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After Fixing Election, Karzai Tries To Fix Peace Jirga

Posted by on May 24th, 2010

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By Steve Hynd

I'm a bit conflicted about this one. One one hand, it shows that Karzai is as venal and casually corrupt a politician as any who walk The Hill, on the other I'm leary of making Karzai the Judas Goat for a misconceived occupation that the US got itself into and should find its own reasons for getting out of. Blaming the Afghans for the American and allied occupation's failure is parochial at best, douchebaggery at worst.

However, this is too interesting to pass up.

AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai's attempt to kickstart a peace process with the Taliban has been delayed again by angry MPs who have threatened to boycott a national gathering intended to establish the ground rules for talks.

The ''peace jirga'' of representatives from around the country had been due to convene in Kabul on May 2, but was postponed while Mr Karzai made a high-profile trip to Washington.

It had been rescheduled for this Saturday, but government and diplomatic sources say it has been delayed again after parliament flexed its muscles over Mr Karzai's failure to send cabinet nominees for the approval of MPs.

… The peace jirga is being touted as one of the critical political events of the coming year. But privately many diplomats say it is likely to be a non-event, during which the delegates will struggle to agree on the hugely controversial issues involved, such as whether the Taliban should be invited to share power or whether the constitution should be amended.

Afghan politicians have also criticised the event for not being truly representative. ''They are hand-picked by governors who were picked by the President. These representatives will simply say yes to whatever [Mr Karzai] wants,'' said Fauzia Kufi, an MP from northern Afghanistan.

Western diplomats who have seen the list of 360 tribal leaders invited to represent the districts say there is a strong pro-Karzai bias. One source said much of the delegation from the critical province of Kandahar would be led by Mr Karzai's notoriously corrupt half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, and most members were on the President's re-election campaign team.

Given that Karzai is stacking the deck, we can expect the Jirga to come out in favor of his plan to reconcile with the Taliban, even its leadership, somehow. That will likely mean eventual peace between the Karzai government and the Taliban and a relieved rushing for the exits by the West. But it's also likely to mean a possible new Karzai/Taliban coalition will be faced with strong opposition from those who feel left out of their deal – with a potential for further violence inherent in that divide.

However, new factional violence between those who perceive themselves to be winners and losers from the Allied occupation was always on the cards, no matter how long before that occupation ended. I strongly believe that, like Iraq, the people of Afghanistan should be allowed to determine their own fates and if they decide to do that at gunpoint then that too is their business.

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