“…The unstated purpose of Barack Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan this week â€“ his first since entering the White House â€“ was to confront Mr Karzai directly about his apparent unwillingness to back Nato’s efforts to mend his benighted country. As one US official confided to me after the meeting: “He read Karzai the Riot Act.”
The corruption that affects almost every aspect of Mr Karzai’s government is well-documented, as is his administration’s lack of interest in trying to establish its authority beyond the walls of the presidential palace. But recently Western officials have noticed an altogether more alarming development, one that seriously jeopardises the entire Nato mission.
On both of my recent visits to Kabul, senior Nato officers have privately expressed their deepening concern about Mr Karzai’s personal dealings with the Taliban â€“ which, I’m told, now take place on an almost daily basis. For the head of a government that is committed to a process of political reconciliation, establishing a dialogue with the Taliban makes perfectly good sense. But Mr Karzai’s refusal to discuss the precise nature of his contacts with the insurgents has led some Western officials to conclude that the Afghan president has an altogether different agenda: that of encouraging the Taliban to continue their attacks on Nato. That was certainly the view of one American general I met, who was convinced that Mr Karzai was backing the Taliban.
Nor have Western concerns about Mr Karzai’s true loyalties been allayed by the Afghan president’s recent diplomatic forays to China and Iran. Neither of these countries can be said to be well-disposed towards the success of Nato’s mission in Afghanistan: in fact, Iran is actively engaged in trying to wreck it. Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, accused Iran of playing a “double game” when he visited Afghanistan last month â€“ on the one hand supporting Mr Karzai, on the other providing the Taliban with the technology to make their roadside bombs even more deadly. But if, as some American officials believe, Mr Karzai is himself in league with the Taliban, then the Iranian policy seems to make more sense."
2010-04-02 18:37:32 UTC