To the world, Hamid Karzai is the President of Afghanistan while the bitter reality is that he is no more than the Mayor of Kabul. After 9/11, Karzai a common Afghan with the least of political ambitions was elevated by the Americans to the status of the President of Afghanistan, something he would not even have dreamnt of and he continues to cling to power as a leech does to its host.
Calling him the Mayor of Kabul is not exactly accurate as his power base is confined to certain localities of the capital hence he could be referred to as the Councillor of Kabul, which defines his position well. He is no more than a bad joke. Why?
Not a difficult question to answer. Without the backing of the Americans Karzai is a no body, a non-entity, as he has no political backing at home, neither he belongs to an old political family of Afghanistan with deep grass roots level support nor has he succeeded, even after remaining in power for so long, in developing his political credentials on the world stage. He has not been able to develop them on his own; nor are the Americans ready and willing to see him become a strong political figure in Afghanistan as they have a very bad historic precedent in the shape of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran.
The real powers in Afghanistan are three; first, the ISAF and NATO; second, the Taliban and third, the Northern Alliance. Of these three the Taliban are in control of majority and strategic areas, especially the south; followed by the coalition force and then by the Northern Alliance, mostly restricted to the northern Afghanistan.
If Karzai is a real statesman and not just a puppet, he would have gone the extra mile to develop cordial relations with Pakistan, especially the Pakistan Army. Instead he has chosen the contrary route of appeasing India, Pakistan’s arch rival in the region. Following this policy may benefit him in the short-term but if he has the vision of a shrewd politician, he should remain away from any controversial scenario, as it is a fact that the day the coalition forces withdraw, Karzai, the Mayor of Kabul, would be at the mercy of the Taliban. In this situation the only force that can help him to remain in power is the professional Pakistan army as opposed to the rag-tag militia that the Afghan army is in reality. India is also in no position to help him once the coalition forces withdraw, so Karzai, if he is really the all-powerful President of Afghanistan as he likes to think of himself and not merely the Mayor of Kabul, he would reinvent himself and adopt more Pakistan friendly policies.
Only history can be the true judge of the Karzai’s government in Afghanistan, but one thing that is certain is that the day when Karzai would inevitably fall from the dizzying heights of power he enjoys now as the President of Afghanistan and the reality sets in that he was only the Mayor of Kabul.
Editorial by Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada