Afghan friction


The U.S. situation in Afghanistan is becoming so untenable that Americans are asking how bad it must get before Washington gets out for good.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, an unreliable ally, is part of the problem. But the real difficulty is Afghanistan’s immutability in the face of British, Iranian, Pakistani, Russian, and U.S. efforts over the years, and American leaders’ tardiness about accepting that reality.

Afghans’ traditional resistance to change makes them hard to deal with and reflects a desire to control their own country. That has meant a willingness to accept foreign intervention on occasion, but also a demand that its factions work out their own issues.

President Obama has maintained correctly that Afghanistan was the right war, as opposed to the conflict in Iraq. But if he is keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan merely to please war hawks here, the results will continue to be death and injury of U.S. personnel and the profligate dispersal of American dollars.

Mr. Karzai’s accession to power through relatively democratic means was a source of U.S. pride. But now he is trying to save his skin by dissociating himself from the U.S. war effort.

His latest outrageous acts have included accusing the United States of trying to cut a deal with the Taliban behind his back. Does he or anyone else imagine that a settlement of the Afghanistan conflict will not be political, and will not include the Taliban?

Mr. Karzai has also, on the eve of Afghanistan’s spring fighting season, demanded that no U.S. combat troops operate in Wardak province, a gateway to the capital city of Kabul. American and other international troops remain subject to violent attacks by Afghan forces who are being trained to take over assuring Afghanistan’s and Mr. Karzai’s security.

There are also the continuing revelations of major corruption and theft of U.S. and other international resources, by Mr. Karzai’s government and related Afghan businessmen and financiers.

Some 66,000 U.S. forces are in Iraq. Withdrawals are scheduled to continue through 2014, but full removal is not yet set. Americans can hope their forces are concentrating on getting themselves and their equipment out.