Karzai’s tilt toward Tehran


by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

It’s wretched enough that our “friend” Ahmed Chalabi has become Iran’s point man in Iraq. Now “our man in Kabul,” President Hamid Karzai, is quietly shifting his loyalty to Tehran.

Beyond Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinejad’s recent chummy visit to Karzai — reported by the media but downplayed by Washington — Iran’s been training Taliban forces to kill our troops more efficiently.

Karzai hasn’t complained. Nor has he objected to Tehran’s expansion of its support for its clients in western Afghanistan. He wants that support for himself.

Far from being a gleaming apostle of democracy, Karzai’s just another hustler from the lands that perfected the con. Like Chalabi, he knew the magic words to say to Americans, then did whatever he wanted for himself, his fantastically corrupt family and his cronies.

Publicly, the Obama administration continues to support Karzai, since the White House doesn’t have a Plan B. But no end of US officers fresh from the combat zone are disgusted with the latest emir in Kabul and his government’s shenanigans. For their part, our generals mutter among themselves and cross their fingers.

Karzai’s people despise him; his allies distrust him; his enemies mock him. And our troops keep him in power. Does that sound like a formula for success?

Pakistan’s in on Afghanistan’s new deal, too, along with Islamabad’s favored Mujaheddin terrorist faction, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami (as I predicted in The Post last month). Our government’s even welcoming Karzai’s negotiations.

Splinter groups from the Taliban also will join behind-the-scenes talks in the coming months — at Karzai’s public request. Afghanistan’s opium kings and warlords will get their cut of the settlement, too (if somewhat more quietly).

And what will we get, after a decade of pouring out blood and treasure in our madcap attempt to civilize barbarians? We’ll get to go home. Empty-handed.

And the new Afghan national anthem will be taken from The Velvet Underground’s first album — Lou Reed’s “Heroin.”

Pressured gently by a hand-wringing Obama administration to reform his government and deliver services to his people, Karzai’s plainly decided that he can’t count on us for protection much longer. Double- and triple-dealing, corrupt elections, family drug deals, massive graft, phenomenally poor governance . . . sooner or later, even Washington wakes up.

So Karzai’s rushing to cut multiple deals to maintain his throne in Kabul. It may well work in the short term. In the longer term, he’ll be dead or in exile (bemoaning the lack of American support for his crusade for democracy . . .). Scamming Americans is one thing, playing Iranians or Pakistanis another. We send sniffy diplomatic notes. They send assassins.

Also noted in previous columns, Pakistan’s making a grand show of helping us by busting senior Taliban and al Qaeda officials (which they could have done years ago). Islamabad’s not doing it out of solidarity with Uncle Sam, but because it needs to weaken Taliban elements and leaders it can’t control in order to close the hoped-for Afghan deal.

Coming perhaps as early as this year (certainly within the next few years), the Karzai Compromise will at first look like this:

* Karzai remains the titular head of the Kabul regime.

* Iran “owns” western Afghanistan.

* Pakistan replaces the United States as the Kabul government’s security guarantor.

* NATO grabs the excuse of “national reconciliation” to dash for home.

* The United States won’t be far behind NATO, although we’ll continue to pour in aid to “avoid destabilizing the situation.”

This being the Greater Middle East, the deal won’t last. Karzai holds too weak a hand; national ambitions are in conflict; the hatreds go too deep. Here’s what will come next:

* The Iranians and Pakistanis will struggle for influence. The next phase of the endless Afghan civil war will be a proxy fight between Tehran and Islamabad (alongside the internal factional warfare).

* Al Qaeda will align with Pakistan, gaining clandestine sponsorship.

* Karzai will be replaced by a tougher ruler backed by Pakistan, while the Iranian side elevates its own contender for power based in Herat.

* India will side with Iran. China will support Pakistan.

* Pakistan will find itself unable to control its Afghan proxies, after all. Another military regime will take power in Islamabad, as Pakistan finds itself bogged down in an Afghan morass and violence spreads at home.

* The Taliban will fight everybody and outlast everybody.

As our troops surge slowly into Afghanistan to save the inept Karzai government, they may already be irrelevant. We’re no longer in on the deal. Everybody knows it but us.


NY Post / copyright 2010 NY Post

Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Endless War: Middle Eastern Islam vs. Western CivilizationHis most recent novel is “The War After Armageddon,” is on the street. His most most recent non-fiction book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.” He is Fox News’ strategic analyst.

Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.

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