After more than ten years of blood, money and guts, American policy makers must be fretting at their lack of progress in Afghanistan. Between burning copies of the Koran to being shot by soldiers assigned to protect the 'new' Afghanistan, NATO has it tough these days.
Certainly, the following events are not positive harbingers for US interests in the Central Asian country.
In July 2011, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction issued a blistering report about the use of US aid in the country. The report "found that untold amounts of American taxpayer dollars are vulnerable to winding up in the pockets of insurgents." Considering that billions of dollars in cash literally 'disappeared' during the US occupation of Iraq, such fears should not come as a surprise to regional security analysts.
If the possibility of funnelling cash towards the insurgency is alarming, the prospect of US supplied equipment being used to assist insurgents fighting NATO is positively distressing.
Allegedly, the US trained and funded Afghan Air Force (AAF) has routinely used air force planes to ferry weapons and drugs around the country. A US investigation into the AAF activity has made little progress in the face of resistance from Afghan authorities. In fact, it is believed that the 2011 killing of eight US officials at Kabul airport by an AAF officer is linked to ongoing investigations into the AAF trafficking network.
American missteps are not restricted to money and corruption. As befits the antics of the stereotypical 'Ugly American,' American soldiers have burned copies of the Koran in a country well known for emotional reactions to religious slights. The incident led to days of rioting and many deaths.
However, few will be shocked by such behaviour if they are aware that America's premier domestic law enforcement agency, the FBI, formally recommended texts such as 'The Truth about Mohammed: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion' in its quest to keep America safe. Robert Spencer's bigoted book was an inspiration for Norwegian mass murderer Anders Brevik, who quoted from the text frequently in his white supremacist manifesto.
Not surprisingly, Americans are tired of the war in Afghanistan.
Negotiations with the Taliban appear to be gaining momentum. Americans look ready to transfer Afghan detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar, although no deal has yet been finalized. In return, the Taliban are expected to agree to talk seriously about terms for an American withdrawal.
Karzai too is positioning for his American protectors leaving him to his own devices. The clearest indication of this fact is his new found friendliness with Taliban style Islam at the expense of women's rights.
Karzai has come out in support of a set of retrogressive edicts recently issued by the Afghan Ulema Council, a group of religious 'scholars.' The council's guidelines include statements such as "men are fundamental and women are secondary ... [and women should avoid] mingling with strange men in various social activities such as education, in bazaars, in offices and other aspects of life."
Translation: women have limited, if any, rights and should avoid moving around in public places (as men are sure to be present in such areas). Arguably, female education becomes neither necessary nor possible in such circumstances.
As the fog of war lifts and Afghan ground realities become more clearly visible, the effects of long term western intervention in Afghanistan seem even more contentious.
Pakistanis watch events in Afghanistan with concern, waiting for the inevitable accusations from Pakistan's western 'friends:' western failure in Afghanistan is a result of lack of Pakistani cooperation in stabilizing the country.