In Defense of Hamid Karzai

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ann Marlowe's unpleasant attack on Afghan President Hamid Karzai ["Two Myths About Afghanistan," op-ed, Feb. 11] painted him as a last-minute convert to the anti-Taliban cause, in 2001. In reality, he was an active opponent of the Taliban when few commentators inside the Beltway were prepared to pay Afghanistan much attention at all. Mr. Karzai and I shared a platform at a Capitol Hill Policymakers Forum in September 1999, and he was utterly forthright in denouncing both the Taliban and what he called Pakistan's "creeping invasion" of Afghanistan. Subsequent events proved that his assessment was remarkably acute.

It is hardly a secret that the Afghan government is beset with administrative problems. Some are of its own making, but the bulk are attributable to decisions made at the Bonn Conference in November and December of 2001, and to Washington's shortsighted blocking in early 2002 of the expansion beyond Kabul of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Mr. Karzai was not a participant at the Bonn meeting, and he explicitly warned of the loss of momentum that would result from the failure to expand the ISAF.

Afghanistan faces huge challenges, not least because Pakistan's creeping invasion continues. The last thing Afghanistan needs at this critical juncture is to be distracted by an anti-Karzai campaign mounted by foreign visitors.


Canberra, Australia

© 2008 The Washington Post Company