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by Godfrey Garner
As it stands today, a full American withdrawal from Afghanistan this year is strategically unwise, but undoubtedly politically judicious.  Our relationship with Afghanistan and Afghans themselves, for all practical purposes has suffered these past few years and the leaders of that country, who have been backed by America and American dollars have proven to be among the worst in terms of graft, ineptness, and corruption. Former President Karzai and his supporters additionally encouraged resentment among Afghans, for America in whom he placed the blame for all Afghanistan’s ills. The ‘slap’, offered by Karzai, stings the face of most American taxpayers and serves as an exclamation point ending the withdrawal debate.Hamid Karzai has publicly criticized America while his cohorts and political cronies as well as his own brother Mahmoud Karzai systematically looted assets provided by America and America’s allies to assure a positive future for Afghanistan. Karzai’s schizophrenic relationship with the Taliban has also left the Afghan people and worst, the lowest ranking soldier in the Afghan security forces who is charged with fighting and possibly dying in future struggles with the Taliban, completely confused as to the relationship Afghanistan will have with this insurgent group.

While America itself is responsible for much of the turmoil and confusion that exists today in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai and the political environment he fostered has continuously hampered chances for success and unfortunately few see a bright stable future for that country. Blaming Karzai and crew while wiping our hands as did, Pontius Pilate, seems expedient and politically prudent.

An honest objective evaluation however leaves one glaring conclusion; America shares a responsibility for that country and that countries success, and it is not a responsibility that can be absolved with continued foreign aid alone. We changed the fundamental cultural structure of Afghanistan in many ways and though our presence there and our good intentions were inarguably sound and righteous, we are responsible for much of what Afghanistan and its people are today.

A simple, easily explained example is the level and pervasiveness, of corruption that exists in Afghanistan today. Prior to Operation Enduring Freedom, a short 15 years ago, asking for, or offering a bribe was an offense that was so culturally and religiously abhorrent to Afghans as to be virtually non-existent. The flush of American cash into the country in a short period of time introduced such confusion and chaos into the economy, that many would argue corruption was inevitable.

Inflation was immediate and drastic, and as a result the culture of ‘pay for play’ sprung up overnight. Our withdrawal will have an equally devastating, albeit opposite effect.

One positive effect of our involvement in Afghanistan however has recently manifested in the first truly free presidential election. While it is true that people did have an opportunity to choose their leader once before, it is arguably also true that the situation at the time virtually assured that Hamid Karzai would remain in office. The question of a free and fair election, in that case at that time as such, is arguable.

This election however, with a slate of new candidates, without the influence of a presidential incumbent was different. The people of Afghanistan had a whole new range of choices and took full advantage of the fact. A lengthy runoff and decision by an independent election commission finally, in September of 2014 determined Ashraf Ghani to be the countries new leader.

An examination of President Ghani’s appointments following the election along with a cursory review of his background, education and apparent political and leadership philosophy show him to be a complete and welcomed antithesis to Hamid Karzai. Most analysts also agree that he will be a progressive leader, committed to a corruption-free administration as much as humanly possible.

The strongest and most committed Northern Alliance leaders, fighting alongside American Special Forces in the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom were Rashid Dostum leader of the Jumbish fighters and Mohammad Mohaqiq, leader of the Hazara, Hezbe-Wahdats. General Dostum has been appointed First Vice President while Minister Mohaqiq was named Second Chief Executive Officer.

As is the case in politics of virtually every free nation, these two men may come to their new positions with agendas but the fact that they have been given these positions of real power is telling. General Dostum was appointed to a virtually powerless position by Karzai, which most analysts agree was a move to placate Karzai’s former enemy and allow him to save face. In any case, the post was nothing more than ceremonial and all in the Karzai administration knew this.

While Dostum has a checkered past and has been known to form dubious alliances, no one will argue that he was a fierce warrior and an aggressive, committed ally to America, especially American Special Forces soldiers with whom he fought. The fact that he has taken drastic steps to demonstrate his reformation to the Afghan people, including an extensive Hajj in 2012 along with Karzai’s obviously politically motivated efforts to keep him under control, leads most analysts to believe that Dostum was always opposed to Karzai’s method of operation.

Minister Mohaqiq is and has always been first and foremost a defender and supporter of the Hazara people. Even in private conversations, he has demonstrated his selfless determination to lift them up and assure they have a strong voice in Afghanistan’s future. Of note also is the fact that General Dostum, an Uzbek has a Hazara wife.

President Ghani’s public support and confidence in these two men are indications of concern for human rights equality in that country. Also, as both Dostum and Mohaqiq are ardent opponents of the Taliban it is likely that Ghani intends to take a hard line on negotiations or at least put the future of the entire country ahead of a flawed peace deal.

Consideration should also be given to the commitment President Ghani’s wife has demonstrated to progressive principles and to the empowerment of the women of Afghanistan. President Ghani specifically credits First Lady Rula Ghani for much of his success.

Rula Ghani speaks without ambiguity about the rights of Afghan women to make their own choices within the confines of their families and is proud of her heritage as a Christian, foreign-born first lady. Her intent to inspire the women of Afghanistan is evident in such statements as, “Women here in Afghanistan have played a very important role. And maybe it’s time that we should recognise them and celebrate them for that.”

If the first family are fortunate enough to form the coalition necessary to govern the people of Afghanistan, moving in the direction they appear to want to lead them; giving voice to those who traditionally have not had it, then America owes it to them and to the people of Afghanistan to actively support their efforts.bluestarAmerican Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy.


Author Dr. Godfrey Garner holds a PhD in counseling psychology from Mississippi State University and is currently pursuing a second PhD at the University of Southern Mississippi. Following two tours in Viet Nam and a lengthy break in military service, Dr. Garner rejoined and eventually retired from 20th Special Forces group in 2006. He completed two military and six civilian government-related tours in Afghanistan. His work in Afghanistan most recently has been as a counter-corruption analyst. He is published in Homeland Security Today and Foreign Policy Journal on issues relating to Afghanistan as well as other journals relating to higher education. He is the author of the novel Danny Kane and the Hunt for Mullah Omar.


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