Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Potential allies: Karzai, Pakistan and the Taliban?
If you still thought things hadn’t dramatically changed on the Afghan chessboard ever since U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to begin pulling out from mid-2011, you only need to look at President Hamid Karzai’s recent utterances, or more accurately the lack of it, on the Taliban and Pakistan, the other heavyweights on the stage.
For months Karzai has gone noticeably quiet on Pakistan, refusing to excoriate the neighbour for aiding the Taliban as he routinely did in the past, The Guardian quoted a source close to the country’s former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh as saying.
Karzai, in fact, has lost faith in the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and is increasingly turning to long-time Taliban supporter, Pakistan, to end the deadly insurgency, it said. Saleh and interior minister Hanif Atmar resigned this week, which Karzai’s office said was because of lapses that led to a Taliban attack on a peace jirga last week in Kabul.
But Saleh himself told Reuters in an interview that he had quit because he opposed Karzai’s orders for a review of Taliban insurgents in detention, part of moves the president has launched to reach out to the hardline Islamists in a bid to end the nine-year war. The jirga, packed with tribal elders and notables considered loyal to Karzai, endorsed his plan to seek negotiations with the insurgents who have virtually fought U.S.-led NATO forces to a bloody stalemate nine years after they were ousted
So is this what a final settlement would look like in Afghanistan as the United States pulls back ? An unlikely partnership between Karzai, Pakistan and the Taliban? Quite a change from the time when Karzai and former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf levelled harsh accusations against each other.
The one problem though in this new game is that the Taliban don’t seem to be playing their part, despite the best entreaties from Kabul. Indeed they have unleashed a torrid spell of attacks beginning from the time the jirga opened in a big tent in the west of the capital. The Taliban weren’t invited to the peace council; not that they were going to attend even if they were invited. Instead they showed up as a three-men suicide bomber squad dressed as women in a burqa. The attack was foiled, but not before rockets landed barely 100 metres from the tent just as Karzai was speaking.
Then a suicide bomber killed at least 40 people, a quarter of them children and wounded 77 in a particularly savage attack on a wedding party in southern Kandahar province. That was followed by a report about the public execution of a seven-year-old boy in neighbouring Helmand province. The child was accusing of spying for U.S. forces and hanged from a tree. And on Friday came another attack, this time a roadside bomb blowing up a minibus killing nine people, mostly women and children, again in Kandahar province. You would have to ask under what law, however orthodox, can you justify the execution of a child?
Some people are also pointing to the lack of response of the Afghan people to the savage acts of the past week. Nobody took to the streets to protest the attack, for example on the wedding party, or the public hanging of the child. For the sake of the argument, imagine U.S.-led forces bombing a wedding and killing 40 people . Surely there would have been protests and they would be every bit justified.
As NightWatch intelligence pointed out, the attack on the wedding party violates Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s code of conduct published last year, but there is no outrage or punishment mechanism, it seems, for rogue Taliban operations.