The U.S. has sought to emasculate its erratic puppet in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, by bolstering his political opponents because Karzai has deviated from the master plot by unilaterally engaging with the Taliban and strengthening ties with Iran and Russia.
As the Asia Time's M K Bhadrakumar put it, "Washington finds Karzai increasingly acting as an Afghan nationalist rather than as a U.S. surrogate."
Karzai dispatched a peace council recently led by radical Islamist Burhanuddin Rabbani to begin negotiations with Pakistani officials that could lead to a potential power-sharing arrangement in Kabul with Taliban elements deemed irreconcilable by the U.S. and its regional agenda.
Outreach to Iran and Russia is driven by Karzai's desire to wean his country from U.S. military and economic support. Last week Karzai publicly told the Russians they made better friends than the Americans - this after U.S. officials tried to convince Karzai the Moscow trip was not in anyone's best interests, primarily theirs.
And what has most rankled U.S. planners is Karzai's stubborn resistance to a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, which elucidates America's true ambitions. This explains why America has so urgently demanded Karzai to inaugurate the new parliament which, although many agree was arrived at via a fraud-ridden election, is stocked with a significant anti-Karzai bloc.
Adding to this urgency is Pakistan's refusal to eliminate Taliban sanctuaries in North Waziristan - insurgent safe havens that were identified in Obama's recent war assessment as one of the single biggest impediments to U.S. military progress.
The U.S. hoped Pakistan could, at the very least, refrain from covertly supporting the insurgents. However, because Pakistan views certain Taliban elements (i.e., the Haqqani Network) as anti-Indian assets combined with the fact they know the U.S. is leaving soon, this line of thinking has also been rendered wishful.
Hence, the U.S. might be positioning itself for a proxy war against Pakistan by rallying Afghan ethnic minority groups such as the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras to oppose Pakistan's client which could be a Karzai-Taliban Pashtun partnership.
The Obama administration has worked behind-the-scenes to build up a resistance movement along the same bloody ethnic lines as previous Afghan civil wars by propping up Northern Alliance leaders such as the President's 2009 electoral opponent Abdullah Abdullah, outgoing speaker Younus Qanooni and former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, who was fired by Karzai last year but is an American favorite.
Although the U.S. would probably hesitate pushing too earnestly for a Tajik candidate as president in a country that's nearly half Pashtun, Saleh is an ideal opposition leader to Karzai, the Taliban and Pakistan. The U.S. considered him one of the few competent and trustworthy figures within the Karzai regime and knows he's a major proponent of aggressive tactics against the Taliban such as night raids and drone strikes. Saleh is also a sworn enemy of Pakistani intelligence who he blames for his dismissal as spy chief.
Saleh, who fought alongside the legendary Ahmed Shah Massoud against the Taliban in the 90s, has chastised the U.S. for constantly being fooled by the Pakistanis. And he scoffed at suggestions the Taliban were weakening, believing the coalition should demobilize, disarm and "take their [the Taliban] headquarters out of the Pakistani Intelligence basements".
This type of instigation by the Americans could lead to endless civil war, but it seems the U.S. would rather see that than a government in Kabul dominated by the Taliban or any power-sharing arrangement unfriendly to the U.S. and its regional interests.
Considering what America's true underlying objectives are, this is a perfectly rationale approach. Because slowly dwindling in number are those who still subscribe to the notion that the U.S. is sinking treasure and spilling blood in Afghanistan ten years on to hunt down a scattering of Al Qaeda operatives.
Midsummer, CIA chief Leon Panetta disclosed the extent of the terrorist group's threat when he told ABC News:
"I think at most, we're looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It's in that vicinity. There's no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan."
Thus, contrary to mass assumption, the U.S. goal is not to achieve stability in Afghanistan as much as it is to maintain control - control via a client regime that can best serve Western economic and security concerns.
A "controlled" Afghanistan with permanent military bases provides the U.S. with a strategic bulwark in Central Asia so it can keep an eye on China, Russia and Iran. Ideally, this control comes with a sufficient amount of stability that allows projects like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline to come to fruition.
In order to achieve this control, the U.S. will partner ever more closely with India - America's true long-term strategic partner in the region, in contrast to the near-term alliance-of-necessity the U.S. has with Pakistan. India has significant influence with some of the northern minorities and are well-liked by most Afghans, having invested over $1.3 billion in Afghanistan's infrastructure to date. Plus, the two countries have other mutual geostrategic interests, as Bhadrakumar wrote, "the U.S. and India view the Afghan endgame through the prism of their rivalry with China".
Meanwhile, the Afghan people are an afterthought.