Obama: Talks Possible with Moderate Taliban; Karzai Accepts August Elections, Refuses to Step Down

In an interview in the New York Times, President Barack Obama admitted that the US is not winning in Afghanistan. He also allowed that it might be possible for the US to peel off and negotiate with more moderate elements of the Taliban, though he admitted that Afghanistan is more complex than Iraq and that an ‘awakening councils’ strategy might be difficult to pull off there:

‘“The situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex,” [Obama] said. “You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes, and so figuring all that out is going to be much more of a challenge.” ‘

Well, yes. But the real issue in my view is to define the military mission clearly and tightly. What exactly is the US trying to accomplish there? If it is just to prop up the Karzai government, we could be in Afghanistan a very long time.

And what are ‘moderate’ Taliban? Those willing not to attack the government if they are allowed to impose their rigid view of Islamic law in their regions?

A new poll shows that the Afghanistan war is now nearly equal to Iraq as a worry for the American public.

One potential constitutional crisis in Afghanistan has been averted, since President Hamid Karzai has accepted the August 20 date for elections, giving up his push to deploy his advantages of incumbency by moving them up to April (which would have greatly disadvantaged his rivals).

Other considerations weighing against April are that the weather will still be bad in the more mountainous regions of the country, interfering with voters reaching the polling booths; and the new contingent of 17,000 US troops, who will help with election security, won’t be in place until the summer.

But another crisis looms, because his rivals want him to step down when his current term is over in mid-May. In contrast, he insists that his term stretches until the next elections. Obviously, if he has to contest the elections as an ex-president, that position will be less favorable than being an incumbent.

Aljazeera English reports on the new controversy about whether Karzai should step down in favor of an interim president.

Aljazeera English also reports on the problem of rape as a weapon of war in Afghanistan, deployed by warlords and clans in their internecine struggles.

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