Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent volte-face on the U.S. security pact seems like yet another manifestation of a chemical imbalance. However, mental instability alone does not account for this latest exercise in brinksmanship nor does it exculpate Karzai's avaricious intentions. Truth be told, his refusal to sign the agreement is aimed at ensuring U.S. aid continues flowing into the Karzai cartel's coffers, including "shopping bags stuffed with cash" that have been literally delivered to the president's doorstep on a regular basis by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Karzai appeared satisfied when the verbiage of the security agreement was finalized on November 19. In fact, a week later Karzai inveigled an assembly of tribal elders and Afghan officials to unanimously bless the covenant, which runs through 2024. But within a few days Karzai abruptly flip-flopped, declaring that he would not sign the deal until the U.S. ceased kinetic operations and helped broker peace with the Taliban. This schizophrenia seemed hard to explain. How could Karzai change his stance on such a critical issue seemingly overnight? It could be due to a psychiatric disorder but it is more likely due to fear of being cut-off from a seemingly endless stream of U.S. taxpayer dollars.
That mental illness could be driving Karzai's mercurial behavior is a theory not without substance considering, according to U.S. intelligence reports, he was diagnosed as a manic depressive and allegedly often suffered from a Nixonian paranoia. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry after a contentious meeting with Karzai was overheard muttering: "He's on his meds, he's off his meds."
In addition to bipolar disorder Dr. Azam Dadfar, one of the few psychiatrists in Afghanistan trained in psychoanalysis, believes Karzai also suffers from a multiple personality disorder, a mental state that has impacted an entire generation of Afghans raised amidst constant war. It's a coping mechanism for those looking to survive in a Hobbesian jungle where "there are no values but self-preservation" in which an actor comes to accept that only the cleverest and most criminal will prevail. And, according to Dadfar, "this character learns to lie even to himself."
The dualistic nature of Karzai's persona is also evident in his domestic policies. Once he fired the policemen and prosecutors involved in a rape case in which the guilty parties walked. Yet on another occasion he freed three rapists in order to mollify a key political ally, exhibiting an amazing capacity to compartmentalize. And while professing his love for democracy to Westerners, Karzai promotes many of the same medieval misogynistic beliefs as the Taliban and appears more than willing to roll back hard-won women's rights. Last March Karzai even supported legislation that would allow husbands to beat their wives "in certain situations." Yet such contradictions seem more likely to derive from a defective moral code than biochemical abnormalities.
Mad or not Karzai is certainly clever enough to realize the unsigned agreement represents his last ounce of leverage. He also does not buy the Obama administration's "zero option" threat considering the U.S. has rarely withdrawn all of its troops from a country it invaded. But, given his bargaining position, what does Karzai want?
According to NBC correspondent Jim Miklaszewski military officials say Karzai's ultimate goal is quite simple: he wants money. Karzai sees the current standoff as a "poker game" over an estimated $4 billion to $6 billion a year in U.S. and NATO aid which feeds "the cycle of corruption that keeps him in power." Karzai openly admits to receiving the CIA bags of cash (while the CIA "declined to comment.") Military officials have also admitted that the president has smuggled hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country, "much of which flowed directly from the U.S. Treasury."
Karzai also wants to influence the 2014 presidential election, yet another reason for stalling the consummation of the security pact. Given how he "brazenly stole" the 2009 contest, which was largely paid for by the United States, perhaps Karzai thinks with American support and more than a little electoral chicanery he can essentially name an heir to the throne.
But who is more to blame for the current situation? Is it mad Karzai or the U.S. for inserting him as a puppet in the first place? Plus, U.S. policy in Afghanistan has been just as bipolar as Karzai. While publicly denouncing corruption in Kabul Washington continues to fuel it with backdoor payments. Not to mention the U.S. has seen little return on its investment considering Karzai has made zero effort to implement political reform measures U.S. officials have been demanding for years. The funding has only enabled Karzai in running a well-oiled predatory kleptocracy, with payments seeming to flow faster after each tantrum.
To be sure, mental illness is a serious disorder that impairs one's ability to function in society and those victimized by it do deserve sympathy and support. However, it does not explain the moral failings of Hamid Karzai whose cynical antics have proven more worthy of contempt than pity.
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