Afghan President Hamid Karzai's behavior seems to be getting more bizarre by the day. Here are some of Special K's latest hits:
- Invites neighboring nutjob Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kabul as part of a mi casa, su casa home-and-home series of visits.
- Makes a grab for complete appointing authority over the independent election panel that found massive fraud in his 2009 re-election.
- Threatens to join the Taliban if he doesn't get his way.
- Concedes that there was fraud in his re-election, but that the fraud was committed by foreigners, not Afghans.
- Invites prominent Afghans to lunch at the palace and tells them the U.S. is not in their country to help Afghanistan but to establish a power base in southwest Asia.
- Criticizes the U.S. and Pakistan for capturing several high-ranking Taliban officials, claiming the arrests screwed up his private peace talks with the Taliban.
- Warns the U.S. they are in danger of being thought of as "invaders."
- Holds talks with the most vicious, most anti-Western warlord (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar) with the idea of inviting him into the government.
- Refuses to act against corrupt officials including perhaps the most corrupt of all, his brother Wali, the Teflon Don of Kandahar.
Whose side is this guy on, anyway? And, it seems fair to ask, have some of his marbles rolled away?
The Ahmadinejad invitation was pure retaliation, after the Obama administration rescinded Karzai's invitation to visit the White House, which in itself was retaliation for Karzai's attempt to seize control of the electoral panel. In extending a salaam to Washington's Global Enemy #1, and giving that enemy a bully pulpit in the Arg Palace in Kabul from which to launch a verbal attack on the U.S., Karzai lost whatever cool he has left under that hot lambswool cap he wears. Is that the hallmark of a statesman? A great and wise leader?
Karzai's attempt to take control of the Electoral Complaint Commission, if successful, will result in the appointments to the panel of guys named See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil, and fraud-free Immaculate Elections will follow. The independent panel he wants to dismantle saw, heard and spoke of the very obvious fraud that gave Karzai a new term. Now Karzai admits there was fraud but says it was perpetrated by "foreigners?" That is -- not to put too fine a point on it -- nutso.
Since his first appointment in 2001 as head of the Afghan Provisional Government, an appointment aided and abetted if not outright ramrodded by the U.S., Karzai has committed a series of blunders which the Bush administration let slide. One was to embrace and bring into his government many of the corrupt, incompetent and bloody-handed mujaheddin leaders who screwed things up so miserably after the departure of the Soviet Union in 1989. Let's not forget, they were the guys who made the Taliban seem like a welcome change. Another blunder was to not crack down immediately on corruption and drug production, resulting in both getting totally out of hand.
To be fair, the U.S. has made its own blunders in Afghanistan, many of them on the battlefields where far too many civilians have been killed but many others in the command centers where failing strategies were planned. But for the leader of the country we are trying to help survive to keep biting the hand that feeds him and protects him is not just provocative, it's insulting and infuriating. And dangerous, if he succeeds in stirring up even more anti-American feelings than already exist among the general population. But Karzai apparently feels empowered to ramp up his criticism, believing that the U.S. and the other Western countries will keep fighting the Taliban with one hand and pouring money into his country with the other, ad infinitum. This might be the moment to call Karzai's bluff -- but does the Obama Administration have the guts to do it?