April 14, 2010
The Hindu (India)

Hamid Karzai's Reconciliation Strategy

by M K Bhadrakumar

With just a fortnight left for the "jirga" or tribal council to be held in Kabul, the prospects do not look good. Pakistan is determined to torpedo the Afghanistan government's plan to work out a societal consensus for ending the war through the traditional means of a consultative assembly. The convening of the jirga, for May 2-4, was a pledge made by President Hamid Karzai in his inaugural address last November. The idea has been viewed favourably by the bulk of the Afghan society. On the other hand, western powers, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, acquiesced in manifest reluctance.

To what extent the U.S. and the U.K. are acting in concert with Pakistan to sabotage Mr. Karzai's initiative is difficult to judge but all three protagonists seem to be on the same side of the fence. Their concerns appear to converge on a single point -- a successful jirga would take the wind out of their sails and put the Afghans in the driving seat and, in the process, Mr. Karzai might succeed in unifying the national opinion behind him.

For sure, the jirga can prove a turning point. Mr. Karzai proposes to invite 1200-1400 representatives from various walks of life -- tribal elders from every district, members of Parliament, women, civil society, . . .


Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Amy Chua, "Free-Market Democracy: Our Most Dangerous Export," Guardian, February 28, 2004

[The west's proudest export to the Islamic world this past decade has been democracy. That is, not real democracy, which is too complicated, but elections. They have been exported at the point of a gun and a missile to Iraq and Afghanistan, to "nation-build" these states and hence "defeat terror". When apologists are challenged to show some good resulting from the shambles, they invariably reply: "It has given Iraqis and Afghans freedom to vote."--Simon Jenkins, "As democracy unravels at home, the west thuggishly exports it elsewhere," Guardian, April 8, 2010]

Gareth Porter, "McChrystal Reneges on Kandahar Shuras," Guardian, April 16, 2010

Stephen Grey, "Taliban's supreme leader signals willingness to talk peace," Sunday Times, April 18, 2010

[President Obama has bluntly instructed his national security team to treat Afghan President Hamid Karzai with more public respect, after a recent round of heavy-handed statements by U.S. officials and other setbacks infuriated the Afghan leader and called into question his relationship with Washington.--Scott Wilson and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Obama makes personal diplomacy part of Afghan strategy," Washington Post, May 9, 2010]

[On the broader question of reconciliation, however, Obama was clearly warning Karzai not to pursue direct talks with the Taliban leadership, at least until well into 2011.--Gareth Porter, "Afghanistan's Great Divide,", May 14, 2010]

Mark Mazzetti, "Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private C.I.A.,", January 22, 2011

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