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Saturday, 14 November 2009

Washington may lose itself in Afghanistan

A new scandal over leaked confidential information has shaken Washington. It is not in every country that confidential messages to top government officials are published in the leading media within a week.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who once commanded forces there, has told President Barack Obama that bolstering the American presence in Afghanistan would not make the country more reliant on the U.S. unless President Hamid Karzai's government demonstrates willingness to fight corruption and other vices, which are only strengthening the Taliban.
Obama was considering four options for sending between 10,000 and 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, which will cost between $33 and $50 billion annually, and wanted to know how long it would take to see results and be able to withdraw. It was at that time that newspapers published the ambassador's opinion.
Eikenberry thinks that the U.S. will not attain its goals in Afghanistan without replacing Karzai's government.
It is not surprising that the press has published information about the confidential messages because Afghanistan is the biggest problem of the United States and, in general, the Western civilization. The point at issue is not just billions of dollars but human lives. Britain has lost 200 servicemen there, but was it worth it?
It has also become clear that the August presidential election in Afghanistan organized by the United States has seriously undermined American aspirations there.
The Obama administration regarded the Afghan election as a key element of the efforts to solve the Afghan problem. But when Karzai and his supporters were accused of framing the election results, they opted for the worst possible scenario: vote recounting.
When it turned out that a second round of the election was needed, U.S. diplomats did their best to wrench an agreement from Karzai. And then they looked like idiots when the Afghan president's opponent withdrew his candidacy.
Karzai took it unkindly and is now openly speaking his mind about the U.S. policy in his country, which explains Eikenberry's disappointment and messages. But Karzai was bound to speak up after the U.S. had done its best to show the Afghans - as if they did not know this - that their president is a puppet with many American masters who cannot even agree in which direction to pull his strings.
One can rule Afghanistan without elections, but never without respect.
While that black comedy was still playing out, President Obama said at the UN: "Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path ... rooted in the culture of its people and in its past traditions."
This sounds fine, but the United States and the Western civilization as a whole have not yet found a way to encourage Afghanistan to pursue such a path.
In a word, the agony can last long, and the United States will either find a new style of behavior in Afghanistan (and worldwide as well), or it will lose everything (Europe is a separate issue).
Meanwhile, many countries have become more active in the Afghan affairs, thereby creating an alternative to the U.S. policy there. The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution on Afghanistan unanimously and at the initiative of Germany, which is an unprecedented occurrence. The resolution reads that Afghanistan's presidential election was both credible and sound.
Then Japan decided to increase its aid package to Afghanistan from $3 billion to $5 billion within five years. Other donor countries are currently negotiating in Istanbul, Turkey, which means that the international community is not going to curtail aid to Afghanistan.
And lastly, India, China and Russia's foreign ministers added several interesting paragraphs to the final document of their meeting in Bangalore declaring willingness to develop a collective strategy in Afghanistan jointly with other countries.
The reason for all of the above is simple: The United States wants to review its operations abroad, first of all in Afghanistan and near it, but when it needs to do something in a new way, in particular with Russia's assistance, it becomes completely paralyzed.

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