Decoding Hamid Karzai

By Suchitra Vijayan and Prakhar Sharma

Karzai has retreated from many ideological and political positions in the face of recalcitrant events and shifting context. The most irreconcilable are his opinions about the Taliban as well as his views on the role of the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Over the past few weeks, editorial space in leading newspapers has been dominated by opinions about the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, ranging from an almost Freudian scrutiny of his decision-making to a lazy stereotyping of his behaviour. This deluge of commentary stems from Mr. Karzai's recent decisions to postpone the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States government and to release 65 prisoners from Bagram.

But, how well does existing commentary help us understand Mr. Karzai? Three problems seem immediately apparent: the portrayal of his actions in a manner that seems to betray the absence of any analytical inquiry; an overwhelming focus on his agency at the exclusion of structure, or vice versa, and an oversimplification of his interests as single, dominant or static.

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