Opinion » Ted Rall

Too Illegit To Quit

We Can't Make Afghans Accept Karzai Now

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LOS ANGELESĀ­--Eight years. We've been in Afghanistan longer than any other war in American history. The party of the president who invaded Afghanistan has been repudiated at the polls. Yet we still haven't altered the flawed strategy that allowed uneducated tribesmen with outdated weapons to defeat us year after year.

"Our goal [in Afghanistan] is to disrupt, dismantle, defeat al-Qaida and its extremist allies," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News' Nightline. "But not every Taliban is al-Qaida. There are people who are Taliban, who are fighting because they get paid to fight. They have no other way of making a living."

So few words. So much stupidity. al-Qaida's presence in Afghanistan in 2001 was negligible. Al-Qaida was a Pakistani phenomenon. Still is.

Not only is every Taliban not al-Qaida, there's no such thing as a Taliban, as in: "That guy is a Taliban." Members of the Taliban are called Talibs. You invade a country, send in 100,000 troops, presume to decide what form of government it should have and who should rule it--yet you still don't know something as basic as what the members of the nation's majority political movement are called?

While it's true that the neo-Taliban (as South Asian experts call them) sometimes pay stipends to their fighters, it's one hell of a stretch--not to mention reflective of an utter misunderstanding of the situation--to depict them as a bunch of greedy and/or desperate entrepreneurs trying to make ends meet.

The neo-Taliban are merely the most recent reflection of a historical truth: Afghans set their political differences aside when it's time to kill invaders. Nothing the United States can do will change what we are: a hostile occupation force. Nothing the United States can say will change why the Afghans think we're there: to kill them and steal their land.

Hamid Karzai, appointed as a U.S. puppet in 2001, has never been considered the legitimate president of Afghanistan by the people who count--Afghans. Karzai's Afghanistan is a disaster. The average Afghan has received zero assistance from the U.S.-led coalition, has seen zero improvement in his or her life, and has seen no reconstruction.

"The [Afghan] judiciary is so weak," reports the Times, "that Afghans increasingly turn to a shadow Taliban court system because, a senior military official said, 'a lot of the rural people see the Taliban justice as at least something.'" Which is how the Taliban came to power in 1995-96. There was chaos. They brought order.

But President Barack Obama doesn't understand a thing. Mr. President: The Afghan war was lost the day the United States invaded. It was doomed to disaster the day it installed an illegitimate stooge. Not only is he a puppet, he is a puppet on a shoestring budget--so he can't try to buy the kind of public support that other Afghan politicians have earned with bravery on the battlefield.

Now the United States is trying to retroactively legitimatize Karzai. It's a sucker's bet.

Ted Rall is the author, with Pablo G. Callejo, of the upcoming graphic memoir The Year of Loving Dangerously.