Doha Talks: A Game of Throne

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While US-Pak and Afghan Taliban are looking for options to resolve the conflict, in perhaps the final round of the decade long war, Mr. Karzai and New Delhi are showing concerns over a lost cause!

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The recent statement of Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, is another addition to the verbal diatribe which he has unleashed against the United States of America in the recent months.

In the wake of the Taliban Qatar office inauguration, aimed to bring in the key stakeholders of the Afghan conflict to negotiate with each other for a lasting truce in the post 2014 withdrawal of the US forces, Karzai’s announcement was a threat that seemingly failed to obliterate the proposed peace talks.

“The latest developments show that foreign hands are behind the Taliban’s Qatar office and, unless they are purely Afghan-led, the High Peace Council will not participate in talks,” the Presidential Palace said.

Previously, Mr. Karzai had announced that his negotiators would travel to Doha for talks with Taliban.

This contradictory attitude is a depiction of Mr. Karzai’s erratic behavior – the one that he is displaying since the announcement of Zero Option policy of the United States, in the start of 2013.

As a person who had turned a blind eye against the United States military personnel violations of local norms, illegal arrests and extra judicial killings with impunity for over a decade, Mr. Karzai chose to flex his muscles at the time when the withdrawal of foreign forces became imminent. During all these years, the drug trafficking by his warlord allies and also the corruption in public offices continued unabated.

In short, Mr. Karzai fears public reprisal once the footprints of the US forces wither from the soil of Afghanistan.

Lessons of History

Mr. Najibullah Ahmedzai was a Communist President, who ruled Afghanistan from 1987 until 1992 – when the Mujahidin, led by Ahmed Shah Massoud, took over Kabul.  Weakened by internal collapse and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Najibullah was ousted from power, to spend his next four years in the United Nations headquarters until the Taliban took over. After torturing the former President, the infuriated Afghans hanged his body publicly on a lamp post.

An adage of a wise man it is; “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Mr. Hamid Karzai and his cronies have clearly forgotten the precedent.

Although Mr. Karzai remained a de facto leader for the last 10 years, the emblem of the bald eagle has held the real power, which has been pulling the strings. Mr. Karzai, in the meanwhile, pocketed the profits from the Afghanistan’s $4 billion drugs industry, and disbursed the CIA’s million dollar funds to the Afghan warlords, most of them with tainted human rights records. Clearly, he forgot that 17 years back, his predecessor also failed to perform his administrative duties.

Michael Gorbachev, the Soviet leader during the times of Najib, is known to lament, “We’re still doing everything ourselves”.

When the Soviet drawdown from Afghanistan was nearing, Mr. Najib was strictly opposed to their withdrawal on the pretext of the threat from the Mujahidin; while publicly, he hailed the day the Russians withdrew as ‘the Day of National Salvation’, to depict himself as an emancipator.

Likewise, the political pundits believe that Mr. Karzai is also playing the same game. Under the cover of arrangements regarding legal immunity, the embattled President is coaxing the US troops to remain in the country.

“He doesn’t want the US to pull out completely…” said Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute.

On the forefront, Mr. Karzai is spurring up nationalist sentiments, and trying to present himself as a leader who could be remembered for defying foreign powers, albeit for a very short time. During March, he incriminated his foreign backers by alleging that they are colluding with the insurgents to prolong their stay in Afghanistan.

“Yesterday’s bombings (in Afghanistan) in the name of the Taliban were aimed at serving the foreigners, and supporting the presence of the foreigners in Afghanistan, and keeping them in Afghanistan, by intimidating us”, said Karzai.

The common denomination, that can be attributed to the downfall of Mr. Najibullah and the impending downfall of Mr. Karzai, is the Indian involvement in Afghanistan. Keen to build up its ‘Big Brother’ image in South Asian politics, India has been meddling in the affairs of South Asia to attain a regional hegemony since its inception.

The ‘strategic edge’ vision of India, meant to destabilize Pakistan after encirclement from the western side from within Afghanistan, is the card that the Indians are doling out since the times of the Soviet rule.

In the 90’s, Kabul’s traditional tilt towards India and false tirades against Pakistan, infuriated the seven Peshawar-based Mujahidin factions that had nurtured themselves to liberate the Afghans from Russian atrocities. This eventually resulted in the decimation of Mr. Najibullah.

Mr. Hamid Karzai intends to replicate his predecessor’s vision. His bellicose rhetoric towards the Pakistani government and increased friendliness with Delhi have incensed those resisting the invaders’ advances from their mountain strongholds.

It is a fact that like Mr. Karzai, the Indians had been a major part of Najibullah’s terror campaign, helping with intelligence, explosives, and agents, offering their expertise in bringing harm to Pakistan.

Undoubtedly, India’s concern stems from the multi-billion dollars investments they have done in Afghanistan. In promotion of their traditional ill will towards Pakistan, their foreign policy failed to keep in check the weak status of the government in Kabul.

A quote of our in-house security and strategy analyst is added here, “India lost everything because of its half-baked strategies and betting on the wrong horses.”

At this critical juncture, instead of criticizing the role of ‘foreign hands’ in bringing Taliban on the negotiation table, Mr. Hamid Karzai should stop appeasing New Delhi, and instead focus on revitalizing the prospects of a prosperous Afghanistan.

The Ghost of Najibullah Ahmedzai

It is said that the spectre of Mr. Najibullah is roaming the streets of Kabul these days. A pall of depression has descended in the Presidential Palace of Kabul, signaling the dire time ahead for Mr. Karzai and his cronies in the Loya Jirga.

Rather than aggrandizement of nationalist sentiments, Mr. Hamid Karzai should start packing his bags; else history would be recounting another incident of castration in the capital of Afghanistan.

 

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Talha Ibrahim - is a certified conflict analyst of United States Institute of Peace.

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