Afghan Biographies

Taliban ante Portas

Subject Taliban ante Portas

Because of corruption and cronyism, Karzai’s government has palpably failed to secure the loyalty of much of its civilian population. That political weakness –combined with the economic impact of a Western withdrawal that will leave a large number of Afghans jobless – amplifies fears in Kabul over a descent into mayhem. Elections over which Karzai himself will oversee to pick a new president inspire little confidence that the disastrous dynamic of incompetent governance will be reversed as long as the war rages on.

That has left two choices:

First, an uncertain effort at a settlement with the Taliban that [the insurgency] so far firmly and decisively rejects or

Second, an open-ended Western commitment to supporting the Afghan government, as well as a mix of Afghan forces, which will not have any army that is really ready to assume true responsibility for Afghan security until sometime after 2016, and whose police are unlikely to succeed at any point in the future.

If there are shaky grounds for optimism to believe in the first choice, they may rest on the Karzai government’s questionable ability to make peace with the Taliban, rather than on its capacity to wage war on the insurgents. Karzai’s own High Peace Council late last year proposed a peace process that gives a leading role to Pakistan – a turnabout for a government that has fiercely opposed Pakistani involvement in Afghan affairs. The proposed “Afghan Peace Roadmap to 2015” would also see the Taliban effectively invited to share power in Kabul and to appoint the governors of regions in which it is strongest, all while supposedly “respecting” the Afghan constitution. As alarming as that proposal is to many concerned for human rights and democracy in Afghanistan, it may only be an opening bid. After all, even if the Taliban wants a deal, it may not feel sufficient pressure to make one on Karzai’s terms.

The second choice is no choice, because the West is irreversible on the run from Afghanistan - the faster the better.

Released 2013-01-11