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Losing Face: Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Central Governments

The US is talking with Pakistan over the planned troop ‘surge’ in Afghanistan doubling the number of US soldiers. The war in Afghanistan is no longer just that, it’s also a war in western Pakistan. Coordination of efforts between the US and Pakistan are important in the success of military (and non-military) efforts to mitigate or defeat the insurgency. The Pakistani paper, DAWN, has a little more on this.

One of Pakistan’s concerns is US military action within its borders. Pakistan’s fear here is that the US will continue to strike into that country without warning the government, essentially a violation of their borders and sovereignty. This has been a blow against the government’s legitimacy, fueling anger within Pakistanis not only against the US but also against a government that has done nothing, or perhaps is incapable of defending the country’s sovereign integrity. Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday commented on the use of US drone attacks in Pakistan, “when there is a drone attack that unites them again, the tribes and the militants… This thing is counterproductive for Pakistan and the Pakistan military.” You can read more at The News.

Afghanistan’s Presidential elections have been pushed back to 20 August. This is three months behind the schedule outlined in the constitution. Officially, the delay is due to lack of security and sparse funds. Unofficially, the current President, Hamid Karzai, is likely buying himself some time to maneuver into a better political position leading up to the election. He has become quite unpopular, mocked as the ‘mayor of Kabul’ by Afghans, and it also seems that the new US administration does not favour his staying in power. President Karzai has failed to extend the government’s authority over much of the country, nor has he succeeded in building a broad based consensus among Afghanistan’s people. The authority of the central government under President Karzai rests on the shoulders of Western funds, Western weapons, and Western military power. The Afghan National Army has not even attempted to act independently from US and NATO handlers and is generally seen as incapable of fighting effectively.

All the while, many Afghans are struggling for the basics of life essentials: food, water, and medical treatment.

Under these circumstances it’s not hard to imagine why President Karzai would be unpopular. Any people would want an independent national leadership to take charge of a bad situation. Similarly, the Pashtun based Taliban is popular enough in southern Afghanistan to continuously extend its reach. Contrasted against President Karzai’s ineffective government, the Taliban appear quite independent, and themselves capable enough to fight against a modern Western army without the conspicuous need for billions of dollars in foreign funds and training. It doesn’t look good therefore that the central government isn’t as capable.

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  1. February 2, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    По правде говоря, сначала не очень то до конца понял, но перечитав второй раз дошло – спасибо!

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