Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

While Karzai and the West dueled, Afghans lost

April 13, 2010

AFGHANISTAN/

While Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his American backers were having a very public row, 170 people were killed in political violence in Afghanistan last week, foreign affairs expert Juan Cole points out on his blog Informed Comment.

There were 117 incidents according to the Afghan interior ministry, four times the number for the previous week. Most of the violence was in the south casting a shadow over supposed U.S. gains in the region, Cole says. Indeed residents in Marjah, the site of a major military offensive against the Taliban, are complaining of lack of security, he quotes a report by the local Pajwhok news agency as saying.

Residents say there is poor security, that civilians are caught in the cross-fire between U.S./Afghanistan National Army troops and the Taliban, and that it is dangerous to work their fields (Marjah is a set of agricultural villages and scattered farm houses).

They say that the Afghanistan police have not provided even the level of security that the Taliban once had, the report says. Security for villagers remains precarious in Marjah, Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson who led the Marine assault told the Los Angeles Times in an interview this week. The Taliban were still planting explosives and intimidating people.

And all this while Karzai and U.S. officials were having a go at each other with the Afghan leader even threatening to join the Taliban if the West didn’t back off. (It’s another question that the Taliban may not admit him to their ranks straightaway, might put him on trial instead).

Karzai is getting support from an unlikely quarter though. Liz Cheney has attacked President Barack Obama for his cooling relationship with Karzai.

Here’s what Cheney had to say: “Afghan President Karzai, whose support we need if we are going to succeed in Afghanistan, is being treated to an especially dangerous and juvenile display from this White House. They dress him down publicly almost daily and refuse to even say that he is an ally. There is a saying in the Arab world: It is more dangerous to be America’s friend than to be her enemy.”

At week’s end Karzai and Washington were backing off, like a couple renewing their vows after a domestic tiff.  But on the ground Afghans continue to pay a price.

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