FOX News, April 19, 2010

Rising Anti-Westernism in Afghanistan

There is a creeping and rapidly growing anti-western sentiment developing among Afghanistan political elite that runs far deeper than just the recent flap over President Karzai jokes about joining the Taliban.

By Conor Powell

In recent weeks, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s anti-western behavior has become well known to even the most casual observers of Afghanistan. First, he stood next to, and appeared to agree with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the Iranian President called America and its international allies fighting in Afghanistan “occupiers.” Days later, Karzai told supporters in a closed door meeting he might consider joining the Taliban if his western partners didn’t stop pushing him to clean up government corruption and interfering in Afghan affairs. The White House was so angry at Karzai’s actions, it threatened to withdraw his invitation to visit Washington later this Spring.

"I blame the Afghan government and NATO forces entirely for the insecurity, because our government is weak and corrupt," said Hajji Abdullah, who sells air conditioners in downtown Kandahar. "Everyone knows that the Taliban are against the government. They are bringing their explosives from Pakistan. Why isn'tNATO working to stop these people?"
The Associated Press, Apr. 17, 2010

US officials have since come to the defense of Karzai –trying to smooth over the rocky relationship. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Karzai a “reliable partner,” and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Karzai has an excellent relationship with Gen. Stanley McChrystal. While the Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke told reporters in Kabul that Karzai’s comments were misinterpreted.

But Karzai’s comments are only the tip of the iceberg of a growing anti-western sentiment brewing in Afghanistan’s capital. Since being sworn in for a second term last November, Karzai’s government has significantly made life more difficult for the western community supporting his fledgling government – for no apparent reason.

International contractors, who do much of the work in Afghan Ministries, complain that getting work permits and visas for western employees is becoming significantly more difficult.

“Compared to what we had to deal with just last year, the obstacles are great, and getting worse,” said one western contractor who asked not to be identified.

Under the guise of security and in an effort to check the validity of foreign visas, the Afghan National Police have set up dozens of additional check points in western areas of Kabul stopping and searching western vehicles – including both diplomatic and military.

According to several military officials, clearly marked NATO vehicles have been stopped and searched – with police even “trying to confiscate NATO equipment from vehicles.”

In March, Afghan intelligence officials informed foreign journalists that they would no longer be able to film or televise insurgent attacks –adding that media organizations that refuse to comply will be punished.

This week, Afghan police raided four Western restaurants, confiscating thousands of dollars and gallons worth of alcohol and arrested at least six people. Police charged several of the foreign waitresses arrested from a restaurant popular with diplomats with prostitution.

Under Afghan law, selling and consuming alcohol is prohibited but Afghan authorities have always made an exception for foreigners.

“Foreigners are not covered by this law,” said Mohammed Nabi Farahi, the deputy Culture Minister told the Times of London. “That’s why they have permission to drink alcohol in restaurants that have permits from the Ministry of Information and Culture and to sell alcohol, just to foreigners.”

Afghan officials have yet to explain why the raids happened now but increasingly there is a growing concern that this is only the beginning of raids targeting Westerns. NATO recently warned its civilian staff to avoid western restaurants because of the uncertainty surrounding the raids.

It’s unclear if all of these events are connected or even part of some grand plan. Afghan authorities rarely, if every, explain their actions. Like any good conspiracy, there are people who vehemently believe and deny it. Perhaps the only concrete truth is that the relationship between the international community and the Afghan government is as bad as it’s ever been- and getting worse.

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