Fouad Ajami: Why Are We Still Backing Hamid Karzai?

Roundup: Historians' Take

Fouad Ajami is a senior fellow at The Hoover Institution at Stanford University and co-chair of the Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.

“The lion doesn’t like it if a foreigner intrudes into his house. The lion doesn’t like it if a stranger enters his house. The lion doesn’t want his children to be taken away by someone else in the night, the lion won’t let it happen.” Thus spoke Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday to the loya jirga, his country’s traditional council of elders and notables. He warmed up to the theme and the image. “They should not interfere in the lion’s house: just guard the four sides of the forest. They are training our police. Their assistance is good for Afghanistan.”

Dependence and hucksterism have rarely spoken with such confidence. The “they” in this astounding piece of oratory are of course the American backers of this most brazen of “allies” and clients. American and NATO forces bleed in that hopeless land, Al Qaeda fighters who pulled our soldiers into the Hindu Kush are mostly gone by now. Yemen, with a treacherous coastline and a proximity to the oil wealth of the Arabian Peninsula, is a more hospitable place for the brigades of terror. There is nothing of value in Afghanistan, America’s longest war has lost the rationale it had a decade ago, no American fortune hunters with shovels and pickaxes are on their way in search of gold in the bleak Afghan hills. Yet Karzai, a brazen and ungrateful client, speaks with unbounded confidence. He offers us the most peculiar of gifts—the right to stay on indefinitely, shore up his regime, and pour our scarce treasure for his family and retainers. That Afghan lion doesn’t make its own kills.

American policy has emboldened Karzai. Great wealth came to his impoverished country, and the opportunities for banditry have fed into a culture of dependence and corruption. Truth be known, neither the Karzai regime, nor the Taliban warlords, want the Americans out of Afghanistan...

comments powered by Disqus