Commentary Magazine


Mishandling Karzai

Not the least of the innovations that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has introduced is changing how the U.S. interacts with Hamid Karzai. The Obama team came into office bashing the president of Afghanistan without lining up a solid alternative. The predictable result: a key ally has been alienated for no good reason. Now McChrystal is working to shore up Karzai’s authority and especially his credentials as a wartime leader.

This Wall Street Journal article shows how McChrystal was careful to brief Karzai on plans for the offensive into Marjah and to get his sign-off before the launching of operations. As the Journal notes:

For both the Americans and the Afghans, who have been fighting together for more than eight years, it was a novel moment. As Mr. Karzai said after being roused from a nap: “No one has ever asked me to decide before.”

This attempt to bolster Karzai and involve him more in NATO decision-making seems a much more productive way to deal with him than the previous approach of scolding him in public. It is just possible that Karzai can undergo a transformation similar to that of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq, who established himself as a strong leader in 2008 by becoming the public face of military operations against Sadrist insurgents.

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