Karzai in Washington to beg for foreign aid
American combat troops are supposed to be out of Afghanistan next year and President Karzai wants to make sure that military aid keeps flowing even after the troops depart.
The Afghan president is on his way to Washington for what is likely to be a tense visit, with the two uneasy allies set to discuss details of a long-term US military presence in the central Asian nation.
Hamid Karzai, who will meet Barack Obama, wants Washington to stump up for planes, helicopters, heavy weapons and other advanced military equipment for Afghanistan's still-shaky armed forces. He also wants more aid money to be channelled through ministries rather than spent by western aid agencies.
The US president is weighing up how many of its troops should remain in Afghanistan when the Nato-led combat mission there ends in 2014. But any plan needs Afghan approval, and hanging over the discussions is the question of immunity for US soldiers.
Iraq's refusal to agree to this condition in effect ended the US presence there, and there are fears it could be a major obstacle to a long-term US presence in Afghanistan. Karzai, who has criticised Nato and US measures he believes violate national security, admitted this could be a stumbling block in talks.
Karzai may be banking in part on western fears that if cash and other support for the government and security forces are cut, and Afghanistan slips back into civil war or the Taliban gain ground, it could once again become a haven for al-Qaida or similar groups.
"The world needs us more than we need them," Abdul Karim Khurram, Karzai's chief of staff, told the Washington Post shortly before the visit.
But diplomats in Kabul warn that Karzai may have underestimated US fatigue with the war, and anger over its cost, at a time when the national economy is struggling. Rampant, large-scale corruption in Afghanistan also makes it harder to justify aid spending to voters tightening their belts at home.
Even with his neck in a noose, Karzai is demanding the impossible. Whatever American troops are left in Afghanistan won't slow down the Taliban who already dominate large sections of the country. Attempted negotiations with "good" Taliban and terrorists are not working out well. Karzai thinks he can share power with the Taliban - a fools notion. He will be extremely lucky to escape Afghanistan with his life.
Mr. Khurram's statement that we need them more than they need us is absurd - pure bluster. They are in no position to make demands of the American military - or the taxpayer, for that matter.