Whatever else Hamid Karzai may be, he's always been a survivor. And now he's trying to survive the Obama Administration. Karzai knows that unlike Bush, Obama has no commitment whatsoever to Afghanistan. What Obama wants is to pull out as quickly as possible in time for his own 2012 election. And he wants to do it without the appearance of a disaster and a defeat. And there's only one way to do that, cut a deal with the Taliban.
The surge was supposed to be a show of force, to force them to the table, but the real gambit was to put the Taliban back in power.
For Obama, Afghanistan is a threat to his political neck. For Karzai, it's a threat to his actual neck, and Karzai is a survivor. And so he in turn began sabotaging Obama's Track 2. If the Obama Administration wanted a show of force and some high profile prisoners, he helped give it to them, by routing Pakistan's capture of top Taliban leaders who were willing to negotiate with the US. Meanwhile Karzai was using Pakistan's ISI, which had helped fund the Taliban, to conduct his own talks with them. The resulting situation is one in which both Karzai and the Obama Administration are competing to cut a deal with the Taliban-- even as they're fighting them.
This disaster was brought to you courtesy of the Obama Administration, which demonstrated its absolute disregard for the future of Afghanistan and tried to cut Karzai out of the loop in order to make a deal with the Taliban. Karzai's response, within the context of the Afghani system, is completely unsurprising. A successful US deal with the Taliban would mean that Karzai is on his own. And so Karzai rushed ahead to double cross us first.
With both the US and the "legitimate" Afghani government courting Taliban factions, the chaos has grown incrementally, with internal betrayals by the Taliban and the collaboration of ISI yielding spectacular captures. This has led to some short term successes, but the real problems are only growing.
Both Karzai and the Obama Administration now essentially agree that the Taliban will take over again, the disagreement is who will cut the deal and on whose terms it will happen. Karzai wants to stay in power and maintain a stable coalition with his own warlords. Obama wants a problem-free pullout, with no video of US helicopters abandoning pleading crowds in Kabul. But whichever of them gets their way, the pleading crowds will still be there, because the people we promised to liberate have been sold out instead.
Neither Obama nor Karzai care very much about what will happen to the girls' schools we set up, to the women escaping their husbands, to the translators who worked with us, and all those who really believed that we were bringing a new day with us. Some of these will get visas to come to the United States. A few will even get invites to the White House for a convenient photo op, so long as they keep their mouths shut. The rest will be back under Taliban rule, because a deal might be cut to let Obama wave his "Mission Accomplished" flag, or one to let Karzai maintain a coalition, but the day to day Islamic law will be back either way.
Worse yet Afghanistan's future will send a message once again that no one should put their faith in the US. That any liberation that comes will be strictly temporary and then the people we drove out will be back. And that means the next time we come after the Taliban or terrorists anywhere else, allies will be much harder to come by.
The lesson we've taught is that not only will we negotiate with terrorists, but we'll sell out those who helped us and replace them with the very people who were killing us. We did it in Iraq not too long ago. So it's no surprise that we're set to do it again in Afghanistan. Karzai knows it too, so unsurprisingly he's threatening to join the Taliban. And why not. If we reserve our best rewards for our worst enemies, then it pays more to be our enemy than our friend.
Don't believe me? Just ask Israel, which has spent the last two decades being blamed for every Muslim terrorist attack and hostility toward America by Muslim regimes. Just ask Taiwan which stood by the US while the Communist Chinese were sending battalions into Korea. Or would have if we hadn't done our best to keep our distance even then. Just ask Columbia, which stood by us, only to face an administration eager to take its showers with Chavez. Just ask England which fought with us in Afghanistan and Iraq, only to be shown the bottom of Obama's shoe. Why would Karzai or anyone else want to be the New Israel, berated, belittled and sold out at every turn. Much better to be the Taliban. Much better to bomb Allied convoys and then demand cash and concessions to stop.
Under the Bush Administration, Afghanistan was meant to demonstrate that we could take the darkest Islamist corner of the world and bring light to it. Obama instead is demonstrating the brand of Realpolitik that will end any such hope in order to score some political points before his own election. And so another dream dies in betrayal and lies.