Karzai threatens to quash Kandahar offensive

Hamid Karzai, the mercurial President of Afghanistan, has given the US and ISAF another reason to panic. Just one week after threatening to join the Taliban over a row on the appointment of election monitoring officials, Karzai has threatened to put the kabosh on the planned ISAF offensive in Kandahar province. The London Times reports:

The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has cast doubt over Nato’s planned summer offensive against the Taliban in the southern province of Kandahar, as more than 10,000 American troops pour in for the fight.

Karzai threatened to delay or even cancel the operation – one of the biggest of the nine-year war – after being confronted in Kandahar by elders who said it would bring strife, not security, to his home province.

Visiting last week to rally support for the offensive, the president was instead overwhelmed by a barrage of complaints about corruption and misrule. As he was heckled at a shura of 1,500 tribal leaders and elders, he appeared to offer them a veto over military action. “Are you happy or unhappy for the operation to be carried out?” he asked.

The elders shouted back: “We are not happy.”

“Then until the time you say you are happy, the operation will not happen,” Karzai replied.

Read the whole article. General McChrystal was present at the meeting and was described as appearing “distinctly apprehensive.” An unnamed US diplomat who was also present said the following about Karzai:

“He can rail against the West all he likes – no one wants him to look like a foreign puppet. The trouble is, his erratic speeches are matched by erratic actions. That’s why this tension is undermining the offensive.”

My friend and colleague John Batchelor has been probing about this very issue the past week during my spots on his radio show. My answer has been that somewhere in the bowels of ISAF, there are planners who are sweating out this very scenario.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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17 Comments

  • AL says:

    If this Karzai clown becomes a real problem, and is as corrupt as many say, the “Elders” should not be too disappointed if he is killed by a well-placed IED.
    Got the message, Hamid?

  • James says:

    Karzai must go. Either he goes, or we go.
    This guy makes me almost want to vomit.
    So, this king of corruption (Karzai), wants to whine about corruption?
    I say if need be, we carpet bomb the opium fields (with napalm or similar).
    We need to form a strategic alliance with India on this matter as well as the war against terrorism in general.
    Who said: “They that harbor terrorists must share in their fate.”? The same should also apply even moreso to Pakistan.
    This is just a big mess of a leftover from the previous administration.
    Get ready for the bomb America. The day is now upon US. Either we must use it against them or they will use it against US.
    Remember what Truman had to do in order to finally end World War II.

  • Mr T says:

    Karzai must be getting some real pressure from all sides. He is starting to crack. These gaffes are diplomatic mistakes. It sounds like he is getting pressure from the US and now his own people are jumping on the bandwagon. The Taliban wants to kill him.
    He should be working on stopping corruption but apparently, he can’t. That means he is getting pressure from the corruptocrats too.
    Eventually, he can’t join really join the Taliban, he can’t survive without the US, and he can’t turn against the tribal elders from his own area. The only avenue of escape is through the corruptocrats.
    They must be very powerful people if he is resistant to take them on but will take on the US and his own elders. Who are they?

  • CM says:

    No, India needs to be restrained from taking any part. If Muslims view us as ganging up with Hindus against them, we would see a real holy war and I guarantee you that you wouldn’t enjoy it. Pakistan right now is more worried about India than they are the Taliban. You get Pakistan to stop worrying about India and we’ll solve a major issue in that region.
    Karzai should never have been our man in Afghanistan. He’s a political opportunist who’s not even respected by his own tribe.
    The question is though…after nearly a decade, what are we doing there? Do we expect to create a strong stable western-style Republic? There is nothing in value in that nation…nothing at all. The only outcome in this type of conflict for us is to not “lose.” We won’t win anything

  • Armchair Warlord says:

    Karzai will come around.
    Doesn’t anyone ever notice the local leadership never, ever succeeds at interfering with coalition operations? We have ways to make them cooperate.
    Has anyone noticed how Karzai seems to be much more cooperative lately? I wonder what Obama threatened him with.

  • Spooky says:

    A bit overdramatic.
    Using the nuke has been nothing but a stain on the American people. However, at least then it was a necessary evil. To do the same in Afghanistan is not and indeed would justify the middle east’s hate for us as a neo-Crusaderist power. Karzai is not even liked by his own people. Circumvent him before his attempts to endear himself start to actually work. No need to sensationalize this further.
    That said, his attitude brings up a good point that we must be aware of, and that is going against the public will of the Afghans who, while they have no love for the Taliban, have no love for foreign troops either. We must engage Pashtun nationalism ourselves and take that fuel source away from the Taliban. That would be more fatal to the enemy than all the soldiers combined.

  • Neo says:

    The suggestion that we carpet bombing and nuking the entire Hindu Kush, to get rid of the Taliban is just plain nutty. As is the suggestion we off Hamid Karzai.
    No, you won’t be seeing either in US contingency planning. Not from this administration or the former administration. Not from any administration.
    Drawing parallels to the end of World War II isn’t appropriate. The Japanese still had the capacity to kill a hundred thousand plus American troops, had we invaded at the end of the war. At this point the Taliban doesn’t have power on anywhere near that scale.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    With “allies” like Karzai on the Afghan side of the border, and the ISI on the Pakistan side, how are we supposed to win? Something has to change.

  • Marlin says:

    Nothing is ever black and white, only shades of gray. Last week no offensive in Kandahar, today an offensive in Kunduz is fine. It would be nice to have some sense of what is actually going on behind the scenes.

    President Hamid Karzai and the head of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Sunday made another public show of unity, to bolster the Afghan leader’s position before key military offensives.
    Karzai and General Stanley McChrystal met about 250 tribal elders and lawmakers in northeastern Kunduz province, which has seen a significant increase in Taliban attacks since early last year.
    […]
    “There are common security interests and President Karzai is playing what we in the West consider to be a ‘commander-in-chief role’,” one US military official in Kabul told AFP.
    “He approved the Marjah operation (in February) and last week he was involved in the political shaping prior to the Kandahar push. He’s playing an increasing role.”

    AFP: Karzai, McChrystal on the road again in show of unity

  • Civy says:

    For those that think we are stuck with Karzi…
    //www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/VNngo.htm
    CM,
    Agree completely that it is imperative that India not in fact nor in public opinion be seen to be involved in attacking Pakistan. In fact, if Pakistan continues on the path they are on now, finally seeing the Taliban as a substantial threat to their existence, presumably while noting India’s lack of involvement in any of the recent attacks on their people and government, Pakistan could emerge from the parochial state of siege that has served that country’s war-mongers for so long, and begin to devote themselves to becoming a world-class player, with a significant and respected presence on the world stage. Let us hope for the best here, and encourage such ends.
    Completely disagree that there is nothing of value in Afghanistan. There is a lot of real estate and a failed state that is the perfect breeding ground for radicals who will stage from there and attack us. So, what is there is a threat-free environment, so long as we keep it so. This is no different from S Korea, or Germany for that matter. There is nothing made in Germany or Korea that the US isn’t capable of making for itself. Neither has any rare or unique minerals or intellectual properties. No Unobtainium or patents for perpetual motion machines.

  • Civy says:

    Unlike Vietnam, which never harbored any group that attacked our military, political leadership, or civilian populations, the case for removing Karzi from power, or even declaring war against Afghanistan, would be quite simple and straight-forward. If Karzi were to throw in with the Taliban, his government would then be directly supporting terrorists who have already attacked many western powers, including the US.
    There would be no nebulous link between state-sponsored terrorists, as is the case with Hezbollah and Iran. To the contrary, the Karzi government would then be directly providing aid and comfort to those who not only seek to harm the US, but have already done so. This is a much stronger case than the one we had against Saddam. A defaco state of war would then exist with the US and most of the NATO countries.

  • Jimmy says:

    CM & Civy,
    Wether you like it or not India was, is and will always be involved in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is India’s dear friend and cannot be abandoned in the face of cruelty and human rights violations from the thugs of Taliban and Pakistan. The world should rightly back India’s genuine offer of co-operation with Afghans rather than Pakistan’s murderous use of terrorism and carnage to further its selfish ends.
    The US should have patience with Karzai. He may be flawed but he is the only hope in the present quagmire. Actually, the US has brought this upon itself by cajoling Pakistan throughout the last 9 years instead of rapping it on the knuckles…something that it rightly deserves for its double-dealing.

  • T Ruth says:

    James is not far wrong for they are enough cuckoos in Paqistan to pull a trigger. Fact is also we simply don’t know the extent of nuclear proliferation in that territory. What we do know is that there are enough signs around–the writing is on the wall. So if and when it happens–and there are soon 100,000 US troops there alone–don’t let it be a shock. Please join the dots now.
    He’s also right about forming a strategic alliance with India. I didn’t read him as saying that one should go into Paqistan, both sides, all guns blazing although that would certainly shorten the war and get closer to the bull’s eye AQ. As for how Middle Eastern or other Islamic states would view it? Well how would anyone view a decisive victory? With respect, i imagine.
    For those asking, ‘What is America doing in Afghanistan?’, very good question. For the moment, it seems to me to have Pakistan to run you in little circles, while they laugh all the way to the bank and get the latest weaponry from you for free.
    To the gentleman who dreams that Paqistan will be a world-class player in some imaginary future, i say why would they want that responsibility when they have the World’s only super-power wrapped around their little finger.
    Oh just by the way, it seems to me that Karzai is learning a trick or two from his crafty and insidious neighbour.

  • AL says:

    Nukes and even conventionals vs. Opium: Not possible and very unwise. Poison the region???
    Herbicides a better choice vs crops.
    We always hear about foo dissues in that part of the world. Why can’t they grow wheat and rice? They do, but it is not real profitable. We would be better offf spending foreign aid to buy farmers wheat and rice and other crops at an above market price. With that, health and economy would improve. Better pasturelands are needed as well. Irrigation projects and wells are needed.
    Give farmers a reason to get off opium. They could not care less about drug addicts in the US.

  • Guptan Veemboor says:

    In my opinion US is treating Mr.Karzai rather shabbily. He was put in the position as the Prsident of Afghanistan by US only. There was no other choice then some nine years ago. Neither there is another more efficient one at present also. He is berated publicly by all those from US. On the other hand accolades are poured on Pakistan by everyone from US. Mr.Karzai is treated as a minion. Even the army chief of Pakistan is given more respect than to the head of Afghanistan. No self respecting person will like this type of treatment. Mr.Karzai has his limitations. He is not a powerful charismatic popular leader. He has to depend upon many who are not very honest. Are all those in Pakistan whom US praises lily white honest? Are they playing straight? Is all the taxpayers money US is pouring into Pakistan going to intented destination or filling the pockets of the corrupt ones? Is it not that knowing it very well US is pouring more and more money in Pakistan in the futile hope that it will help the Pakistani people? Mr.Karzai’s behaviour is mecurial because he has been driven to that state.

  • CM says:

    Civy,
    In Germany and Japan we got strong trading partners. In South Korea, less so, but they are a regional economic competitor. All three nations provide us goods…whether its BMW, Honda, Daewoo, etc.
    While yes we can deny Afghanistan’s use to radical Islamic groups, that will only happen if we plan on keeping 100,000+ soldiers there indefinitely. And then our enemies will just go to Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, Indonesia or any other location that they currently have friends and allies. We can’t expect to sustain a campaign of chasing them all over the globe in a giant version of whack-a-mole. Defeating radical Islam isn’t the point of my post so I won’t get into that now.
    My point is that other than opium, what is produced in Afghanistan? Not to sound selfish and uncaring but I was against nation-building in the 90’s and I’m against it now. We can’t hope to heal the world and the threat of collapsed states is overblown. None of the 9/11 hijackers were Afghan. In fact none of the attackers in any of the major attacks on the West in the last decade are Afghan. Planning for 9/11 occurred in Hamburg.
    Don’t get me wrong, I think we should annihilate our enemies but Afghanistan is becoming more and more a lost cause. Just yesterday, we enraged some locals by shooting up a bus. Regardless of what actually happened, we get the blame. In a counterinsurgency where a foreign power is involved, time is on the side of the insurgent. We’re going on 9 years. We have a failing economy, a totally corrupt local government in Karzai and a delicate regional balancing act.
    In a recent op-ed (couple of months ago) the former Soviet commander of the 40th Army in Afghanistan claimed their mission was a success. I think you’ll find our goals there shift and we will leave sooner rather than later and Afghans will be left to their own fate.
    As for India. You’re never going to get Pakistan to play ball so long as they think India is going to set up a pro-India government in Pakistan. India’s conventional forces could crush Pakistan, so who will they look to for help? the U.S.? Not with the rollercoaster relationship we’ve put them through in the last 3 decades. They’re going to look to the Taliban and other groups.
    Its a nasty little web we’ve gotten ourselves into.

  • James says:

    Please allow me to at least try to clarify my above post.
    What I was referring to is that we’d better have at least some kind of a fallback strategy, in case things don’t go “peaches and cream” concerning Af/Pak.
    There is such a thing as fostering a “healthy” jealousy between 2 rivals (India and Pakistan) that (at least so they claim) are supposed to be our allies in the war against terrorism.
    This is what Nixon did very effectively during detente and the Cold War with respect to the Soviet Union and Red China.
    I’m not suggesting that we should foment a war between India and Pakistan. However, I do think that it would at least be helpful to US that we let the Paks know that if they get too deep in their double-dealings that we just may get onboard with New Delhi to deal more effectively with the problem.
    At the very least, I think we should seriously consider combining our intelligence gathering services with that of India’s.
    Mentioned many times above were the examples of Germany, Japan, and South Korea. I honestly believe that if there is a country in that region akin to the above it would be India and not Af or Pak.
    Concerning the use of an atomic bomb (or bombs), it would be done only as a last resort but still should be considered.
    It would be safe to assume that most likely bin laden and the top tier of AQ are located in remote areas of Pak hiding in caves.
    What I was referring to was exploring the effectiveness of using possibly underground nuclear detonations to eliminate at least bin laden and/or the top tier of AQ.
    They like to talk about developing “cave-buster” bombs and weapons of “shock & awe.” Well, IMHO, the “ultimate” cave-buster and weapon of “shock & awe” has been around since the 1940’s.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis