Friday, November 20, 2009

US Scapegoating Karzai on "Corruption" Charges

A well-placed US official who recently spent some time in Afghanistan tells me that the US and UN are scapegoating Karzai with highly-inflated charges of corruption which basically is the cost of doing business in Afghanistan. This official says the real problem was the dearth of funding over the last decade and a half as well as misplaced confidence in eradicating an opium poppy agribusiness too prosperous for farmers to abandon and replacing the poppy growers with traditional agricultural produce. These were only two of the many miscalculations the US has made.

The official says that two-thirds or more of the funds allocated to institutions and dispensed by the US and NGOs actually reach the intended recipients. This is under Karzai's first term and by regional standards and previous Afghani benchmarks, is a great improvement. Yet the US and its FOUR ambassadors keep bumping into each other accusing Karzai of malfeasance and incompetence. And Richard Holbrooke has overemployed his trademark bullying and browbeating to such an extent that he is persona non grata in Afghanistan and is basically regarded as a Pakistani agent.

Holbrooke is now effectively lost any cachet with India as well, leaving him pincered in a Pakistani vise which limits his effectiveness as a regional ambassador and effectively means that Hillary Clinton is the only US official able to deal with all three countries. Given her limited time and skills, this means the US regional policy is at a standstill.

Finally, the spectacle of Karl Eikenberry as a US Ambassador criticizing Gen. McChrystal [who replaced Eikenberry's replacement Gen. McKiernan] has made the American policy toward eliminating or neutralizing the Taliban a complete shambles.

And meanwhile, Dear Leader dithers and dilly-dallies as he can't make up his underdeveloped mind on the issues at hand.

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