An Afghan friend pointed me to this story from the BBC:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pardoned a rape victim who was jailed for adultery, after she apparently agreed to marry her attacker. The woman, named as Gulnaz, gave birth in prison to a daughter who has been kept in jail with her… “In my conversations with Gulnaz she told me that if she had the free choice she would not marry the man who raped her,” said [Gulnaz’ lawyer] Kimberley Motley. The case has drawn international attention to the plight of many Afghan women 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban. Earlier this month, Gulnaz told the BBC that after she was raped she was charged with adultery. “At first my sentence was two years,” she said. “When I appealed it became 12 years. I didn’t do anything. Why should I be sentenced for so long?”
It is time to stop pretending that Hamid Karzai is a democrat, or has any desire to better Afghanistan. He is interested only in his own power, if that means he appeases the Taliban at the expense of women, that is what he will do. At the same time, too many American officials are willing to engage in cultural relativism in order to prepare the way for American withdrawal. Before his death, an Afghan official showed me an email from the late Afghan coordinator Richard Holbrooke in which he argued that the Taliban’s amputation of women’s noses was simply Pashtun cultural practice (it’s not). Holbrooke’s successor, Marc Grossman, has pushed dialogue with the Taliban as the centerpiece of American strategy, regardless of how many Afghans and Americans tell him how unwise such a policy is, and what concessions it would entail.
America must remain a brand name. Building national security upon a regime that is willing to terrorize half its population is neither in our security interest, nor should it be a reflection of our moral position. We should not be tolerating such behavior from even a nominal ally, nor should we subsidize an increasingly paranoid and unstable politician who does so. True security is based on the strength of systems, not on a single personality. Karzai should be more dispensable than Gulnaz.