Maureen Dowd : The Caped Capo Who Runs Afghanistan

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Everybody here lies.  But with the arrival of Hamid Karzai, the mendacity blossomed into absurdity.  The question for the Obama White House is not whether it can grow to appreciate the caped capo who runs Afghanistan. (President Obama can’t stand him.) The question is whether Karzai will fall for all the guff they’re throwing at him.  Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Stanley McChrystal were paraded into the White House press room to pretend as though their dispute about the efficacy of the surge, given Karzai’s serious flaws as a partner, has been put to rest. (It hasn’t.)  The administration crooned a reassuring lullaby to the colicky Karzai: that it has a long-term commitment in Afghanistan (it doesn’t) and an endgame there (it doesn’t) and that it knows that the upcoming Kandahar offensive will work (it doesn’t).  Asked by a reporter about the change from sticks to carrots, Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan who has had contentious sessions with Karzai, replied: “No, I certainly don’t think it’s changed.” (It has.)  For their part, the Afghans promise to work on stemming corruption and stopping the poppy trade. (They won’t.)

The administration is trying to delay the inconvenient truth that Karzai wants reconciliation with Taliban leaders; this makes the U.S. cringe, thinking of Mullah Omar and other 9/11 killers…..On Tuesday evening, Karzai was honored at a starry State Department reception along with his ministers — or at least the ones he could get into the country.  He didn’t bring his brother, the C.I.A. pal and drug lord, or other especially sleazy government officials…..On Thursday, Karzai is slated to get a special treat — a long, intimate walk in a Georgetown garden with Hillary Clinton — the one person in the administration who prides herself on getting along with him.  Romantic strolls through gardens, the administration has decided, are the best way to move the corrupt coxcomb to its point of view…..

The Taliban in Pakistan is training jihadis to attack New York, belying again W.’s chuckleheaded contention that we have to wage war against terrorists abroad so we don’t have to face them at home.  Our battles meant to diminish enemies replenish them.  The inept Times Square bomber was infuriated by U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan.  The Pentagon, the public and administration allies are all expressing frustration with Afghanistan.  A majority in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll says Afghanistan is not worth the cost…..The Pentagon said there had been “some success in clearing insurgents from their strongholds” but “progress in introducing governance and development to these areas to move toward hold and build operations has been slow.  “The insurgents’ tactic of re-infiltrating the cleared areas to perform executions has played a role in dissuading locals from siding with the Afghan government, which has complicated efforts to introduce effective governance.”  A walk in the garden, it’s not.

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