Security pact snag: ‘Afghan government can’t afford to let the US lead the scene’
RT:Washington has said it has always been supportive of direct talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban. Does this mean that 10 years of war have been in vain?
Frank Ledwidge: All this is a testament to the total strategic illiteracy of the whole campaign from the start. We had a military campaign, really quite savage brutality over the last 12 years, completely unhinged and unconnected to any political process. Now the Taliban groups are very conversant with the need to link and to mesh and to marry politics with military action and they play this game extremely well. And now what happened is we are right at the end of the campaign, Karzai and his extremely corrupt government are being pushed to the wire and the pressure is all coming from the other side.
RT:Despite little success so far, Afghanistan is hopeful the talks will be successful. But at what cost would a deal come?
While the US is pushing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a security pact that would extend its military presence in the country, President Karzai has confirmed he is engaged in secret talks with the Taliban, which reportedly wants to join the Afghanistan peace process.
FL: The cost really is to the credibility of primarily thousands of Afghans who have been killed in these misconceived military operations. But the political cost now is really the balance of that is tipping very much against the US. There is no way that the Americans are going to pull out of Afghanistan, they can’t leave the country without military cover. That would lead to the kind of situation we had in 2001, actually the more appropriate comparison is 1979. And no one wants that to happen.
RT: Is it possible that Karzai is simply trying to secure his country's future after US troops are withdrawn?
FL: He is concerned of course to leave a legacy. Let’s not forget the elections that are going to happen in a few months’ time. I don’t know how he can end up… he can end up in Dubai. Anyway, he [believe it will be] pretty soon and he wants to leave some kind of legacy with some kind of political settlement in place as something to hand on to the new government, who of course he wants to be from his own political clan. So this is all part of the process leading up to the elections. And the real pressure has been put on the US; they have the bilateral security agreement ready to be signed. Karzai isn’t going to sign it, he wants to extract more concessions from the US. And of course the Taliban is pushing Karzai from the other side.
RT: Is it the only reason why Karzai is so reluctant to sign the security deal with the US?
FL: I’m not sure that’s reluctance. There is a lot of pretended [indignation] about what’s been going on during the last decade. There is a lot of this political posturing. The Afghan government also can’t afford to have the US lead the scene because their security forces [will collapse] in a very short order if that happens.
RT:Elections are looming for Afghanistan. Could the balance of power tip in favor of the Taliban, especially in the regions where it dominates?
FL: The balance of power is already tipping for the Taliban, particularly in the south, where most of the combats were taking place. In the provinces, for example, which were British-occupied for 7 years or so, we are seeing the Taliban already moving into the areas vacated by the British and American forces. Extortions have been applied, political pressure, making deals with local drug cartels. That part is already tipping now.
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