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Karzai Purges the Moderates

Afghan President Hamid Karzai acquiesced to the impeachment of both Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi. The Washington Post and New York Times dutifully reported the parliamentary allegations of corruption and passivity in the face of Pakistani provocations.

The reality is different. As my colleague Ahmad Majidyar pointed out, the “Afghan ministers’ impeachment is not a move against corruption; it’s a political game by some in the presidential palace.” Had the parliament been serious about corruption, then Karzai and many of his close allies, not to mention many of the parliamentarians voting for impeachment, would have been first on the chopping block.

The fact is that Wardak was probably the toughest, most independent, and competent minister in the cabinet. He was a close ally in the fight against the Taliban, and paid little heed to attempts by the Iranians and Pakistanis to buy him off. He was not a proponent of the Obama administration’s efforts to talk to the Taliban, but then again, hardly anyone is outside the White House and State Department.

The two ministers sacked represent the two most important portfolios as President Obama prepares for the draw down of U.S. forces and transition to full Afghan control. Much is now up-for-grabs. Karzai is not interested in democracy or Afghanistan’s future; he is interested in Karzai. If he chooses to appoint political flunkies to the post, any gains ISAF has made in recent months can come crashing down.

What we have just witnessed was not a triumph of democracy or accountability; rather, it was Karzai’s equivalent of the Saturday Night Massacre.



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