London Review of Books, Vol. 31 No. 22 · 19 November 2009
Karzai’s legitimacy has never been dependent on elections (which are always faked anyway) but on the US/Natoexpeditionary force. So what was all this shadowboxing about in the first place? It appears to have been designed in order to provide cover for the military surge being plotted by General Stanley McChrystal, the new white hope of a beleaguered White House. McChrystal seems to have inverted the old Clausewitzian maxim: he genuinely believes that politics is a continuation of war by other means. It was thought that if Karzai could be painlessly removed and replaced with his former colleague Abdullah Abdullah, a Tajik from the north, it might create the impression that an unbearably corrupt regime had been peacefully removed, which would help the flagging propaganda war at home and the relaunching of the real war in Afghanistan. For his part, Abdullah wanted a share of the loot that comes with power and has so far been monopolised by the Karzai brothers and their hangers-on, helping them to create a tiny indigenous base of support for the family. Did the revelation that Ahmed Wali Karzai was not simply the richest man in the country as a result of large-scale corruption and the drugs/arms trade, but a CIA agent too come as a huge surprise to anyone? I’m told that in desperation Nato commissars even considered appointing a High Representative on the Balkan model to run the country, making the presidency an even more titular post than it is today. Were this to happen, Galbraith or Tony Blair would be the obvious front-runners.
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Tariq Ali’s Protocols of the Elders of Sodom is out now. Night of the Golden Butterfly, the final book of Tariq Ali’s acclaimed series of historical novels the Islam Quintet, is forthcoming.