As the U.S. military prepares to leave Afghanistan after nearly 13 years of conflict with the Taliban, three visiting U.S. congressmen had to endure a statement from Afghan president Hamid Karzai that was released while they were in Kabul.
Citing “the free will of the Crimean people,” Karzai’s office said, “We respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.” To date, only Syria and Venezuela have taken a similar position.
The New York Times suggests the Afghan move is linked to the fact that Russia “has been increasingly active in offering development aid. Given Russia’s heavy influence on countries along Afghanistan’s border, maintaining a long-term relationship with the Kremlin is seen as essential to Afghan foreign policy. Moscow is also ramping up its investment in Afghanistan. It is rebuilding the relics of the Soviet occupation and promoting its own political and cultural prowess.”
Indeed, Saturday’s Washington Post has an important article on the changing of the guard in Afghanistan:
“In Afghanistan, Russian officials point to their development activities as a counterexample to U.S. aid projects, which many Afghans criticize as wasteful and misguided. . . . Many Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, praise the Soviet model even though they fought a bloody 10-year war against the country’s army, which invaded in 1979 to support an unpopular communist government.
“The Soviet money went to the right place. They were efficient in spending their money and doing it through the Afghan government,” Karzai said in an interview with The Washington Post this month.
The irony here, of course, is rich. Afghanistan was indeed invaded by the Soviets in 1979, but that is now conveniently forgotten by the Karzai regime. It is no doubt grateful the new Russian development aid is being spent “through the Afghan government,” a euphemism for the enormous corruption and bribery Karzai’s government is famous for. For some years, the U.S. tried to bribe the Karzai regime into doing its bidding. Ultimately, they failed. It seems the U.S. is not only clumsy at nation building, but also can’t seem to get the hang of “nation bribing.”