The Price of Afghanistan Timelines

As talks with the Taliban gain momentum, Afghan president Hamid Karzai is purging his government of anti-Taliban and pro-Western officials. This week’s sacking of Dr. Davood Moradian, senior policy adviser at the Foreign Ministry, was the latest in a series of dismissals and forced resignations of senior officials who oppose Karzai’s outreach to the Taliban and Pakistan (see Rah-e Nejat Daily, Tolo News, Afghan Paper). 

The Coalition for Change and Hope, chaired by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s chief rival in the 2009 election, had earlier warned that ten to eleven key government officials would be soon sacked or would be forced to resign due to their disagreements with Karzai’s reconciliatory approach to the Taliban and Pakistan, including Karzai’s spokesperson Waheed Omar and national security advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta (Afghan Paper). Omar resigned on Monday (Cheragh Daily), and Spanta is also said to have offered his resignation but the president has not accepted it yet (Afghan Paper).

Karzai, who has had a troubled relationship with the Obama administration over the past two years, has been seeking alternative allies for his survival. He has intensified efforts to reconcile with the Taliban leaders and tried to improve relations with Pakistan. He has also replaced many pro-West, anti-Taliban officials. Last year, he sacked intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh and interior minister Hanif Atmar, both described by Western officials as the most capable members of Karzai’s government. Saleh had publicly opposed talks with the Taliban without preconditions and accused the Pakistani military and intelligence agency of supporting terrorist groups.

The removal of competent and pro-Western officials is undermining current efforts to defeat the Taliban and improve governance in the country. It also a sign that Obama’s repeated willingness to offer timelines to assuage his domestic base is having a very negative effect on Afghanistan’s security.

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