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.