A leading Afghan politician is warning American lawmakers that "the opportunity is shrinking" to salvage the U.S effort in Afghanistan that he said is close to irreversible failure. Abdullah Abdullah, who is also the former Afghan foreign minister, told The Washington Examiner, that the Afghan people are losing hope in the efforts of U.S. and NATO forces, and that the coalition mission has "no consistent message for the people of Afghanistan."
He said he has shared that warning with several U.S. senators and House members of both parties in key committee positions during a series of meetings in recent days.
The Afghan leader, who lost a runoff election with President Hamid Karzai last year that observers said was marred by corruption, warned that parliamentary elections in September could trigger widespread revolt in Afghanistan if they are also flawed.
Those elections will have "hundreds of supporters and people backing various groups and the situation will not be easily controlled if they lose their voice," Abdullah said.
That unrest will be accelerated by the Obama administration's resolve to begin a draw down of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in July, 2011, Abdullah said. "Premature withdrawal from Afghanistan is a major mistake," he said. "You abandoned us once and you are still paying the price for it. We are still paying the price for it.
Now the people of Afghanistan are losing hope and fear that they will be abandoned again -- this is the reality." A series of grim attacks in recent days, including one that left five American soldiers dead and another bold strike against the largest U.S. facility in Afghanistan at Bagram, have underscored the resilience of a Taliban led insurgency.
On Sunday, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, top commander in Afghanistan, acknowledged to Jeffrey Brown of PBS' "Newshour" that he "would be prepared to say nobody is winning, at this point" in Afghanistan. That is a disheartening message to the Afghan people, said Abdullah. Currently, there are 130,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan fighting Taliban insurgents who have gained stronger support over the past two years as the coalition has struggled to change its strategy to defeat them.
Peter Galbraith, who was fired from his post as second in command of the United Nations mission in Kabul when he noted publicly that Karzai's re-election last fall was the result of corruption and fraud, echoed Abdullah's message. "Eventually NATO will walk away and abandon Afghanistan before there's any resolution," he said in an interview this week.
"I'll take it further than Gen. McChrystal," Galbraith said. "It's a war that the Taliban can't win and a war we can't win because there isn't a government that can garner the loyalty of the population and that can provide safety and security. More than eight years of corruption." Abdullah said that Karzai's recent talks with Taliban leader and designated terrorist by the United States.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hezb-i-Islami, has also endangered the hope of victory and strong democracy for his nation. "Karzai and the U.S. are losing the people who are supportive of a strong democratic Afghanistan," Abdullah said. He added the majority of the people who support "human rights, equality, schools," are discouraged by Karzai's dealings with the Taliban. He is "bringing the Taliban into the mix, offering deals and they are against any democratic process.
What does this mean -- what is the message to the Afghan people?" Galbraith said he was angered by the reception Karzai received from the Obama administration on his recent visit to the United States and called him an "illegitimate weirdo." Like Abdullah, Galbraith said he believes the September parliamentary elections will be roiled in corruption and "nothing but a waste of hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars." He is urging Congress to not fund the elections unless Karzai removes his appointees from the Independent Election Commission.