But why, and at what cost?
As the Karzai regime’s reactions to the recent Koran-burning and Robert Bales rampage cases show, our client’s desire for Islamic street cred outweighs whatever gratitude he may have to us. For that reason, Afghan Christians are subject to harassment, as various trials and the adventures of Abdul Rahman show. There is only one legal church of any kind in the country, a Catholic chapel within the Italian Embassy’s grounds in Kabul. That kind of religious intolerance may be their right, but why should we and our allies pay and bleed for it?
Some say we need to preserve the Karzai government as a counter to Iran. But if it cannot survive on its own, it is not much of an asset anyway. Having dislodged the Taliban in 2001, we should have dislodged ourselves from Afghanistan and let its various factions and their King sort out things. Whatever they arrived at would not have the stigma of US dependence that plagues Karzai. Alas, Bush’s global democratic revolution could not allow for such a real-world solution.
What is to be done? Zahir Shah is dead. The only one of his descendants involved in public life, Mustafa Zahir, sat out the 2009 presidential election and is apparently disinterested in politics. The coalition that helped defeat the Taliban is divided. If the ISAF withdrew, utter chaos would likely regain control of the country, providing a tempting target for Iranian occupation.
My suggestion is that we say goodbye. Yes, oceans of blood will be shed. Yes, UNAMA, Caritas, BAAG, and innumerable other relief agencies would have to withdraw, denying countless Afghans access to food, medicine, and education. But it will happen anyway. If the Iranians decide to intervene, they will soon find what all other invaders of Afghanistan have discovered: It cannot be subdued. The 10-15% of the Afghan population that is Shi’a is an insufficient base for Iranian rule. Perhaps if Tehran develops an Afghan quagmire of their own, they will be too busy to participate in our next adventure over there.
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