TRIBAL LEADERS SEEING MATURITY AND CHANGE IN KARZAI
US DRUG POLICY, SPENDING AND CORRUPTION STILL MAJOR FAILURES
“Gordon, Karzai finally quit smoking.” This was the call from Kabul last night, a town filled with journalists, intelligence analysts and the “best and brightest” of our government, military and civilian. “Gordon, the man has changed, it may be too late, but he is reaching out to the Pashtuns, and sounding like someone worthy of trust, not like the Karzai we have known for so many years.”
I don’t invent it. I just know the source, who it is speaking for and our relationship, a warm friendship sealed by time we spent together in the region. The Karzai yelling about joining the Taliban, the Karzai confronting the United States was, as I am being told now, a person tired of being a puppet and ready to really do something, someone who finally “gets it.” The simple message, working to restore Pashtuns, the population that represents the majority of Afghanistan, a nation totally splintered today, will work except for one major problem.
The United States doesn’t get it. Some here do, I heard of USAID personnel who have earned trust and respect but I have also been told that their projects have been shelved and some of the best people we have sent to Afghanistan have been pushed aside in order to shove billions of dollars into crooked companies meant to buy off the warlords American policy has come to depend on. America is spending Afghanistan into a “stone age,” no “Nixon bombing surge” needed. We are murdering the country with “checkbook stupidity.”
There are projects that must be financed. One is obvious, TBN. TBN is the Tribal Broadcast Network, something submitted to USAID some time ago designed to build a communications system of small mobile radio stations that could reach every portion of Afghanistan in order to reunite the country behind a central government. The key leaders the US needs onboard support this. The cost is low but there are risks. With free speech, the United States will have to see free debate, criticism and shared ideas. Our failure in opposing this is that, in stifling debate, we are also killing the tribal traditions necessary to rebuild Afghanistan.