Can Karzai Control Afghanistan?

Browsing through the internet late last week, I came across an article by Malcom Garcia of the Kansas City Star which said of Karzai, the president of all Afghanistan that “although it has been more than one year since a U. S.-led military coalition removed the Taliban regime from power, American-backed President Hamid Karzai is still struggling to extend his power beyond Kabul, confirming feuding warlords and facing terrorists.

Garcia further adds that “Karzai depends on foreign aid and international security forces in Kabul to stay in power. He has had to ask for aid that was promised but not delivered, and his people are growing impatient.”

The sad fact is that all this is true. The war with Soviet Russia, followed by the destructive wars of Mujahedeen among themselves and the six year rule of Taliban, resulted in the depletion of the national treasury, the loss of a lot of infrastructure, such as roads, power stations, schools and hospitals and government buildings. The destructions of airports, air power and military basis of the government, which could have, in time of need, been used to subdue the greedy warlords, occurred when the Americans attacked Taliban.

President Bush promised that he will see to it that Afghanistan is rebuilt. He also assisted in getting the world donor countries to promise large sums of money toward reconstruction. It is said that the US has, so far spent almost eight hundred million dollars to that end in Afghanistan.

In reality, however, the original voiced estimate of twenty billion dollars, finally came down to only 4.5 billion dollars after the conference in Tokyo. But the Karzai government has not seen any of it so far. Of the purported money that has reached Afghanistan, it has all gone to non- governmental organizations and agencies of the donor countries to spend as they see fit. One of our Afghan refugees in Seattle, who has recently returned here after a month-long visit to Afghanistan, came back with a report that one of these NGO’s spent 150,000 dollars to buy a bullet-proof car for its director, and many thousands more for his housing and guards, to say nothing about his food, drinks and other personal needs. And what will be left in his budget for reconstruction in Afghanistan, God only knows how far that may go.

Hamid Karzai, has no army, no security force of his own to run a country where almost every single national has plenty of arms and ammunition to do with whatever he or she wishes. America is even aiding some of these warlords to help locating and catching the remnants of Taliban and Al-quaeda forces still in hideouts in the country.

It has been said that since the establishment of the Government of Mr. Karzai in Afghanistan, American and allied forces have trained five battalions of men for the country. One must ask, what does this mean? Is Karzai expected to disarm the country with an army of just 1,700 men? Is he expected to put down the power of the warlords and make them accept the rule of law laid down by the central government? Can any of this be done? Is even Kabul safe from attacks by the Taliban, or the enemies of Karzai’s regime or the new opposition to the continued presence of American and alliance forces in the country?

The very clear and fair answer is a resounding “NO”.

If Karzai is the ruler in Afghanistan, why does he not have the means and the ability to do so. Does America think that Karzai can do every thing with his bare hands and empty treasury?

Garcia says that “to date soldiers with the international security force have confiscated 175,000 anti-tank weapons, guided missiles, mines and other explosive devices hidden in and around the city of Kabul.” What about other caches of war material elsewhere in the country? What about the huge sources of instruments of war that the warlords have amassed and are currently using against defenseless citizens and others in may parts of the country?

Garcia says that Karzai struggles to establish control over Afghanistan. But clearly he is unable to do so. Will America really help him in getting the necessary financial aid to enable him to do that? Why not give him the money to create an Afghan army of about 60,000 men, to employ a security force to bring about peace all over the country and see to it that rule of the central government is accepted by every national and he be recognized as a legitimate democratic leader in Afghanistan. If he has the money, it is not absolutely necessary for America to train an army for him. The Afghans know how to use the instruments of war. What is lacking, is the assurance by the nation that the central government has the power and determination to put down any unlawful opposition. Rashid Dostum is a deputy defense minister. He should be in Kabul at his post instead of in an imperial palace that he is said to be maintaining in Sheberghan. Esmael Khan has set himself as the Governor of Heart. He taxes every thing that comes into Afghanistan for the reconstruction projects or other government needs and keeps all the money in his own treasury. If Karzai had the power, he would have caused Esmael Khan to send that tax money to the central treasury to be used, wherever needed.

They say in Kabul that “Karzai is not the President of Afghanistan, B-52 is president.”

Since the ouster of Taliban, some 800,000 refugees have returned to Afghanistan. Most of them have been trying to get established in Kabul. There is not enough space to house them. The government can do nothing for them with its present financial set up. Karzai has to prove to his nation that he has the means and ways to provide them the shelter they need, but does not know with what?

BBC said the other day that “a British parliamentary report on international aid to Afghanistan says the lack of security there is hampering distribution of aid as well as efforts to rebuild the country.” It confirms the error of the international community that did not allow peace-keeping force outside Kabul, and that not enough money has been pledged for reconstruction.”

If more financial aid were channeled through Afghanistan’s transitional government, Karzai’s government would have more credibility with ordinary people. Right now, none of the warlords pay any attention to what the Karzai government says and does. They know that he cannot seriously hurt them. So let him stay in the presidential palace in Kabul and think and boast that he will take control of the country. They all know that he does not have the power and the means to dismantle warlordism and bring real peace and prosperity to Afghanistan without real and concrete help from the international society. And the latter is either unaware or does not care.

The smallest fraction of the financial resources that America has directed toward the war with Iraq, would not only bring lasting peace in Afghanistan but also prove to the rest of the world that America is ready and willing to help nations and peoples in need anywhere in the world. I am sure then there will be no expressions of shame mentioned in the media such as the one I read today in the Seattle Times from Ken McFarland of Westport:

I am ashamed that for the first time in our history, we seem hell bent on becoming an aggressive nation, striking first instead of in self-defense….I am ashamed of our abandonment of qualities that have made us moral leaders in this world: patience, diplomacy, decency, measured words, reluctance to give up on peace unless forced to do otherwise.”