Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets with President Obama in the White
House today. The two have had a rocky relationship
in recent months
, so this visit offers
a fresh start. But their personal relationship is far from the top of
today's agenda. The war in Afghanistan and U.S. interests there face
serious and severe challenges. Here's what they should be discussing.
More Help for Afghan Military Hamid Karzai himself wrote
in the Washington Post, "it is vital that Afghan security forces be
institutionalized and equipped with necessary and sustainable tools. The
international community has been doing this, with the United States
taking on the largest role, but more support is needed."
Karzai Back To U.S. Embrace The New York Times' Mark Landler recounts,
"Beneath twinkling chandeliers and amid tables of pastry and crudités,
the Obama administration set out Tuesday to charm President Hamid Karzai
of Afghanistan, rounding up cabinet members and other VIP’s to welcome him and his ministers at a State
Department reception. The party capped a day of meetings meant to
showcase the breadth and durability of the relationship between the
United States and Afghanistan."
- Put 'Squabbling' Behind Them
An L.A. Times editorial urges,
"with about 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and a pending military
offensive in the Taliban's heartland of Kandahar, Obama and Karzai
cannot be squabbling in public. Their counterinsurgency strategy depends
on offering Afghans an alternative to the Taliban, and so long as
Karzai is president, that means working together."
Karzai to Cede Local Power The Washington Post's Greg Jaffe and Karen
DeYoung write, "The U.S. strategy in
Afghanistan is built around the belief that all good counterinsurgency
is local. In recent months, American officials have focused their plans
on pushing power and money down to district, tribal and village leaders.
But those plans have not sat well with Afghan President Hamid Karzai
... The challenge for U.S. officials will be
to convince Karzai that ceding power and control to local leaders will
in the long run strengthen his hold on office."
September Afghan Elections In the L.A. Times, former UN Envoy to
Afghanistan Peter Galbraith warns that
the U.S. could once again be complicit in the disastrous fraud of the
country's 2009 elections. "The United Nations and the Obama
administration propose to fund Afghanistan's parliamentary elections in
September, even though new rules pushed through by Karzai — over the
opposition of parliament — make fraud even more likely this time."
More to Strengthen Karzai The Center for New American Security's Andrew Exum cautions, "In the end, by having so vocally
and materially committed to the Karzai regime, the United States and its
allies are tied to its successes and failures. The goal, then, should
be to maximize the former and minimize the latter through focused
application of U.S. leverage. ... Designing a political campaign
minimizes the role luck plays in whether the United States and its
allies are successful."
- Formal Policy on Taliban
Reconciliation Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad writes
in the Washington Post, "Karzai's goals and strategy on this sensitive
matter are unclear. Certainly, Afghans want an end to the warfare that
has plagued their country for more than 30 years. At times it has
appeared that Karzai wants the Taliban to accept the new order: Lay down
its arms, acknowledge the Afghan constitution and forswear terror in
exchange for amnesty and reintegration. At other times, Karzai has
signaled that he wants to strike a deal with the Taliban ... A mutual
understanding of an acceptable end state on how to deal with the Taliban
is critical, as are the steps that would be necessary to get there."
Develop Economic Self-Sustainability Matthew Yglesias points to an alarming report showing
that Afghanistan is almost entirely dependent on foreign money. He urges
addressing "the fiscally unsustainable nature of the Afghan state the
community has created."
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