06/15/2010 09:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Afghanistan: It Actually Gets Worse

Let's read this:

You have, in one news cycle, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai -- now deeply disliked and discredited in the US, although, previously, installed in his job by the US -- saying how he doesn't believe US forces can help his government win against the Taliban. Hence, he's making common cause with the enemy and, accordingly, hanging the US out to dry. Only defeat itself could be a worse theater of operations scenario: the government that we're defending, and the army that we're counting on to take up the cause, are going over to the other side.

Then in the next news cycle: The US government points out that, largely unbeknownst to the Afghan government, Afghanistan has mineral deposits -- a trillion dollars of deposits -- that could transform it from one of the poorest nations in the world into quite a rich one. The Pentagon reports that Afghanistan could, apparently, become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium."

Now, let's deconstruct: Karzai's game is obviously changed. Where before he was a two-bit drug-lord middleman, the US some months ago informs him he's potentially one of the richest men in the world. So, likely, it's not just that he now sees the US as a loser, but, rather, he's looking to the Taliban to be a counter-bidder. Who's going to offer him the biggest slice of the pie?

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