Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 04, 2008

Imperial Catfighting on Afghanistan

The media is missing a big story about imperial catfighting in Afghanistan.

Here is how I'd tell it.

The British were on track to buy off a very high Afghan Taliban commander and to put his forces to some sensible use. In December Gordon Brown was in Afghanistan and sought the okay from the Afghan president Karzai.

The Britains send two of their top MI 6 agents, covered as UN and EU advisors, to negotiate with Mansoor Dadullah, the top Taliban commander in south Afghanistan.

A successful deal with him would have split off a significant chunk from the core Taliban forces. It likely would have been a great step to pacify the area.

In a pending meeting Mansoor Dadullah was to be given a satellite phone for further secure negotiations with the agents. The British also offered a ton of money as well as retraining and jobs for Mansoor Dadullah's fighters. A camp would be set up near Musa Qala and training, including for police and military service, would be given.

The mission was blown when the U.S. (Khalizad?) got a whiff of it. They hated the idea. Maybe because they really don't like to talk with the Talibans. But more likely because they don't like the British to do their deals.

They 'tipped off' the Afghan Interior Minister who is under their control. On their way to the negotiations the British agents were raided and detained by the Interior Minister forces.

Karzai was between a rock and a hard place (both speaking English though with different accents.) But in the end he is more a U.S. tool than a British asset. So he denied any knowledge of the British plans and kicked the agents out of the country.

Sec Def Gates angrily denounced the British actions without revealing the real story.

Deals are only to be done by the U.S. The British are certainly better at making them, but their deals will be sabotaged unless they are done under U.S. supervision.

That's the short version of the story. Now the longer trail that leads to it.

A year ago I wrote about Musa Qala:

[In summer 2006] British troops had been under siege and took fatalities in the small Afghan city of Musa Qala. Musa Qala is also the name of the river next to the city as well as the name of the province

Taliban did regularly attack the Brits and the city was coming apart. The provincial governor cut a deal with the Talibs and the city elders. The Brits approved as did the Afghan president Karzai.

The elders took over, a local police force was set up and in October [2006] the British left the area. Everybody was satisfied except the U.S., which criticized the deal.

In early 2007, despite the promissed truce, a U.S. bombing raid on a family home near Musa Qala killed the brother of the the local Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Ghafoor. This ended the deal and the Taliban thru out the government accepted forces in Musa Qala and retook the town.

In late 2007 USuk forces again captured the town. Involved was another deal with another local commander:

The operation’s speed and relatively tidy conclusion is due in large part from a back-door political deal hammered out between the Afghan government and a local Taliban strongman, Mullah Abdul Salaam Alizai, last October.
The government’s deal with Mullah Abdul Salaam included his future position as Musa Qala’s governor, which he was appointed to on January 7, and allowed him to pick and choose other local authorities such as the new police chief.

That deal was done with U.S. agreement, but other bigger British deals were still pending.

The British MI 6 is for some times involved in various negotiations with Talibans.

In December, after meeting with Karzai in Kabul, Gordon Brown officially announced further British  deals by graciously allowing the Afghan government to make such:

Britain is understood to have given the green light to President Hamid Karzai to undertake talks with Taliban militants as part of a long-term strategy to bring peace in Afghanistan.

The controversial announcement, which is likely to meet resistance from American hardliners, is now seen as essential amid intense fighting in the war-torn country with the prospect of British troops becoming tied up for more than a decade.

But shortly after Browns announcement something went wrong. Suddenly the Afghans killed the nomination of the British Lord Ashdown as UN/EU/NATO Viceroy in Kabul and kicked out two individuals:

President Hamid Karzai's spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, said the two men - named in reports as a British senior UN official, Mervyn Patterson, and an Irish senior adviser to the European Union mission, Michael Semple - were "involved in some activities that were not their jobs".
Both Semple and Patterson are said to have years of experience in Afghanistan, speaking the local languages and understanding the country's complex tribal structures. They had travelled to the town of Musa Qala in the volatile southern province of Helmand on Monday, said a spokesman for the UN mission in Afghanistan, Aleem Siddique.

These two individuals were working for MI 6. Asia Times' Syed Saleem Shahzad reports on the "Irish EU advisor":

The fluent Dari-speaking Semple had spent over 18 years in Afghanistan in various capacities, including with the United Nations and as an advisor to the British Embassy in Kabul, before being expelled last month after being accused of talking to the Taliban.

His colleagues within the Western community call him a British spy; he had become close to tribes in northern Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule in the late 1990s. Semple has a Muslim Pakistani wife.

A 2001 report says:

Michael Semple began working in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s, after answering an ad in the paper in the UK.

Up to 1989 the Sowjets were still in Afghanistan. Who in the mid-1980s hired people in Britain to go to Afghanistan?

Shahzad also writes:

In one British initiative they targeted Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, the brother of slain Taliban strongman Mullah Dadullah, who was the new commander of the Taliban in southwestern Afghanistan.

So two MI 6 folks were in serious negotiations with high level Taliban. But the mission was sabotaged

[A]ccording to a senior Afghan intelligence source, American officials had been unhappy about meetings between the men and high-level Taliban commanders in the volatile Helmand province.

The source claimed that the US alerted Afghan authorities after learning that the diplomats were providing direct financial and other support - including mobile phone cards - to the Taliban commanders, in the hope of persuading them to swap sides.

"This warning came from the Americans," he said. "They were not happy with the support being provided to the Taliban. They gave the information to our intelligence services, who ordered the arrests."

When the mission was blown the Taliban leader Mullah Omar confirmed the negotiation story by firing Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, the target of the British operation:

"Mansoor Dadullah does not obey the rules of the Islamic emirate and violates it.

"Therefore it was decided not to appoint any post in the emirate to him," the statement said.
Mansoor Dadullah has been heading Taleban operations in Helmand, Kandahar and other southern provinces where attacks against the Kabul government and international forces are most intense.

If the deal that was blown had gone through Mullah Omar would likely have lost control over south Afghanistan.

Today we learn of the content of the British offer:

Britain planned to build a Taliban training camp for 2,000 fighters in southern Afghanistan, as part of a top-secret deal to make them swap sides, intelligence source Compose Posts in Kabul have revealed. The plans were discovered on a memory stick seized by Afghan secret police in December.
The camp was due to be built outside Musa Qala, in Helmand. It was part of a package of reconstruction and development incentives designed to win trust and support in the aftermath of the British-led battle to retake the stronghold last year.
The memory stick revealed that $125,000 (£64,000) had been spent on preparing the camp and a further $200,000 was earmarked to run it in 2008, an Afghan official said. The figures sparked allegations that British agents were paying the Taliban.
The camp would also have provided vocational training, including farming and irrigation techniques, to offer people a viable alternative to growing opium. But the Afghan government took issue with plans to provide military training, to turn the insurgents into a defence force.

A good deal was blown because the U.S. did not like it.

Shortly after the British deal got killed Sec Def Gates kind of confirmed it with his otherwise very unexpected critic of NATO allies:

"I'm worried we're deploying [military advisors] that are not properly trained and I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations," Gates said in an interview.

This is the my-way-or-no-way approach the U.S. likes to take (and which usually ends in cul-de-sac.)

The U.S. has not yet accepted it Change of the U.S. Role in the World. Why didn't it let the deal go through? Why insist on kinetic solutions when other ways are available?

Gordon Brown is certainly mightly pissed and, while shutting up now, will remember this issue at a time and case that may be very inconvinient to the U.S.

Posted by b on February 4, 2008 at 19:57 UTC | Permalink


Great catch and post b, not praising the Brits BTW, but at least they do/did colonialism better than the US from many years experience of running the empire.

I suspect there may have been a blairite perifidious albion behind getting word to US/Karzai and screwing Paddy Pantsdown in the process.

I wonder why Rice is in London today?

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Feb 4 2008 21:16 utc | 1

I meant this week.

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice will be visiting London on Wednesday 6 February. She is coming to talk to prime minister Gordon Brown about Afghanistan. Stop the War has called a protest from 12 noon until 3.30pm on Whitehall, by the entrance to Downing Street.

Rice is here to demand more military support from George Bush's closest ally for the failing US occupation of Afghanistan.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Feb 4 2008 21:22 utc | 2

Here's another view from an Indian expert, Aijaz Ahmad, on the Pakistan/Taliban/US/Europe situation:

the supply lines in Pakistan which run through very rugged, very difficult terrain, through which some 80 percent of all military supplies to NATO pass, especially fuel. Virtually all the fuel that is used in Afghanistan is coming through Pakistan. That cannot be airlifted; that has to go by land routes. And the Taliban ... are determined to cut those supply lines.

So the US wants to send in their troops to secure those supply lines. The Pakistan army's position is that it cannot be done through external intervention, that Pakistan army itself is not willing to fight Pakistani citizens and their Pashtun brethren in order to secure a foreign domination of Afghanistan, that this needs to be solved politically.

... there is expected to be a very big spring offensive by the Taliban. Musharraf has recently gone to European capitals, notably Brussels and Paris and London. He senses that the EU might be willing to open negotiations with the ... highest levels of the Taliban, in a way that the United States is not willing to open.

This ... brings Musharraf in direct conflict with US policy. Whether or not the United States is in a position to set aside Musharraf, arrange a military coup, and get the rest of the military command of Pakistan to follow its own prescriptions, we cannot tell, because these are highly secretive dealings. But Pakistan is really on the brink of a very major crisis.

Posted by: jonku | Feb 4 2008 21:50 utc | 3


Guess you're not buying the idea that it was the Karzai government that put an end to the British awakening idea. But that it was the U.S. working through him that did it. Why would they do that? Especially since they think it was such a great idea in Iraq - unless they really don't think it was such a great idea, since its beginning to fall apart already, with unknown consequences.

Although it is easy to see why Karzai wouldn't like the idea, without himself having full control over it.

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 4 2008 22:29 utc | 4

Also>HERE is a report on the new AEI plan to employ the "surge" in Afghanistan. Oddly enough nowhere in this plan is any mention of an "awakening" type plan, which after all is the primary reason for the reduction in violence in Iraq. This plan is simply an escalation in troop numbers. So again, why don't they do the payola thing? Nobody like AQ to keep them in check?

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 4 2008 22:46 utc | 5

jonku, clear link

Posted by: annie | Feb 4 2008 23:37 utc | 6>Tribal Complexity in Afghanistan

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 5 2008 1:05 utc | 7

Guess you're not buying the idea that it was the Karzai government that put an end to the British awakening idea. But that it was the U.S. working through him that did it. Why would they do that?

Bush on Saddam: "But he tried to kill my daddy"
"Not invented here" syndrom - a typical American aspect of managemnet style ...

Posted by: b | Feb 5 2008 5:40 utc | 8

Pincus: Defense Bill Aids Pakistani Paramilitary Group

Congress buried some interesting provisions on Pakistan and, separately, U.S. Army recruitment in the 1,513-page fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill that President Bush signed Jan. 28. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates was given authority, "with the concurrence of the Secretary of State," to provide as much as $75 million worth of equipment, supplies and training to "build the capacity" of the Pakistan Frontier Corps, the paramilitary force that is recruited from border tribes and trained at camps along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
One purpose for the new money may be to increase the presence of U.S. Special Forces on Pakistani soil in support of the Frontier Corps. Adm. Eric T. Olson, head of Special Operations Command, visited Pakistan last fall and included a stop at the Frontier Corps headquarters.

Congress added two unusual clauses in the authorization. It said the assistance will be provided "in a manner that promotes observance of and respect for human rights" and "respect for legitimate civilian authority within Pakistan." In the past, that type of language has been associated with training by U.S. personnel that also could involve them taking part in counterterrorist or counterinsurgency missions. That is what happened to Special Forces in Vietnam in the 1960s and in Central America in the 1980s.

Posted by: b | Feb 5 2008 6:36 utc | 9

As always, b has launched an interesting thread. The "geopolitical" discussion is illuminating, but I can't help wondering if U.S. antipathy for the British-Taliban deal might not have far more to do with disruption of or poaching on the opium trade, about which we hear little or nothing. A return to power, or even power-sharing, by a once again respectable Taliban could wreak havoc with Afghan opium production, and, one imagines, thereby seriously harm the balance sheets of the occult puppeteers of the drug trade (you know, the sort of people who installed General Rashid Dostum as the Karzai government's defense minister).

Admittedly this is pure speculation leavened with a dollop of conspiracy theory, but given the reasonably well documented and decades long history of U.S. government backed drug trafficking, it does not seem implausible.

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Feb 5 2008 7:38 utc | 10

"in a manner that promotes observance of and respect for human rights" and "respect for legitimate civilian authority within Pakistan."

how positively Orwellian, in an up is down sort of way.

a minor correction:

"in a manner that makes a mockery of observance of and utter lack of respect for human rights" and "total disrespect for legitimate civilian authority within Pakistan."

Posted by: ran | Feb 5 2008 7:41 utc | 11

Seumas Milne in the Guardian: The war that can bring neither peace nor freedom

Karzai was, after all, installed by the US after the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001 and subsequently confirmed in bogus US-orchestrated elections three years later. If even someone regarded as a US-British stooge, whose writ famously barely runs outside Kabul, is reduced to protesting in public that his western protectors are doing more harm than good, that not only makes a mockery of the idea that Afghanistan is an independent state. It also strongly suggests this is a man who recognises that the occupation forces may not be around indefinitely - and he may have to come to more serious terms with the local forces that will.

For all the insistence by Britain's defence secretary, Des Browne, and others that this is a "commitment which could last decades", there is no doubt that armed resistance to foreign occupation is growing and spreading. Nato forces' own figures show that attacks on western and Afghan troops were up by almost a third last year, to more than 9,000 "significant actions". And while Nato claims that 70% of incidents took place in the southern Taliban heartlands, the independent Senlis Council thinktank recently estimated that the Taliban now has a permanent presence in 54% of Afghanistan, arguing that "the question now appears to be not if the Taliban will return to Kabul, but when". Meanwhile, US-led coalition air attacks reached 3,572 last year, 20 times the level two years earlier, as more civilians are killed by Nato forces than by the Taliban and suicide bombings climbed to a record 140. The Kabul press last week predicted a major Taliban offensive in the spring.
The war in Afghanistan, which claimed more than 6,500 lives last year, cannot be won. It has brought neither peace, development nor freedom, and has no prospect of doing so. Instead of eradicating terror networks, it has spread and multiplied them. The US plans to send 3,000 more troops in April to reinforce its existing 25,000-strong contingent, and influential thinktanks in Washington are pressing for an Iraqi-style surge. But only a vastly greater deployment could even temporarily subdue the country, and that is not remotely in prospect. The only real chance for peace in Afghanistan is the withdrawal of foreign forces as part of a wider political settlement, including the Taliban and neighbouring countries like Iran and Pakistan. But having put their credibility on the line, it seems the western powers are going to have to learn the lessons of the colonial era again and again.

Posted by: b | Feb 5 2008 8:55 utc | 12

@anna missed - @5

This very curious: The AEI makes a study, demanded by the administration (says London Times, AEI Kagan denies), that recommends a "surge" in Afghanistan. Nobody in the US is reporting this?

The only papers to report this are the London Times, the Australian Age and the Army Times.

From the last one:

Overall, the group concluded that a “surge” of three additional brigades was required to secure southern Afghanistan: one brigade in Kandahar province, one in Oruzgan province and a third split between Helmand province and the mission to establish border patrols, according to the Washington source.

The group also proposed a complete overhaul of the U.S. strategic approach to Pakistan, the source said.

“You have to go through a pretty rigorous not only internal Afghan but regional geopolitical assessment in order to be able to sort out what’s essential from what’s inessential,” the source said. “Part of the problem is we’ve never had a really consistent, clear, long-term strategic idea for Afghanistan, let alone for Pashtunistan or Pakistan.” Pashtunistan is the name sometimes given to homeland of the Pashtun ethnic group, which straddles the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Where are WaPo, NYT etc on this? Why is this not news?

Posted by: b | Feb 5 2008 9:31 utc | 13

A bit more on Marvyn Patterson and Semple:

Belfast Telegraph seems to know him 1

Mr Semple and Mr Patterson have worked in or around Afghanistan for more than a decade. They speak the languages and have forged friendships with dozens of key players. Mr Semple is also a confidant of the British ambassador. "This is a country where personalities count and these people had long-standing relationships. We'll notice their loss," said the UN spokesman.

Mervyn Patterson is believed to be the third highest ranking United Nations official in Afganisation where he has been posted for several years.

In 2002 he was described by the New York Times as a "frenetic Northern Irelander".
Mr Patterson is also the author of an expert text called The Shiwa Pastures, 1978-2003: Land Tenure Changes and Conflict in Northeastern Afghanistan. He has also spoken of the difficulties when fear leads private individuals to acquire arms.

NYT, oct 2002
The United Nations representative in the area, Mervyn Patterson, who heads a joint security commission with the task of ending armed clashes, found himself scrambling to quell the latest outbreaks.

Accompanied by the operational commanders of both factions, General Saboor and his Uzbek counterpart Ahmed Khan, Mr. Patterson was just returning from organizing a cease-fire in one region of Samangan, when the latest fighting began Wednesday in another part.

The commission rushed to the area and managed to impose a cease-fire, according to Mr. Almeida de Silva, but fighting broke out again Wednesday night and continued into this morning. The commission returned to the area today and once more forced a halt, General Saboor said.

NYT (a good piece to reread as it already talks of the "imperial" US presence) in July 2002
The United Nations negotiators -- Mervyn Patterson, a frenetic Northern Irelander, and Jean Arnault, a suave Frenchman -- later explain the terms of the deal they have negotiated. ''In the name of Allah, the compassionate and merciful,'' the document commits the warlords to withdraw their tanks 100 kilometers from Mazar, to ban heavy weapons and machine guns from the city and to contribute 600 fighters to form a city police force. The negotiators acknowledge that they have no troops to enforce the deal. But they can call on a powerful friend. Throughout the talks, the American with the floppy hat has stood silently in the room.

On Michael Semple: Pakistani Daily Times 2003
LAHORE: The Taliban had completely lost support among the people of Afghanistan before they were overthrown by a US-led coalition, according to Michael Semple, the human rights advisor to the British High Commission in Islamabad.

Speaking as a guest lecturer at the Government College University, Mr Semple said the Taliban’s ouster was “natural” because of the poor economy, governance and human rights abuses in Afghanistan.

Via a scan from a magazine "phoenix" on Semple also assumming MI6

And today the BBC joins me in conspiracy mongering:
'Great Game' or just misunderstanding?

It is very unusual for a country to expel those working for friendly nations and the charge was talking to and supporting the Taleban, something both organisations call a "misunderstanding".

But it seems there may have been some echoes of the 19th century 'Great Game' when British and Russian intelligence officers vied for supremacy in Central Asia.
The Irish national, Michael Semple, works for the EU. He has the appearance of a man who could have stepped out of 19th century colonial Afghanistan.

He is a bearded, Dari speaker, known for wearing traditional local clothes. His 18 years of living and working in Afghanistan brought him many friends, and no doubt many enemies.

The British national, Mervyn Patterson, is from Northern Ireland and works for the UN. He is an expert in northern Afghan - particularly Uzbek - affairs, who would bring together spies and warlords, westerners and Afghans.

Both men were expelled on 27 December and with them, as one of their colleagues said, went "half the international community's combined knowledge on Afghanistan".
They are hugely respected, but according to President Karzai's spokesman Hamayun Hamidzada, they were up to no good.
"Unauthorised activity" hints at what Afghan secret service agents are saying privately.

They point the finger squarely at Michael Semple for running an extensive network of Taleban contacts: "For arrogantly behaving like a Great Game era political officer", they say.

One intelligence officer asked me: "What is the EU deputy head of mission acting like a field commander and who is he working for?"

Francesc Vendrell is the EU's Special Representative in Kabul and I asked him what Michael Semple was doing?

"Quite honestly I am not sure. [...]"
"I think Michael was a person who had a tremendous amount of initiative and I can't go beyond that," Mr Vendrell says.

Posted by: b | Feb 5 2008 11:14 utc | 14

Not to throw a vinegar-soaked sponge onto your sucking chest wound,
but the US tried the same thing after 2001, if you try your memory,
and installed N.A. warlords rolling around with lots of baaksheesh,
then had to roll south and kick them out for corrupting the system.

The Brits were looking for a way to "withdraw with honor" ala 1947,
by power-sharing with Talib-Paki's, recognizing that N. Afgnanistan
is culturally distinct from S. Afghanistan across the Durand Line,
which would've resulted in further destruction, and loss of lives.

As b points out, this would put tremendous pressure on Musharraf
and US alike, by granting Taliban both sides of the AF:PK border.
Not that Taliban are worse than USA:KBL, just more like GDR:DDR,
and who the hell wants another 110-year async War of Occupation?

Posted by: Tante Aime | Feb 6 2008 6:45 utc | 15

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani Taliban fighters announced a ceasefire on Wednesday after months of clashes with security forces and suicide attacks across the northwest of the country.

The government has shown leniency over the past four or five days

Posted by: Sam | Feb 6 2008 12:01 utc | 16

General killed in Pakistan crash

The army helicopter carrying Maj Gen Javed Sultan crashed because of a technical fault near the Afghan border, an army spokesman told the BBC.

Maj Gen Sultan was in charge of fighting pro-Taleban militants in North and South Waziristan.

The army says that two brigadiers are also among the dead.

Technical fault?

Posted by: b | Feb 6 2008 14:45 utc | 17

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan is "bumpy," and the international aid effort needs firmer coordination among the many nations participating.

Brings to mind "birth pangs".

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Feb 6 2008 18:20 utc | 18

It's certain that Karzai's fallen out with the Brits, but I have my doubts that he's acting on US orders. According to M K Badhrakumar in A-Times, seems the split is Karzai kicking back at US+UK who want to do a deal with Taliban/quasi-Taliban behind his back, probably with Karzai's head as part of the price?

The Independent newspaper of London reported on Monday that according to Afghan intelligence sources, Britain has been talking to the Taliban without the knowledge of the Karzai government and working on a top-secret plan to train renegade Taliban fighters in a special camp and set them against Mullah Omar's militia. The training camp is to be set up outside Musa Qala in Helmand province. The Independent claims unnamed British diplomats, the UN and other Western officials have confirmed the outline of Britain's clandestine project. Apparently, British agents have been paying the Taliban out of slush funds.(...)

The big question is: was Britain acting alone? Most certainly, not. US forces played a big role in the Musa Qala operations in December. In fact, B-52 bombers attacked Musa Qala before the Americans and British entered what was left of the town. After Musa Qala's "liberation", on January 13, American ambassador in Kabul William Wood visited the town and met renegade Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Salaam in charge of the area.

Wood told the Taliban commander: "You can count on the support of the United States ... The eyes of the world will be on Musa Qala ... We want to see the voice of the people of Musa Qala represented in the government of Lashkar Gah and the government of Kabul through [Mullah Salaam's] voice. And we want to see the government of Kabul and the government of Lashkar Gah represented in Musa Qala through [Mullah Salaam's] voice."

Karzai strikes back
Exactly a week after Wood's meeting with Mullah Salaam in Musa Qala, Karzai struck. While on a visit to Davos, Switzerland, in a series of high-profile press interviews with the Western media, he displayed an uncharacteristic defiance. He told the Times newspaper of London, "We [Afghans] suffered after the arrival of the British forces. Before that, we were fully in charge in Helmand. When our governor was there, we were fully in charge. They came and said, 'Your governor is no good.' I said, 'All right, do we have a replacement for this governor, do you have enough forces?' Both the American and the British forces guaranteed to me they knew what they were doing and I made the mistake of listening to them. And when they came in, the Taliban came."

He then told the BBC that Paddy Ashdown couldn't become the UN's super envoy to Afghanistan. Thereafter, Karzai went on to comment in his interview with Die Welt, "I'm not sure sending more [NATO] forces is the answer." In yet another interview with CNN, Karzai pointed the finger at the "misguided policy objectives" of certain countries and organizations, which he refused to name, as contributing to the violence in Afghanistan. Talking to The Washington Post, Karzai said, "It [war] will make a difference when the Americans are clear and straightforward about this fight," adding that the US should "mean what they say ... [and] do what they say".

Significantly, in the Washington Post interview, Karzai went out of the way to underline that his problem was not with Islamabad or Tehran. He said he found Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf "more cognizant of the problems of extremism and terrorism. And that's a good sign, and I hope we will continue in that direction ... we do see eye-to-eye more than before on this question ... Oh, he [Musharraf] absolutely agrees that there is a problem and that we have to fix it."

On Afghan-Iranian relations, Karzai point-blank said, "We have
had a particularly good relationship with Iran the past six years. It's a relationship that I hope will continue. The United States very wisely understood that it was our neighbor and encouraged that relationship ... the United States has been very understanding and supportive that Afghanistan should have a relationship with Iran."

Karzai was hitting back at Washington and London. Make no mistake about it. He was retaliating against a systematic Western attempt to undercut his political stature and his authority. How much of the Western game plan stems from a well-thought out strategy aimed at replacing Karzai is difficult to tell at the moment. But, without doubt, there is an attempt to browbeat him and to discredit Karzai's own endeavor in the recent period to distance himself from his Western backers.

Karzai's refusal to allow the hare-brained American plan to eradicate opium poppies by crop spraying; his warming up to Musharraf; his refusal to review the decision to expel the two EU and UN diplomats, despite heavy diplomatic pressure from London; his insistence on friendly feelings toward Tehran; his spats with Britain; his pouring cold water on the candidacy of Ashdown (knowing full well it was a joint Anglo-American decision at the highest level) - surely, a pattern has emerged. (...)

Posted by: parvati_roma | Feb 7 2008 3:11 utc | 19

@parvati rome - that may or may not be right - I based my claim on a Telegraph story and that paper is not very reliable. Then again M K Badhrakumae is somewhat sepculative too.

But then there is this: Rice on Unannounced Visit to Afghanistan

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband arrived in Afghanistan on unannounced visit Thursday, carrying a joint message of support and prodding to Afghan officials as the U.S. continued a drive to recruit more NATO troops.

Rice and Miliband flew to the Afghan capital from London together. They were seeing Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other officials amid a welter of outside assessments that progress in the six-year war is stalling.

The two made clear they expect cooperation from the Karzai government, widely seen as weak.

Did he act weak?

Posted by: b | Feb 7 2008 6:21 utc | 20

Did he act weak?

No, and thats probably the problem. He's acting like he owns the place - so they're saying "no no no, look at Nouri al-Maliki, be like him."

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 7 2008 6:35 utc | 21

Karzai's stand is clear: he's the target of the intrigue not its originator, is being targeted because he consistently expresses Afghani concerns and POVs so is judged not sufficiently "malleable" by the Western(tm) overlords. That's simple enough. But to understand the US role/position, one point I believe should be taken into account to make any kind of sense of all this is that the US power establishment is not a "unitary" player: no less than Afghanistan itself, it's faction-ridden, wracked by internal power-struggles amongst its assorted "warlords"- asfaik there's a State Dept. faction, a NeoCon faction and one or more DoD factions?? - all engaged in internal intrigue, all with shifting reciprocal alliances and backstabs, all trip-wiring each other on every possible occasion. Ever noticed how frequently a US command-structure statement on Afghanistan (re Iran's "role", re what-to-do-about-the-poppies, re whatever gets countered by a denying/undermining US command-structure statement, often on the following day?

Impossible for outsiders to unravel all the positions but the signs certainly point to the existence of sharp internal conflicts/power-struggles amongst the US "players" in Afghanistan.

So in this case, I'd say it's quite likely one (or 2..?) of the US power-factions were operating in close hand-in-glove liaison with the UK while one (or 2...?) others were busy undercutting 'em, possibly also by means of tip-offs to Karzai??
For instance, take a look at the Khalilzad aspects - all slightly-weird- could be Khalilzad's name is simply being used to further cloud already murky waters? but hard to deny the rank odour of US-internal intrigue. (Noting Khalilzad is Afghani, Pashtun but stamped/typecast by US-political-origin as a NeoCon - however as the US's UN ambassador he's currently under heavy hawk-fire for daring to actually sit at the same table * gasp * as Iran's FM Mottaki at a Doha talkfest.)

Tuesday January 29, 2008 Guardian Unlimited

Senior Foreign Office officials believe the Afghan-born US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, is planning to stand for the presidency of Afghanistan and played a complex role in advising the current president, Hamid Karzai, to block the appointment of Lord Ashdown as the UN envoy to the country.

America and Britain had been lining Ashdown up for a senior role since October, and believed they had the support of the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, and Karzai.

High-level British sources believe that Karzai changed his position as he faced mounting objections from Pashto-speaking warlords and after advice given to him by Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Khalilzad is himself a Pashtun. British sources suggested that contrary to the official US position, Khalilzad had been warning Karzai that Ashdown was an interventionist figure and would weaken his authority still further.

Khalilzad's office at the UN last night denied he had any interest in standing for the Afghan presidency and rejected the suggestion he had undermined Lord Ashdown as a candidate for the UN special envoy's job. "Quite the opposite - he thought it was a good idea and worked hard to get it done," Richard Grenell, the ambassador's spokesman, said. He added that Khalilzad had publicly ruled out running for president in Afghanistan, describing it as "an old rumour that has been proved erroneous".

(...)Some British officials said Karzai's decision to withstand the clear US demand for Ashdown will strengthen him with some Pashtun tribes in the short term. (...)

Asked by the Washington Post last week whether he planned to stand again, Karzai was enigmatic, saying: "Well, I have things to accomplish. Who was it who wrote - Robert Frost? - 'The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.'"

Posted by: parvati_roma | Feb 7 2008 15:01 utc | 22

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