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Afghanistan: the Diem Moment?

Afghanistan: the Diem Moment?
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My friend Dexter Filkins tells it all ("Inside Corrupt-istan," NYT, Sept 5, 2010), viz: Transparency International ranks Afghanistan 179th in terms of corruption, ahead only of...Somalia; and ex-deputy attorney-general Fazel Ahmad Fakiryar, who tried to bring corruption charges against members of the government of Hamid Karzai and who was dismissed by the latter for his efforts, has become a national icon.
Robert Gates, who tries gamely to be straight with the public while adhering to national policy, has never been effusive about what is happening in Afghanistan. Other defense observers, such as retired Col. John Nagl last week on The News Hour, have candidly acknowledged that Mr. Karzai has become a major problem for American policy aims in Afghanistan.
It is clear that Karzai has lost all credibility with the Afghan people -- to the extent that one wonders whether, in the secret corridors of Washington, a discussion might be moving from whether to dismiss Karzai to how to do it.
In the summer and fall of 1963, a consensus arose in Washington that the government of Ngo Dinh Diem must go, and that his brother and security chief. Ngo Dinh Nhu, should also be removed. The brothers, and particularly Nhu, were becoming anti-American and were flirting with Charles de Gaulle and even with...Hanoi. President Kennedy authorized the coup in writing but left the modalities, to use a diplomatic phrase, to his fellow Bay Stater, Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, in Saigon. In the event, the coup was horribly botched by the South Vietnamese military: the two brothers were assassinated and their bodies dragged through the streets of the capital.
By contrast, a removal of Mr. Karzai might turn out to be more straightforward. Karzai is wholly reliant, for election victories and even his own security, on a small cabal of power-brokers. If persuaded that it is in their interest, these men might convoke Mr. Karzai and offer him and his family members and relatives safe passage out of Afghanistan to a country of his choice - perhaps one of those McMansions in Dubai that were paid for out of Kabul Bank funds.

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