With Afghanistan, loyalty is a fickle thing

With Afghanistan, loyalty is a fickle thing
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The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai is at it again. He can switch sides and loyalties all too easily, and all too quickly.

In a recent interview with the Russian NTV TV channel, Karzai said that Russia is the only potent force that can help Afghanistan ward off terrorism.

He stated:

“I understand perfectly well that if you (Russia) build new relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan, you can help us. Not the Britons as we kicked them out of the country several times, not the Americans as they've been killing us for 17 years, but Russia only. We (Afghanistan) are the last barrier from terrorists. We've been fighting continuously for a century and a half.”

Political opportunism at its very best. Perhaps the Americans weren’t the “killers” in 1992 when the CIA-backed Mujahideen installed Karzai as the deputy foreign minister. Karzai might have forgotten how Greg Vogle, a CIA operative, leaped on top of him to save his life in December 2001.

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Hours later, Karzai was informed that he’d been named as the head of interim government of Afghanistan. The affability between Hamid Karzai and the Americans was too obvious at that point in time. Soon afterwards, Karzai was asked to replace the local people with American bodyguards. He hesitated for a while, but accepted the offer. In September 2002, American bodyguards saved Karzai when an assassin opened fire on the vehicle.

Also, in the interview, Karzai has noted that he “tried to kick them” — meaning Americans — out of the country. It can’t get more delusional than that. Did he actually try to “kick” the Americans out? Instead, after being installed at the helm, Karzai asked the Americans to help him out logistically and with the required work force to set up the Afghan National Army.

Karzai had himself acknowledged that the CIA had dropped off bags of cash at his office for a decade. In addition, Karzai’s brother was regularly paid by the CIA, too. There’s more to establish why Karzai’s latest remarks appear outlandish to say the least. In order to help Karzai win a five-year term, the CIA helped the Karzai government with reconstruction projects, most notably the asphalt ring road around Afghanistan, which were visible enough for the voters to vote for Hamid Karzai. In October 2011, Karzai asked the American visitors, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Dem strategist says Donna Brazile is joining Fox News 'for the money' CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina MORE and Ryan Crocker, to go aggressive against Pakistan, and the Afghan President got assurances of what he wanted.

One may wonder, was there anything the American didn’t provide Karzai when he asked? Well, that brings in the latest geopolitical wave. The United States appears to be stuck and making little headway in Afghanistan. There are reports that China is contemplating extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan. Recent Pakistan-Russia bonhomie is no secret, either. So, Karzai’s calculus is likely that he has to change his loyalties to get a fair chunk of the pie.

But, here’s the most damning part. Whether it is the United States, Russia, China or any other country, no single country can fix Afghanistan. There has to be a collaborated effort. By singling out a particular country, the former president is actually doing more harm to than whatever the perceived benefits may be.

It isn’t about an individual, or what he thinks about the United States. It’s about the war-torn Afghanistan. It’s about the human security that continues to be neglected in the region. It’s about the civilian casualties that have gripped the country for far too long. The Afghan leaders that continue to change loyalties tend to inflict more damage to the country than anything else. Russia cannot “fix” Afghanistan; indeed, no single country is likely to get the job done. The latest overtures by Hamid Karzai are only going to hurt Afghanistan more.

For Karzai, all is well when the money keeps rolling in, but when it stops, the Americans become worthless. Faulty logic, but typical geopolitics.

Shazar Shafqat is a counterterrorism and security analyst for the Middle East Eye, Middle East Monitor and others. His research focuses on South Asian security, Middle East politics and security issues, counterterrorism strategies, and military-related affairs. His commentary has been published by World Policy Journal, Asia Times and RealClearDefense, among others.