Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Can the West salvage Karzai’s reputation?

November 17, 2009


That sure was fast.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told American TV audiences that Afghan President Hamid Karzai needed to take steps to fight graft, including setting up a new anti-corruption task force, if he wants to keep U.S. support. Less than 24 hours later, there was Karzai’s interior minister at a luxury hotel in Kabul — flanked by the U.S. and British ambassadors — announcing exactly that. A new major crimes police task force, anti-corruption prosecution unit and special court will be set up, at least the third time that Afghan authorities and their foreign backers have launched special units to tackle corruption.

There are just a couple of days left before Karzai is inaugurated for a new term as president. Perhaps a few more days after that, U.S. President Barack Obama will announce whether he is sending tens of thousands of additional troops to join the 68,000 Americans and 40,000 NATO-led allies fighting there.

A fraud-tainted election has wrecked Karzai’s reputation in the Western countries whose troops defend him. Support for the eight-year-old war has plummeted over the past few months, even as the death tolls have reached their highest levels yet. For better or worse, Karzai’s Western backers know they are stuck with the veteran leader for another five years, and need to resurrect his reputation fast.

Regardless of how many extra troops Obama sends, the war in Afghanistan is the most important foreign policy issue of his presidency. If he is going to maintain support at home, he needs to show the American people that protecting the Karzai government is a cause worth sending their sons and daughters to die for. That means, after weeks of grumbling about Karzai in public, you should expect to see U.S. officials accentuating the positive in coming days. VIPs who stayed away will be heading to Kabul for the inauguration. Karzai’s new government, expected not to be much different from his old government, will nonetheless be welcomed as an improvement. Hands will be shaken and warm words spoken.

The election was the sort of travesty that can’t be easily swept under a rug. A U.N.-backed probe concluded that nearly a third of votes cast for Karzai were fake. The strong position against vote fraud taken by Peter Galbraith – a former senior U.S. diplomat sacked from his post as deputy head of the U.N. mission in Kabul – showed how deeply divided the Western contingent in Kabul was over the issue. Privately diplomats praise Galbraith for exposing the fraud, but publicly they are struggling to undo the damage to Karzai caused by the debacle.

The ultimate outcome of the election was probably fair. Diplomats say Karzai would probably have won outright in a first round if Taliban threats and rocket attacks had not forced many of his fellow Pashtun voters in the south to stay home on election day in August. He almost certainly would have won in a second round, if his opponent Abdullah Abdullah had not quit six days before it was due to be held.

But the ugly process has yielded only one real winner: the Taliban. An election whose main purpose was to shore up the legitimacy of the Afghan president has instead shredded his reputation and rattled the resolve of his allies. Exactly what the militants hoped for when they sent rockets raining down on voters three months ago.


Hillary Clinton can talk about corruption in Afghanistan, but the fact of the matter is that Hamid Karzai, the U.S. appointed puppet president of Afghanistan, is responsible for all of it! Karzai won’t survive as president of Afghanistan for 24 hours if the U.S. withdrew it support of him! Let’s expose Hillary Clinton’s and the U.S. hypocrisy, therefore: The U.S. can fire him, like it fired General Motors president Rick Wagoner, because GM couldn’t survive without the U.S. Treasury financial help, and Karzai can’t survive without U.S. military help either, period – if the U.S. really means it to bust corruption in Afghanistan!

That said, here is a digest of Hillary Clinton’s hypocrisy: a) Corruption was not a problem in Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion, and the overthrow of the Taliban. After all, the Taliban movement started as bands of religious student hunting down corrupt provincial governors, and grew into a massive incorruptible force across Afghanistan on a brutal anti-corruption campaign. There is no way that they will ever accept the super-corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai just because the U.S. want to leave Afghanistan – but leave a puppet regime behind to control it on behalf of the U.S. When the Soviet Union exited Afghanistan, they left their puppet regime of Babrak Karmal behind, but Karmal didn’t last for 24-hours, and neither will Karzai!

b) Karzai won the last elections in Afghanistan by throwing around the West’s millions of aid to buy votes, and by having his crook officials stuffing boxes with fake ballots, while villagers in Afghanistan told Aj Jazeera reporters that they have never seen any aid money! On the meantime, General McChrystal and Hillary Clinton talk about winning the hearts and minds of people in Afghanistan, while the people are starving, and
Karzai and his corrupt bureaucrats are getting rich. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry said that “Karzai’s anti-corruption talk is cheap, but deeds are required.” (BBC, Nov. 18, 2009) And after 8 years of wanton corruption, Karzai is not going to change. Karzai and his clique are not in Kabul to fix Afghanistan; they are managing the hundreds of millions in foreign aid, and their intent is to become rich before the U.S. gets out! Karzai and his corrupt officials know their tenure will last as long as the U.S. occupy Afghanistan, and when the U.S. leaves, they will leave for exile too. That’s why they are stuffing their accounts in Gulf States banks with $$$$$$$$, and prepare to live like princess in exile when their corrupt regime is swept away by the Taliban.

There is no “if” on this outcome, but only when! Babrak Karmal’s fate is already wafting like a dark cloud over Afghanistan, and that is why Hamid Karzai cannot tackle corruption. He and his corrupt buddies are too busy packing their accounts with $ millions as fast as they can – like the hyenas gorge on their kill before the lions [the Taliban] arrive and force them away, or hang them!

Can the West Salvage Karzai’s Reputation? the title of your article. No, because the Taliban insurgency was born as an anti-corruption movement, and it has established an indisputable anti-corruption record that the Afghans are craving for. Afghanistan was just listed as Number 178, “second” only to lawless Somalia, 179, in the current Corruption Index of the Global Transparency Network. And Somalia is a lawless country without a government. If it had one, Afghanistan would have been Number 179, the last, or the most corrupt government on the planet – courtesy of the U.S. occupation! And the irony of it is that the U.S. wants to give Karzai another 10 years -with additional U.S. troops- until he becomes a “billionaire” before it gets out of Afghanistan the same way it got out of Vietnam.
It is a shameless foreign policy, and it has caused more than 200 stress suicides of U.S. military personnel in 2009 so far.(NBC,WBIR, Nov.18, 2009) Maybe madam Clinton should blame that on Karzai too!
Nikos Retsos, retired professor

Posted by Nikos Retsos | Report as abusive

The Taliban are tired of foreign governments using their home land as a base to carry out their own plans. How would Americans feel if we were invaded and occupied? We’d fight like hell to get our homes back.

The Taliban are no different. When we leave they will continue to get rid of corrupt officials. They might well fall back into tribal infighting, but that is not our concern. They have the very same right to self determination that we here in the west hold so dear.

But lately it seems that we only want other countries to “determine” to be like us. And we as a nation are not exactly at our best. Our presence does nothing but spill American blood. American troops are the protectors of our nation. They should not be used like hired muscle. It is an insult to them and a degradation of their position.

Let Afghanistan determine its own fate. And when they have risen above the violence of change we can engage them as a nation. Then we can begin an exchange of ideas and culture. But you can’t expect much from a country that has not been allowed to find it’s identity. Let them be.


so the world knows that Hamid karzai is a corrupt and terrible politician who stole the elections in his country and does not even try and provide for his people. all this happens while we sit here and applaud him and praise him for his efforts. yet, when ahmedenijad was accused of “rigging” the elections in iran, there was huge outrage and media coverage. there is way more evidence of karzai’s wrong doings in afghanistan then there is of ahmedeijad in iran, yet one is portrayed as an evil, stalin like figure while the other is portrayed as a symbol of democracy. this is what the U.S. foreign policy has become. a joke.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive

The conclusion of the article is that Karzai would have won anyway if the Taliban hadn’t kept many voters at home in the South. This basically reduces the issue to a public relations problem.

I wonder whether those diplomats are the same ones who ordered that Afghanistan should have a Pashtun president after many years of Taliban (=Pashtun) rule and after the US had won the war with the help of the other national groups – who together form the majority. For lack of reliable opinion polls anyone can state anything. But I did notice that before the elections many journalists reported that even many Pashtun were fed up with Karzai.


No, the West (USA) cannot salvage Karzai’s reputation. The sad thing is that they’re even trying. But Obama is showing himself to be just like all the other US Presidents who have been waging war for half a century and more. People put great faith in him and expected some thing else, but he has shown with his massive escalation of US military activity in Pakistan and his imminent “surge” in Afghanistan that he is no different. Afraid to rebuff his own military and seemingly convinced of the idea that the “homeland” can be made safer by killing people in Asia, he will go down in history as just another failed American warmonger. He had the opportunity to change things when he took over from Bush and would have been applauded for doing so. But he didn’t have the balls. Yes, Obama, Iraq was a “stupid” war, but no moreso than this adventure. Sad days indeed – especially if you’re an Afghan.

Posted by David Errington | Report as abusive

The corruption stunt used against Karzai Govt is nothing more than a spin. This ploy in my opinion was used by washington powers who wanted to replace the “Bush/Cheney” man with the Clinton/Obama loyalist. Not to forget the old Northern Alliance man Dr Abdullah. He almost believed that with the invincible power of the US even he could become the President. Mr Karzai is a Pushtoon leader and has been protesting to the military generals against the indiscriminate bombing of civilians and forced entry at night into Pushtoon houses. It is not a secret that the Americans and the Nato armies are making regular payments to the local tribal chiefs to survive in that unfriendly and hostile land. Pakistan Govt. is following the same practice on their side of the border which previously was used by the Brits. in colonial times.
Mr Karzai is equally aware that on both sides of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan the Pushtoons are being killed because of indiscriminate bombings.
Are there any govts. in the world who are not corrupt, perhaps someone should mention it. The corruption is practiced in different styles. Have we not heard from Mr Obama himself about the lobbyists activities in the US? Are we not aware of the French and the British giving millions to foreign Govts. to back up the sale of their military hardware, and what about the smooth practice of the elected eletes of the British parliment who were cleverly cashing in the tax payers money by giving false info. Did I forget Mr barlusconi the billionaire Prime Minister of Italy and should I go on.
Were the Americans not aware that in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India the administration people usually live on their fringe benefits and not on their salaries.
I am not pro Karzai, but consider it indecent to use the word “corruption” against the south east asian and south american Govts, but use code names of lobbyists and the like for western Govts.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive

@David Errington,
I would have preferred to see Hillary Clinton becoming the President and a return to the Clinton somewhat refreshing time. The clintonians underrated Obama’s candidacy and Hillary made several silly errors presenting herself as a naiive person justifying her vote in the senate for iraq war. Obama was smart and made a campaign issue of the Iraq war. We always forget that usually after the departure of a bad leader an imposter arrives. The good leaders are not waiting to take over the empty seats of bad ones. Obama is an imposter and is trying to sail with the wind and not rock the boat. He has kept the republican secretary of defence and clintonians to take the front stage in foreign policies. He has disowned his father’s religion, except his name, who baptised him at his birth (any regular muslim could state the simple procedure for this ceremony). He abondoned the priest during the campaign who according to him was a family friend and had baptised his children. He never promised a change to the people. His slogan was, “yes We Can”, meaning you can.
His foreign policy is likely to end up in a bigger disaster than that of George. W’s. I am of the opinion that both Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton are going to leave the administration before the completion of the first term, accepting the responsibility of the failure of their project”Reset”. Let us hope that in the meantime we would see a new leader emerging to replace Mr Obama and his rag tag outfit after four years.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive

@David Errington,
PS: I feel sorry for the old, women and childern civilian afghans who are suffering the indiscriminate bombings and explosions. I also feel sorry for the young brits who are being sent there. The Pushtoon warriors are capable to take care of themselves. They have done this over the past centuries and they are good at this. It is sad though that the people make the same mastakes over and over again and expect different outcome.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive

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