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Karzai fears the U.S. more than the Taliban

As Afghan President Hamid Karzai makes efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban, they are busy being destructive

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Published: Updated:

As Afghan President Hamid Karzai makes efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban and as he stalls signing the security agreement with the United States, the Taliban remains busy obstructing presidential campaigns and planning further attacks.

The advertising campaign for the presidential elections began last Saturday when Taliban members killed two elections workers in Herat.

As usual for the rebels - that is the Taliban in Afghanistan - the elections are considered the perfect opportunity to target people.

President Karzai, who was unknown until 2001, suddenly became president thanks to his friend Zalmay Khalilzad who holds Afghani and American citizenship and who represented Bush’s administration in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

In the meantime, the man, who was considered a good friend of the Americans and particularly of former President George W. Bush, became the man who represents the biggest problem for the Obama administration.

Secret talks

Last week, the New York Times reported on Karzai’s secret talks with the Taliban before the meeting of the Loya Jirga (Afghanistan’s tribal elders) in Kabul in November. Afghan tribes leaders and individuals who influence tribes agreed to sign the security agreement with the United States.

As usual for the rebels - that is the Taliban in Afghanistan - the elections are considered the perfect opportunity to target people

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

The surprise was that after all the time the Loya Jirga spent and after all the calls that the president sign the security agreement before the final date of foreign forces’ departure, President Karzai refused to sign.

Karzai thinks that the U.S. must satisfy “the angry brothers from the Taliban” before signing the security agreement. It seems the president himself participated in direct secret talks with them over the past few months.

Even though prominent members of the Taliban refuse Karzai’s calls to engage in peace talks, they are happy that Karzai rejects the signing of the security agreement and that he’s taken a stance against the Americans.

There’s a possibility that less influential Taliban-linked have engaged in talks with the president. Over the past few weeks, Karzai released hundreds of the most dangerous Taliban prisoners from Bagram prison despite protests. When talking about those extremely dangerous prisoners, Karzai said they are innocent Afghans who were tortured by the Americans to become hostile against their state and become rebels. In the meantime, Karzai, who escaped six assassination attempts, fears the Americans a lot more than he fears Taliban!

Delusional?

The president may be suffering from illusions according to people close to him. One of his aides secretly and unofficially told me that the president has lately suffered from the illusion of seeing American fighting jets pursuing his plane to bring it down. In the meantime, the entire country silently speaks about the president’s disease and illusions. Perhaps the Taliban benefits from Karzai’s enthusiasm about the peace talks in order to guarantee the release of its prisoners and dispel hopes of sealing a peace agreement with the U.S. Just as the world awaits the elections to see who the next president will be, the Taliban too hopes to control the country after the elections amidst the absence of foreign forces.

Since cooperation with the current president is difficult at this time, it seems the U.S. has postponed talking about all issues - including the forces’ withdrawal and the signing of the security agreement - until after the elections in April.

Since Karzai is not allowed to run for a third presidential term - as per the constitution - it’s difficult to trust the ballot boxes regarding the 11 candidates running for presidential elections in a country where corruption and fraud is rampant.

When looking at the list of presidential candidates, we find that the president’ s brother - who owns an Afghani restaurant in Baltimore - is among them. A famous military leader from the south, who probably can’t read or write, and a bearded extremist Islamist, who previously invited Osama bin Laden to visit Afghanistan, are among the candidates.

Abdullah Abdullah, the former member of the northern alliance who came in second in the 2009 elections is once again running for the elections.

Voters

Estimations indicate that from among the total number of voters, which is 12 million, there are only 3.5 million eligible voters. Since women represent 35 percent of the total number of voters, we must expect that they will play a decisive role in case the elections are held without fraud.

So far, the major questions are related to providing security for the April 6 elections. Besides the security issue, the lack of trust between Karzai and the Americans casts a shadow on the election.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 8, 2014.

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Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.