Sometimes called a U.S. ally, sometimes a “puppet,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been avoiding U.S. negotiators for months, who want him to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States and its allies, who have now been fighting in Afghanistan for 13 years.
Even after convening a “council of notables” who highly recommended he sign the pact, he has not and now says “will not,” in a speech delivered Saturday.
Karzai is obviously not happy with the way that the US treats him. It is hard to tell whether it was this way when G.W. Bush was president, but certainly now, Karzai says the US is using psychological warfare against him and Afghanistan.
He says the U.S. is treating Afghanistan very poorly.
The pact that the U.S. wants would allow a U.S. force to mentor Afghan troops. There would also be a relatively small number of U.S. Special Forces left behind to hunt down al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the U.S. withdrawal is finalized.
The Afghan presidential election is to be held on April 5, less than a month away. There are ten candidates, and the other nine have said they will sign the U.S. agreement. Only Karzai is holding out. His claims the reason is that he does not want “a commitment to a longer foreign troop presence in his country.”
After the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the U.S. installed Karzai as president, and he was widely seen as America’s “puppet leader.” He subsequently won two presidential elections in 2004 and 2009. His influence does not appear to extend very far outside the capital, Kabul.
But Karzai and his corrupt regime now can see the U.S. protection lifting for them personally with an angry Taliban waiting to exact revenge. “I want to say to all those foreign countries who maybe out of habit or because they want to interfere, that they should not interfere,” he said.
Recently, Karzai told his parliament that Afghan security forces were strong enough to defend Afghanistan without the help of international troops.
U.S. military commanders do not share his viewpoint. If Afghanistan does go forward alone, only time will tell whether Karzai is right or not.
Karzai is not able to run for president in this election, because he has already served the maximum of three terms, written into the Afghan constitution.
U.S. relations with Karzai have been on a downward spiral since he was re-elected in 2009, when many U.S. officials accused his government of widespread fraud. Three countries share the dubious distinction of being the most corrupt countries in the world – Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia.
In his speech on Saturday, a deluded Karzai urged Taliban insurgents to join the peace process. This is not the first time he has urged them to do this. He also referred to his personal “accomplishments,” including functioning schools, improved women’s rights, energy projects, and a stable Afghan currency. Most of these improvements are largely due to the U.S. military presence.
“I know the future president will protect these gains and priorities and will do the best for peace in the country and I, as an Afghan citizen, will support peace and will cooperate,” Karzai said.
Karzai has probably decided that his best interests are served if it is not he who signs an agreement with the U.S., because whoever does that is likely to be a Taliban target.