Some in the peace movement have been critical of Afghan President Karzai, and so have some who support the war. Hamid Karzai has made persistent calls for peace and for face to face peace negotiations with the Taliban especially for the past year.
The Taliban's traditional response even early in Karzai's presidency was that he was a traitor not worth negotiating with. If Western antiwar leaders had dwelt on Karzai's comments, it would have tended to convey an idea they wouldn't want to express, that the Taliban is unreasonable. Suddenly top Taliban supporting warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has made peace proposals with Karzai, who was very disappointed that Washington wasn't taken it seriously. The discussion in the US media and among some State Department and Defense officials rather quickly mostly changed to corruption and future election procedure as it always coincidentally does when a US client does something the US doesn't like. Karzai had heaped lavish praise on such countries as Saudi Arabia and Iran, trying to get their help to end the war. Saudi Arabia firmly said it wouldn't mediate between Karzai and Mullah Omar unless Mullah Omar first renounced bin Laden. Karzai's lavish praise of Iran and inviting Ahmadinejad to speak before a joint session of the Afghan Parliament at first received no mention in the US media. But as soon as peace talks with Hekmatyar became concrete proposals, the NY Times lashed out at Karzai for being too close to Iran, dwelling on Ahmadinejad's comments while in Afghanistan. Karzai responded, to all this, that the US is beginning to become occupiers and even suggested that he might have to eventually side with the Taliban if the US clearly became an occupier.
There is an US native American Indian proverb about walking a mile in someone else's shoes, and I think the peace movement's joining of the criticism of Karzai for being undemocratic wouldn't occur if the peace movement would do so.
Karzai came to power at the international conference on Afghanistan in Germany in 2001. He was the leader of the faction that wanted the king to return. He has always been either for peace or a less violent or less vengeful response than those around him. Karzai's brother and father were killed by the Taliban for trying to get the king to return. Karzai's first attempt at peace was in 1994 when the Afghan rebels first began fighting with each other after the Russians left. The following link is hard to follow but clearly indicates that Karzai has consistently gone out of his way in pursuit of peace,
When the UN tried to get all of the Taliban off the terror list to facilitate the hush-hush negotiations the UN had been conducting with the Taliban, the US response was to take four retired Taliban leaders off the list. And they conducted mostly benchmark negotiations or suggestions such as no night raids in exchange for no road bombs. These talks or comments ended when a top Taliban leader Mullah Baradar was arrested by Pakistan, some say because he was trying to meet the Saudis conditions to be the mediator that the Taliban first renounce al Qaeda. Al Jazeera News says Pakistan was afraid of India getting too close to Afghanistan, and wanted any possible peace negotiations channeled through Pakistan. Karzai was extremely disappointed in Mullah Baradar's arrest, which made him extra elated when Hekmatyar got interested in negotiations.
In Iraq al Qaeda is vowing to get even with the former al Qaeda supporting Sunnis who changed sides and joined with the Americans and have continued to have brutal revenge killings against Sunnis who changed sides in Iraq. This is why Mullah Omar hasn't agreed to renounce al Qaeda despite the fact that Omar shuns the mayhem violence al Qaeda specializes in. However, instead of calling Hekmatyar a despicable traitor, al Qaeda internet bloggers suggest that since Hekmatyar has a habit of changing sides he will probably be on al Qaeda's side again as circumstances change.
US ex-Ambassador to Afghanistan Peter Galbraith suggested that Karzai was unstable and may be on drugs. However Karzai has a right to be angry and frustrated at the way the Afghan government seems so powerless to in any way direct what is going on in its name. The sudden US pressure against election fraud is not what it seems. When it comes to fair elections in Afghanistan even the UN slipped up by not complaining of men voting for their wives. Almost every political figure on both sides of the war actually represents his one sub-tribal neighborhood or a warlord representing himself. This except for Mullah Omar who represents the Taliban's longing for tradition and Hamid Karzai who represented those longing for the king and the good old days when Afghans didn't have to be fighting with each other all the time.
If the NY Times and others didn't like the head of Iran speaking before the Afghan legislator why didn't they write and complain at the time instead of just when a peace attempt was taking place? Al Qaeda in Iraq made a concerted effort to blow up the Iranian Embassy. Iran is an important source of hard cash in Afghanistan since Shiite Afghans working in Iran, in the oil industry, and sending some of the money back home to relatives is the only important source of money that Afghans have other than drugs or being in the US supported or Taliban army. Al Qaeda loves to attack Shiite religious sites and religious processions. If one googles, "al Qaeda declares war on Iran", one would note many skirmishes and threats from al Qaeda against Iran. Al Qaeda clearly believes Iranian economic policies and even political policies are getting in the way of the world al Qaeda wants. Al Qaeda wants any Muslim who feels abused and insulted by the West, and that Western culture is overwhelming the world to believe al Qaeda's brutal policies is the only hope to change things.
If anyone notices, the tit-for-tat revenge horror stories that we heard in Iraq haven't occurred in Afghanistan, especially not recently. The war in Afghanistan is being fought differently than other wars. We hear there is a lot less civilian deaths and atrocities in Afghanistan because of General McChrystal and his efforts to avoid civilian casualties. But actually General McChrystal, President Karzai, and Mullah Omar are all going out of their way to avoid collateral damage. Karzai frequently lectures the US to be more careful against civilian causalities, instead of like in Iraq, when US troops had to be on their best behavior following the Abu Ghraib exposes, US interrogators could always turn over suspects to the locals to be roughed up.
When the warlord Hekmatyar proposed comprehensive peace talks he noted that when the Russians left the deaths drastically increased due to the infighting between rebel factions. Hekmatyar wants the Afghan army to remain intact and slowly merge with the Taliban militia as the US leaves to avoid the power vacuum that led to internal warfare and confusion. It would be considered unhelpful for a peace site to mention the possibility of a fast US withdrawal leading to revenge attacks against those the Americans supported and possibly even a lot of infighting over which rebel leader should be in charge. However I'm sure Obama knows this is possible and dreads not only the US being blamed but that he in his own mind might feel some responsibility for such results. I also think certain accusations that Obama doesn't believe, such as that the US is mainly interested in oil and other resources, when confronted with, "Why are you fighting a war for oil and other resources?" leads Obama to have less respect for those lobbying for an end to the war, making him less likely to change course. If somehow the US actually accepts a coalition government between Hekmatyar and Karzai in the name of pursuing peace and the results turn out differently, such as Hekmatyar ending up trying to be totally in charge, and war does break out between rebel leaders wanting to be in charge, it will be an Afghanistan decision not something to hold the US responsible for. Muslim terrorists are fascinated that the Soviet Union fell apart soon after the Afghan war and they believe they were the cause. This inspires militants in places like Chechnya to believe they can defeat Moscow again by getting a lot of Russians killed. Muslim terrorists know that if they attack the US like they did to Russia and Indonesia and earlier London and Madrid, the draft would be back and the US wouldn't be paying a fortune in military recruitment. A worst case withdrawal scenario like happened to the Soviet Union is impossible with the US, but some scenarios are better than others. If Kucinich succeeds at introducing an Afghan cut off date bill at the very moment there is some severe international economic crisis such as Greece goes into total collapse, or the unemployment rate in the US suddenly and unexpectedly going up sharply or there is a severe run on the dollar because of something China did and due to its timing Kucinich's firm war end date bill passes, and the US gets out abruptly. And revenge killings of US supporting Afghans or worse follows, at the very least those who supported the war ending resolution bill wouldn't look good in the next election and al Qaeda might seem to offer more hope to desperate people who believe they are being insulted and abused by the Western world. Karzai is a man of peace far more so than someone who is working on an arbitrary peace date, oblivious to current events in that part of the world.
A few hawks like Dick Cheney aren't interested in what happens to the Afghans, but just thinks the issue is really a handy opportunity to make what he considers import changes in the US. Actually, most Americans kind of hope for similar result over there such as at least have a fleeting desire that women over there not being forced to or even wanting to wear burkas, and that the desperate of the world not seeing something inspiring in bin Laden, and we would all like a reasonable way out of the war, and we are all at least a little worried that the overwhelming drain on the US treasury will be in the long run extremely harmful to the people of the US. During the Vietnam War some thought North Vietnam was a wonderful country where such things as woman's rights were respected, while other Americans thought North Vietnam was a grim dictatorship. In Afghanistan most Americans only argue whether the US is inadvertently making a bad situation much worse, than if we stopped being involved.
To change the subject only a little, who is the real peace activist is sometimes hard to tell. Everyone agrees that General Musharraf was a harsh dictator in Pakistan. However in 2001 after the bombing of the Indian Parliament by Muslim extremists, who were getting (or once had been getting) aid from Pakistan, skirmishes broke out in between Indian and Pakistani troops that were escalating. Pakistan suddenly pulled its troops back away from the border and the potential for, an up to even nuclear war between India and Pakistan was averted. Not much was publicly mentioned of this until the 2006 US election when then Secretary of State Powell began praising President Bush for his involvement in this event. One peace group since then, the Transnational Foundation met with Musharraf on several peace discussions.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar clearly was an evil monster during his youth and during several periods in his life. However he reminds me of a few vowed racists in the US like Elwin Hope Wilson who in old age recanted their past and tried to make amends. Being 61 is very old by harsh Afghan political standards. Hekmatyar's peace proposal makes a lot of sense. He is right that there is a real chance that Afghans will be killing and dying after the US leaves Afghanistan. If Hekmatyar received half the praise that Elwin Wilson and a few other vowed racists that recanted did, the world we live in might be a better place to live in. Hekmatyar once made a determined attempt to assassinate Karzai. Hamid Karzai has as much reason to not trust Hekmatyar as anyone else does. And Karzai has more knowledge on whether this peace proposal can work than the US State Department officials have. Let's again sing "Give Peace a Chance" and let's sing it with our eyes open.
by Richard Kane, RichardKanePA.blogspot.com