Karzai brothers' fury at US failures
Scotland on Sunday, September 15, 2002
AMI VITALE/GETTY IMAGES PHILIP SMUCKER IN KANDAHAR
THEIR brother, the president of Afghanistan, is behaving like "Mother Teresa in a war zone", and the United States, which is now eyeing new fronts in its battle against global terror, is failing miserably in its efforts to create stability and unite Afghans around a central government in Kabul.
These are the fears and opinions of two of President Hamid Karzai's influential, US-educated brothers. They are critical of America's foreign policy in a way that their brother, ever the suave and determined diplomat, cannot be towards the hand that has pledged to feed his new, post-Taliban, regime.
The Karzai family, which runs major democratic development and economic projects out of a family home in Kandahar, is Afghanistan's best and strongest link with the United States. All five sons, now middle-aged, studied in the US. Some went into business, others into Afghanistan's prolonged struggle for liberation from first the Soviet Union and then latterly the Taliban.
"I'm afraid that my brother Hamid is behaving like Mother Teresa in a war zone," said Mahmoud Karzai, a prominent US businessman, who along with Hamid's older brother, Abdul Kareem Karzai, has been working in southern Afghanistan to help pacify a region still seething with extremism.
Mahmoud is furious that his brother, the president, is still moving around in public as "an open target", a threat that was amply demonstrated by the attempt earlier this month on the president's life.
Pathan tribesman, who had infiltrated the Kandahar wing of the ministry of interior's police special branch, attempted to assassinate Karzai and US guards, assigned to protect the president, responded belatedly to the shooting by killing two Afghans who were wrestling one of the two would-be killers to the ground.
"The commander of the Special Branch here hasn't even been arrested and this is not even being treated by my brother or the local authorities as a serious enough security matter," said Mahmoud.
The eldest Karzai brother, Abdul Kareem, says the Afghans have put all their trust in the US which liberated them . He believes, however, that his fellow Pathan tribesmen in the south are beginning to lose faith in Washington's commitment.
"The United States and its allies could have been a guarantor that warlords would be sidelined," said Abdul Kareem. "But they have refused to bring in needed peacekeepers to cities outside of Kabul, including Kandahar.
"However, that the US is undermining its own efforts because a State Department strategy to rebuild the nation is being undercut by a Pentagon policy that, he said, supports local warlords with horrific records and no proven loyalty."
Karzai's younger brother Mahmoud
"If the current situation runs on, the Taliban and al-Qaeda will return with their national mafia system. The international community not only has not lived up to its promises, but they are wasting their money and energy by throwing it into the current unstable system."
Of $1.8bn promised to Afghanistan this year by the international community, less than $600m has been made available. Some progress came last week, however, when US President George W Bush told President Karzai that Saudi Arabia, Japan and the United States would provide $180m to rebuild the road from Herat in the west to Kandahar in the south and Kabul in the north.
President Karzai's younger brother Mahmoud said, however, that the US is undermining its own efforts because a State Department strategy to rebuild the nation is being undercut by a Pentagon policy that, he said, supports local warlords with horrific records and no proven loyalty.
"Instead of aligning themselves with people who are incapable and have bad records, the US should let the Afghan people select their own leaders," he said. "This is the only way to stability and any kind of a Western exit strategy."