Usually the most indenting vicissitudes on embodying someone’s legacy that elongate towards immortality usually stems from their absence. Thus is the case with Former President Hamid Karzai, his departure from government reflected his respect for the Afghan constitution and reflected many other admirable traits he withholds.
Hamid Karzai’s voice, I would imagine was undoubtedly the sound of the most joyful man in the world when he received the phone call from an American CIA agent that he will be the Chairman of the Transitional Government. If his legacy as Chairman does not manifest itself into the immortal pages of history, then his time as President unquestionably should. From the time of his initiation into the Presidency, he grilled at the notion of Gul Agha Sherzai becoming Governor. This converged a tradition of regional strongmen becoming government officials. Imagining Karzai persisting to not have Gul Agha Sherzai as governor of Kandahar may have not paved the road for other regional strongmen to become government officials. A struggle, Afghanistan has till this very day. Nevertheless, Karzai’s yearn for peace and stability always connived itself into his politics. Kandahar hadn’t fallen yet, but already he portrayed the blueprints of his politics.
Karzai’s love for the land showcased in his relationship with Pakistan, a relationship of constant mistrust, a rehearsing history Afghanistan has had with Pakistan since 1947, composed of constant paranoia among two nations transgressing to the death of millions. Therefore foreign policy with Pakistan was simply simple; don’t trust them. However Pakistan is not half away across the world, his stance against Pakistan epitomized Karzai’s belief in Afghan institutions, armed forces and notably the Afghan people to not become a commission of anti-government forces aligning with Pakistan. History tells us otherwise, more often than not the people of Afghanistan end up revolting against the government. But this time I believe his trust proved him right, 2006 was one of the safest years of the post-Taliban Afghan state.
Some criticize his donative view on power and high government positions to Regional Strongmen and Warlords whether it be in the provincial or national level. His outlook was predicated from the measure of value these Regional Strongmen brought to the table. The security factor infiltrated itself as a major source of value to Karzai. He needed security to give the people of Afghanistan peace. Peace always has a price and in this case it was having these particular Regional Strongmen in government positions. Resultantly, Balkh and Kandahar enjoys more peace than the Capital.
Another influence, were the Americans on Karzai’s stance on the Strongmen. On the eve of the fall of the Taliban, mental skirmishes within the CIA caused Karzai to compromise. The Northern Alliance was advancing in a swift manner compared to the Southern contingents. This controlled Afghan led invasion initiated political frustration that still troubles Afghanistan to this very day. Karzai’s outlook became all the more comprisable, but his knack at looking at the bigger picture prevailed, which was keeping the peace.
His approach became almost robotic throughout the years as head of state. Cater to the Strongmen and Warlords by overlooking corruption and in trade have amity. Using exactly the right amount of balance to keep everyone content came from his experience. Still managing to build a country from scratch while the world watching, flagranted his brilliance.
The balance of keeping everyone content was tested by the Bilateral Security Agreement. His refusal to sign soured relationships between the Afghan and American governments was a calculated move and was basically asking America; so what’s in it for us? Long term American presence in one of the world’s most strategic areas, is of American interests not Afghanistan’s, from a long term perspective. Karzai held off to not sign until the newly elected government formed. Since signing the Bilateral Security Agreement by the NUG, security has worsened, proving Karzai’s position on the BSA as vindicated and empathetic to Afghanistan’s deeper interest. While most were mesmerized by the illusion of what the BSA would have brought. His bigger picture analysis once again prevailed and so far his stance was the correct move.
Whether it was allowing the corrupt in power for peace, compromising with the CIA or refusing to sign the BSA, one notion is parallel in all those transpirations. That is, his covet for peace and stability which has created its own realm that factors in all his decisions for Afghanistan. When Abdullah’s supporters demonstrated their peevishness on why Abdullah does not have his own palace, Karzai offered his own palace that he built for himself to retire in after his tenure as President.
Afghanistan’s current government is struggling and security has become worse. It is as if Karzai designed a country in a certain a way, which he only knows how to govern. To say that was his intention would be a remote claim, but to claim he did what he did to keep the peace and prioritized the interests of Afghanistan which therefore resulted to a State that only Karzai can govern, is probably a fairer claim. The current government of Afghanistan must look at policy from not a rebuilding perspective but from a perspective and motive to keep the peace at all costs.
Karzai’s legacy is unfinished and will be for a long time, what remains to conclude are not in the hands of the Karzai; it is in the hands of his successors. Thus far the shortcoming of the NUG is reiterating that this is still Karzai’s country, so maybe they should take a couple of pages from Karzai’s notebook on how to govern his country.
The author of the story can be followed on Twitter @mebady1