So Obama sat with Karzai before the NATO Afghan summit last Sunday (20th May) and gave him a little lecture, 'Now, when we get out in 2014, you need to behave, you have to have a good democracy, no corruption and you have to be civil to your enemy, the Taliban.' Karzai nodded,' yes, yes. yes'. And everyone at the summit was happy.
Except the 'enemy' doesn't want to talk, and corruption is the glue that keeps Karzai's happy band together and a clean democracy will topple Karzai. It's all a little satirical.
After 10 years, billions of dollars and a defeat staring in the face, it appears the 'coalition' forces are still groping to find what the Taliban is all about or what the Pushtuns call democracy and what al Qaeda's (AQ) mission is. Thousands of pundits have been advising Governments, writing papers and become fully paid experts (except me). Yet this rugged tribesmen who wear turbans as if they have still to discover the mirror, seem to be outsmarting everyone.
Yes the Generals leading the war against, what exactly we still don't know, assure us that the al Qaeda and Taliban are much weakened with many of their leaders killed by unmanned drones guided by persons playing computer games on US soil. 'Cowards hiding behind technology, come fight us face to face', say the Taliban. Cowards say the US to Taliban as their mujahedeen plant roadside bombs at night and then disappear. In this fight, no one likes to show their face.
But beneath all that bravo talk, is a coalition coming apart by its failure to achieve its aims and a recognition that the 'mission', whatever it is, is neither within grasp, nor even defined.
For a start al Qaeda and the Taliban are fighting two different wars. It took the United States more than six years to grasp this. Al Qaeda is fighting a global war to rid the holy land (Saudi Arabia) of infidels (US bases). It wants to rid Middle East of western puppet governments. And despite the fractious state of global Islam, it wants to restore the Caliphate, the equivalent of the Catholic Pope or our Anglican Queen.
I say, good luck to AQ. It will have decades if not centuries of internecine conflicts before a Caliph is agreed at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the EU equivalent of 57 Islamic countries. Why is the west fighting to stop what AQ and Iran can do themselves is beyond me.
Al Qaeda, uses local domestic grievances in different regions to engage the west through regional hotheads. The west gets trapped in these wars and helps create a global propaganda for AQ of 'Islam under threat'. It is a common currency of war cries, Blair always shrieked on about AQ 'they are a threat to our way of life', meaning parliamentary democracy and human rights both of which he significantly eroded single handed by himself without Bin Laden's advice!
Perhaps the award winning ignominious reason for war came from Harvard educated George Bush. 'they hate us'. Seems in USA it needs a 'Harvard' education to come to the analytic insight that the enemy is the enemy because it hates us and we hate them. War is always on the agenda of American elections because somebody always hates the US of A. 'God save America and the rest of the world from its trigger happy democracy and AQ (which hates America)'.
Meanwhile the Taliban, unlike AQ, are on a domestic mission to reclaim their power and 'their way of life' in Afghanistan. Created by the powerful Pakistan intelligence, ISI, the Taliban were the first serious attempt at state building in Afghanistan albeit in Pushtun and Islamic ways at a time when Afghanistan was in chaos following the war against Russian occupation. the West wants its own version of 'State'.
But the Pushtun are a fiercely independent people who intensely dislike centralised power and have centuries old democratic ways of decision making through local jirgas (or shuras) and Loya Jirgas (grand assmeblies). Their way is consensus, although of the powerful.
Cultural norms are more influential than laws of the land in many Afghan tribes, particularly the Pushtuns. People got killed for breaking these norms. The Taliban regime was Pakistan's attempt at introducing some sort of rule of law, although through the sharia, whatever its drawbacks.
What we have now is similar to the crises that occurred when the Russians fled. Karzai is the most powerful war lord with a huge army at his disposal, trained, armed and financed by the west. He uses the 'moral' instrument of 'democratically legislated' law to impose his order. And the west runs the illusion that he is a 'democratically' elected leader, although according to Ambassador Galbrath the elections were rigged.
Then there are hundreds of smaller warlords, some aligned to his outfit, some independent, some to the other competing forces and some even to the Taliban.
And then there is the Taliban, perhaps the most disciplined and ideologically driven group, waiting to bring order to the usually fractious Pushtun society once the 'coalition forces' leave. It has a mixture of sharia laws and local customs in its arsenal.
Karzai knows that secular democracy and human rights do not get votes in Afghanistan. Yet that is what the coalition soldiers have been dying for and west paying for all this time.
Karzai's only call is 'the Taliban are a threat to our way of life'. But people know his way of life as corruption, tortures, rapes, privilege, coercion and warlordism. It is no wonder that he does not want to make common ground with the Taliban. That will be his demise.
The world is full of cranks and dreamers controlling power. And there were two of them talking fairy tales to each other at the NATO summit when President Obama and President Karzai assured each other and all present of their 'delusion' of achievable end goal, 'Good responsible secular democracy, human rights, end to corruption and talks with the Taliban to make them partners'. 'Dream on', say the Taliban and ISI.
So what was the NATO summit all about. Illusions of a perfect democracy and delusions of aims achieved. The west went in believing and comes out believing.