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US May Undermine Karzai with PM; 8 Police Killed by Taliban;
by juan cole (reposted)
Wednesday Mar 25th, 2009 7:50 AM
From a Wednesday, March 25, 2009 entry on Informed Comment a blog run by Juan Cole

US May Undermine Karzai with PM;
8 Police Killed by Taliban;

The Obama administration is so discouraged by the poor performance of the government of Afghan president Hamid Karzai that it is contemplating appointing a prime minister who would do the serious work that Karzai appears to avoid. The plan raises questions of constitutionality in Afghan law, and has a "great man theory" that what is wrong with Afghanistan is personalistic and could be fixed with a new executive officer.

Taliban ambushed Afghan police near Spin Boldak south of Qandahar late on Monday, killing at least 8 of them. Some observers wonder if the attack came in revenge for the killing of 10 militants, including Mawlavi Hasan, a senior figure in a NATO air strike earlier the same day.

Elsewhere, in Afghanistan, militants bombed a mosque. NATO troops shot an Afghan driver for approaching a checkpoint too fast and seeming to disregard orders to halt.

The sting of the killing of 4 Canadian troops over the weekend in Afghanistan was increased by mean-spirited comments at Fox Cable News calling Canadian soldiers "effeminate." Rightwing American bigotry toward Canadians and French, and jokes branding both as cowardly, is always despicable, but never moreso than when our NATO allies are fighting and dying alongside American troops in perhaps the most challenging terrain in the world. I don't think Faux CN should be let off with a mere mumbled apology.

Jean McKenzie interviews former Taliban officials and a researcher in Qandahar who stress that the groups that NATO calls "Taliban" are not al-Qaeda and are different from one another. The "Old Taliban" of Mulla Omar, it is alleged, are pragmatic and a deal could be made with them. Taliban are said to control 10% of Afghanistan, and violence between them and the Kabul government left 2000 civilians dead last year, a 40% increase over 2007.

The results of the policy review on Afghanistan ordered by President Barack Obama will be released on Friday.

The Obama administration agrees with European allies that an exit strategy needs to be found from Afghanistan. By this phrase they seem to mean that they are determined to train and pay for more Afghan police and soldiers, who can provide security in NATO's stead, and that they will depend on on regional allies like Pakistan. (Cole: It just should be pointed out that the training of Afghan security forces has gone much more slowly than NATO had hoped, and Pakistan is unable to deal with its own northwest, much less with Afghanistan.)

Aid organizations are warning that drought in Afghanistan is threatening thousands, perhaps millions of Afghans. Taliban attacks on aid convoys are exacerbating the problem:

' Based on UN estimates, some 2.2 million tons of cereal grains need to be imported into the Afghanistan this year just to meet basic needs. Commercial imports were expected to supply 1.5 million tons. But, in the current situation--marked by high prices and the smallest wheat harvest in years--any meaningful commercial imports of food and agricultural inputs are unlikely. The bulk of the nearly one-million-ton shortfall will need to be met by the international donor community. '

Controversy continues to rage about 5 men killed in a US/Afghan raid in Kunduz. Afghans say the men were innocent civilians, while the US and NATO maintain that the dead had been militants.

Aljazeera English has video about continuing Afghan protests over the US and NATO air strikes that often kill innocents.