Friday, March 16, 2012

Closing Time

As I previously mentioned, village elders distributed blood money to families of the victims of the massacre perpetrated by an American soldier earlier this week. However, read what one of the victim's relatives said to Afghan President Hamid Karzai: "I don't want any compensation. I don't want money, I don't want a trip to Hajj [pilgrimage], I don't want a house. I want nothing but the punishment of the Americans. This is my demand, my demand, my demand and my demand."*

What does this demonstrate? We can dismiss the relative's comment as atypical of "the people" of Afghanistan, but that would be disingenuous. My feeling is that Afghanis have, as Karzai puts it, "reached the end of the rope". Soldiers urinating on dead bodies, a massacre of civilians, and most importantly to the Afghanis, the Quran burning, shows that it is time to leave Afghanistan.

(Read Juan Cole's post about Afghanistan Senate Chanting Against the US.)

I support an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan, as Karzai calls for. The sooner the better.

What is there left to do?

1. Continue propping up Karzai? Can't happen. He needs to rule on his own, or (preferably) the Afghani Constitution has to change.

2. Talks with the Taliban? Collapsed. At least for now.

3. Keep an eye on Pakistan? The US doesn't need soldiers in Afghanistan to do that.

4. Oil? No oil here!

5. Fight Al-Qaeda? All signs point to very few Al-Qaeda fighters are actually in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda has no allegiance to the country (outside of, probably, some nostalgia). They're probably in Yemen or Somalia instead. Those two are much more accommodating failed states at the moment. Pakistan is also a comfy haven.

The best option now is to withdraw combat troops and encourage a national dialogue -- covertly, if necessary. The US should set Karzai up to talk to the Taliban without a US presence at the meeting. If the US can get Karzai and the Taliban to come to an agreement, it would be in the interest of all involved. After that, focus on development.

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