Failure of a Jirga Foretold
"Bush and Karzai face the specter of defeat in Afghanistan"
Advertised by US officials as a “private strategic session” between partners, the visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzaï to Camp David at the invitation of President George W.Bush takes place a crucial time as the specter of failure looms over Afghanistan.
Mr Karzaï , who is ever the optimist, had to concede on Sunday 5 August in an interview on CNN that “Security has certainly deteriorated after the last two years. There is no doubt about that”. The fate of 21 South Korean hostages held by the Taliban, who have killed two, since 19 July, will be discussed at Camp David, even if the two presidents agree on a firm stance toward the kidnappers, who are demanding the release of 23 Taliban. Negotiations are now being led by the South Koreans, who have asked for the help of Islamabad. The Governor of the Afghan Province of Ghazni, where the hostages were taken, Mirajuddin Pattan, has accused Pakistani intelligence services of interfering in the crisis.
Afghan officials routinely accuse Pakistan of mounting the Taliban insurrection, rhetoric that has risen in tone over the last few months. At the urging of President Bush, Presidents Karzaï and Pervez Musharraf have agreed to a Jirga (Council) of tribal leaders from both countries to find a solution to the violence which has gripped the south and east of Afghanistan. The Jirga is to be held from 9 to 11 August in Kabul, but the absence of Taliban leaders and the refusal of several Pakistani tribal chiefs to attend place the utility of the meeting in doubt.
At a time when US officials are multiplying the number of menacing statements against Pakistan, accused of having permitted al-Qaeda cells to reform in tribal areas, Mr. Karzaï says that he will raise the issue of the "waves of foreign fighters" entering Afghanistan through Pakistan with his Pakistani counterpart. Mr. Karzaï will also urge Mr. Bush for restraint in fighting the Taliban because the number of civilian victims has become a real problem.
The role of Iran in the Taliban insurrection is another subject of division between the two presidents. While Mr. Karzaï declared on CNN that he considered Iran a partner for peace and in fighting the war on drugs, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates accused Tehran of exploiting both sides in Afghanistan....
For his part, Mr. Bush, who has promised $10 billion in aid to Afghanistan in 2007, is to demand significant progress in building a state. For several months, foreign military officials in Afghanisan underscore the that lack of "good governance" is a problem that is just as serious as the Taliban…Most Afghanis believe their government and civil service corrupt and a source of more woes than assistance.
As the poppy harvest is to again break a new record, President Bush could again put on the table a US proposal to spray herbicides from aircraft as was done in Colombia. This idea was rejected in 2006 by President Karzai out of fear of a violent reaction by farmers.
Since 2000, the war on drugs in Afghanistan is a victim of discord among the different international actors over what to, the fear that angry farmers could join the Taliban if deprived of their subsistence income and the involvement of government officials in trafficking.