The Economist takes stock of the current situation in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai continues to disgrace himself and damage his country, with widespread accusations of foul play in the recent presidential elections. It remains to be seen whether he is successfully re-elected.
In another article, President Barack Obama continues to claim that victory in this conflict (a concept devoid of meaning) is critical to keep America safe. This has been and always will be a lie.
The truth is that no such war can ever make America safe from terrorist attack, and Obama must surely know this. There are countless places worldwide from which groups such as Al-Qaeda and others may attack our soil. It may be hard to accept, but terrorism cannot be defeated abroad – although it can be created.
While havens of recruitment and training in places like the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, anything the US government can do is little more than an inconvenience to these groups. For each member killed, they can recruit many more on the back of civilian casualties caused by anti-insurgency or anti-terrorist operations.
As soon as you accept that terrorist organisations will not allow themselves to be defeated in Afghanistan or elsewhere though, then it cannot the denied much of the activity by American forces adds little value. But trophies are needed to prove that their blood and gold is not being spent without purpose.
With Obama losing domestic popularity due to his apparent change of course on Afghanistan, he’s resorting to the national security rhetoric heretofore reserved for the Republicans. In order to back those words, he compromises real foreign policy objectives and strokes insurgency, just to prove that terrorist groups are hurting.
The truth is that America can’t leave Afghanistan now because to do so would condemn that nation to anarchy (and not the good kind so beloved by libertarians). But Obama can’t admit that to the American people. He also can’t admit that President Hamid Karzai is a destructive force in Afghani politics.
Karzai has now explicitly used his position, courtesy of American backing, to subvert democracy. But to remove support for him, as has long been the obvious best course for Afghanistan, would have been to admit a major failure of American policy.
Without fair and free elections however, there will not be a strong enough government to survive without an American presence. That’s why they can’t leave. Reducing troop numbers now would plunge the nation into chaos, and this will be the case until there is a domestic political force with popular support.
President Hamid Karzai has to go, along with all the warlords and corruption that he’s brought to the fledgling democracy. Demanding another election will likely prove necessary, and it should be demanded by more than America to eliminate any recourse from Karzai and his supporters.
Obama then needs to be honest with himself, and the American public. Otherwise, he leaves himself open to attack. That benefits nobody. If tough decisions prove too unpopular because nobody knows quite why he’s fighting the war, the Afghani people will be first to suffer.
© The Free Marketeer 2009