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Russia, Afghanistan and the US: A changing of the guard

Earlier in the week, former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld had some rather harsh words to say about the current administration’s relationship with Afghanistan.

“Our relationship with Karzai and with Afghanistan was absolutely first-rate in the Bush administration,” Rumsfeld told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren on Monday. “It has gone down hill like a toboggan ever since the Obama administration came in.”

Rumsfeld pointed to the fact that the Obama administration has failed to get Karzai to sign an agreement that would allow some U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, when combat ends.

The U.S. has status of forces agreements with more than a hundred countries, Rumsfeld noted. “A trained ape can get a status of forces agreement,” he said. “It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship.”

Now I’m not going to go for the troll about that being a “racist statement”.  Neither of our SecStates or SecDefs were/are black and that’s who would be charged with getting a SOFA agreement.  Rumsfeld’s right.  The relationship has dramatically and drastically changed.  And he’s also right about why:

“And what happened is, the United States government — and I realize these are tough jobs, being president or secretary of state. But, by golly, they have trashed Karzai publicly over and over and over — (Richard) Holbrooke, the special envoy did, Vice President Biden did, Secretary Hillary Clinton has. The president has been unpleasant to him.

“And it seems to me they pushed him in a political box where he really has very little choice. I think there is probably not a politician in the world who dealing with the United States, instead of having the United States deal with him privately through private diplomacy, came out repeatedly, publicly, in an abusive, unpleasant, manner. And I personally sympathize with him to some extent.”

Again, he’s precisely right.  This administration did all it could … in public … to poison the relations.  And yes, Afghanistan is likely corrupt and Karzai as well, but that’s nothing new there.  Karzai was installed by the Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga (assembly).  He’s their president.  It’s a tribal culture.  Figure it out for heaven sake … oh, and keep in mind the big picture instead of playing small ball.

Anyway, these sorts of actions cause reactions and have consequences.  The latest?

Citing “the free will of the Crimean people,” Karzai’s office said, “We respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.” To date, only Syria and Venezuela have taken a similar position.

Does it embarrass the US publicly?  You bet.  And that’s precisely why Karzai did it (or it is at least one of the reasons he did it).  And, there’s more:

“In Afghanistan, Russian officials point to their development activities as a counterexample to U.S. aid projects, which many Afghans criticize as wasteful and misguided. . . . Many Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, praise the Soviet model even though they fought a bloody 10-year war against the country’s army, which invaded in 1979 to support an unpopular communist government.

“The Soviet money went to the right place. They were efficient in spending their money and doing it through the Afghan government,” Karzai said in an interview with The Washington Post this month.

Yes, there’s likely corruption. Yes the “Afghan government” is likely getting its hands on some of that money. But when in Rome, and looking for particular results, maybe knowing what to expect in such a culture and a willingness to play the game might turn out better results (and be cheaper) in the long run that trying to go around the incumbent government and forcing yourself on the population. You know, just a thought … which, apparently is more than our State Department commits to Afghanistan anymore.

Funny, in an ironic sense, isn’t it? “We welcome our former overlords”.

Outplayed by Russia … again.


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6 Responses to Russia, Afghanistan and the US: A changing of the guard

  • I think its deliberate. Having long term bases in these countries means headaches for the doves.
    Better to “fail” to negotiate a SOFA, which can be blamed on intransigent foreigners, and then have an excuse to fully pull out.

  • ANOTHER example of the Harvard faculty getting bashed and bloodied by the KGB.
    I will happen EVERY time.  HAS happened every time.
    The Chinese are rolling all over us, too.
    It’s just fortunate the NORKS are so broke and xenophobic, and the Cubans so broke and broke, or they’d be kicking us all over the playground, too.

  • I think the Administration just doesn’t understand the Afghan culture.
    You’d think the most transparent Administration in US history, with links to Chicago politics, would understand institutional corruption, but no.
    It’s quite normal to buy off your competition in Afghanistan.  In Chicago, they just have a judge knock them off the ballot.
    But what was worse is that this Administration seems to have the bargaining skills of the Palestinians .. which means none.   You negotiate your SOFA agreement before you announce your pullout, not the other way around.

  • Shoot, it’s not like this administration isn’t familiar with pay-offs, kick-backs and feather bedding.  You’d think they’d get along with corrupt Afghan officials swimmingly.

  • I don’t agree with the writer point that president Karzai and rest of his team and government are corrupt, neither I agree with his cites that Afghanistan is having a tribal culture.
    These were the US contractors who utilized 85% aid money via their own channels. I will state here those were anti-Afghans and anti-government channels. Only 15-20% aid was utilized through the Afghan government institutions. So, how much Karzai and rest of his team and government would have wasted from 20% aid? Here we get the double game of US. It seems they are here to invade Afghanistan and drain out its resources and use Afghan land as a strategic point in stead of assisting a war torn nation.
    Now, as president Karzai is going to sign agreements and have good relations with Russia and China the writer very interestingly says “Russia the nation Karzai and his colleague fought with for 10 years.” Sir you won’t remember there is no friend and foe in politics. Afghans are never in a mode of war any more. They are here to be political with all the nations of the world. And Afghanistan is a sovereign nation, whenever it wish and with whom it would suggest can get good relations with.


    Obama’s sixth year in the White House is shaping up as his worst, and that’s saying something. He’s been in the Oval Office so long that it is obscene to blame his problems on George W. Bush, the weather or racism. Obama owns the world he made, or more accurately, the world he tried to remake.