April 6, 2010
It is now widely accepted that the surge is only a means to an end: the end to establish a stable society in Afghanistan. This is a mammoth task requiring honest, fair leadership. The hopes of America and the West are pinned on President Hamid Karzai, the questionable election victor.
Karzai has to find a way to persuade warring factions to live together. What then is he doing with China and Iran? He spent two days in Beijing talks recently and warmly welcomed President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Kabul. and met him again in Tehran., as well as meeting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Why was Karzai in China? He was accompanied by the Afghan foreign and defence. China’s Xinhua news agency reported from Beijing that Karzai’s upcoming visit “has drawn wide attention at a time when major powers are speculating whether China would engage deeper in efforts to rebuild – and possibly offer military assistance to – the war-torn country.”
Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie promised military cooperation. “Chinese military will continue assistance to the Afghan National Army to improve their capacity for safeguarding national sovereignty, territorial integrity and domestic stability,” Liang said. China is focusing on military supply and personnel training.
China continues to make it clear that China will not be drawn “a war on terror”. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said recently that military means would not offer a fundamental solution to the Afghan issue cannot be fundamentally solved militarily. China has rejected NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s efforts to involve Asian countries.
It seems that Beijing is encouraging Afghanistan to reduce its dependence on the US and that Karzai is looking for a “diplomatic balance” by obtaining more support from other influential countries.
Why was Karzai in Iran? His celebrating the Nowruz festival in Tehran, among Persian-speaking regional countries, seems to have been to emphasize Afghanistan’s multiple identity as a plural society of pre-Islamic antiquity. Politically, of course, it also sought to show his freedom from US control.
Needless to say, Washington is furious, as was made clear by President Obama in his unexpected trip last week to Afghanistan. In fact, the Americans are fed up with Karzai, but there’s no alternative. He’s certainly biting the hand that feeds him, but with his Chinese and Iranian friends, feels that he can. The West appears to be losing the Afghan president.
American presence in the region is widely resented. China and Iran would of course like to see it ended. Karzai appears to be playing Afghan-style games with Washington, using Beijing and Tehran to his advantage. The US wants to maintain its presence and to reap some reward after spending such vast resources on Afghanistan. China is using its money to invest in natural resources there.
China’s security is threatened by the war in Afghanistan and wants a strong government there. A weak government in Kabul means a porous border, uncontrolled drug trafficking and arms smuggling and a shelter in Afghanistan for Xinjiang separatists; but China fundamentally disagrees with America’s approach.
Iran encourages anyone and anything to cause problems for the US, but clearly has a close interest in the future of Afghanistan.
Karzai completed two weeks of ‘mischief making’ with a speech to his parliament on 1 April, accusing the West and the UN of orchestrating widespread fraud that marred his presidential election, and of seeking to undermine his government – unbeatable for breathtaking chutzpah.
The message to the US and the West is clear: Karzai is behaving in traditional Afghan style and will not deliver the country Washington wants. Nor will anyone else.Author : Stanley Crossick