Maybe Karzai Isn't so Crazy After All

Saturday's New York Times reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai now doubts that the US and its NATO allies can defeat the Taliban. As a consequence, these days he is seeking to negotiate some sort of peace settlement with the insurgents. However certain members of his own administration are resisting this effort and are openly decrying what he is doing. But is that which Karzai is looking for such a dangerous proposition? Isn't this exactly what the Obama Administration is itself desirous of?

Maybe, indeed, it's time to stop pouncing on Karzai and give him a break and let him try to work out his own pacific outcome to the eight year old war (or the 25 years old war if you count the Russian invasion). After all, he is a Pastun and his opponents are fellow Pastuns, so they might have common grounds on which to parley. Furthermore, President Obama has set his own date for the beginning of the withdrawal of American troops from the country as of July 2011 -- which is an implicit admission that the US will not stay forever fighting Afghanistan's own battles. Finally much of the opposition to Karzai's overtures are coming from his Northern allies who are hard-bitten foes of any compromise with the Taliban, but remain a minority within Afghanistan.

Karzai's approach does not mean that the Taliban should be treated as equals and that Karzai must give up on all of the democratic, pro-women, pro-free press gains made over the past decade in Afghanistan. No one can forget that the Taliban is renowned for its viciousness as an enemy, killing anybody who opposes its extreme Islamic ideology out of a fundamentalist rage. But if one is trying to bring an end to a bloody internal conflict that has dragged on for years, then some energy and seriousness must be given over to working out a compromise that will restore the nation to being an orderly community. So such a deed must be sought. This has proved possible in Nepal where equally destructive Maoists rebels ultimately worked out a deal with Nepalese democrats that made possible a free society. Karzai's endeavor, in the end, is about being realistic, not crazy.