In the Arena

Obama’s Afghan Policy–Take One

  • Share
  • Read Later

Afghanistan’s foreign minister is apparently upset because Hillary Clinton called his country a “Narco State” in her testimony last week. He says:

“But if somebody believes that our government, the government of President (Hamid) Karzai is involved as a government entity in the production of drugs, this is absolutely wrong.”

That may, or may not, be technically correct. But, according to the U.S. military, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has shadow governments in the two prime poppy provinces that are doing serious buck-raking. The Kandahar operation is run by his brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai. The Helmand operation is run by Sher Mohamed Akhunzada, a former governor , who was found in possession of nine tons of opium and somehow hasn’t found his way to jail.

Clinton’s straight talk will, I hope, be part of the incoming Administration’s style. Bush coddled both Karzai and Pakistan’s late, unlamented dictator Pervez Musharraf–both of whom allowed activities that resulted in the deaths of American troops. Karzai’s government is widely despised by the Afghan people–and so Clinton was sending a signal: you’re going to have to earn our support. The rumor in Kabul, when I was there last month, was that Karzai was nervous that Richard Holbrooke was going to be the Special Envoy to the region because Holbrooke was going to demand that Karzai clean up his government.

Holbrooke begins work this week. Karzai had better get cracking. (OOOPs–I love puns, but this one was unwitting, the result of foggy-headed Obamaverload.)

Update: Time’s intrepid Aryn Baker has more in the situation in Afghanistan here.