first socialist dictatorship, then "moderate" clerical rule, and now democratic capitalism in Afghanistan.

Some of Karzai’s foreign supporters have been repeating ad nauseam that while Karzai has surrounded himself with base scoundrels, he himself is honest and of royal stock. The people in Afghanistan, particularly the Kandaharis, know this to be arrant nonsense.

Everyone at present on the Afghan political scene has been guilty of "social status inflation": a father who was a minor provincial official is metamorphosed by the son into an adviser to the king; a district magistrate father is turned into a high court judge; a minor bank employee father is claimed to have been a member of a bank governing board. These elevations are sad but harmless lies that do not affect Afghan affairs.

However, Karzai’s case is different, because it explains why the Afghans view him and his family with contempt. His family’s history demonstrates the malign and destructive roles that the Karzai clan has consistently played in Afghan society for the past 60 years.

Read more by Bahlol Lohdi