The international community that installed Hamid Karzai as ruler of Afghanistan, after the Americans’ toppling of the Taliban in 2000, celebrated the first anniversary of his appointment as ‘interim leader’ on December 22 with a conference of regional leaders in Kabul. The UN-organized conference was attended by representatives of all countries bordering Afghanistan, who signed a declaration pledging to respect that country’s independence and territorial integrity.
Reports of the conference and the Kabul Declaration emphasised the fact that there has been a long history of foreign interference in Afghan affairs, with particular emphasis on the Soviet invasion and occupation, and on Pakistani support for the Taliban. No one mentioned the fact the Pakistani role was endorsed by the US, or that Afghanistan continues to be controlled by foreign powers. Officials from the UN, Russia, the US and the European Union also attended the conference.
The conference was intended as a boost for Karzai, who has very little credibility in Afghanistan because he is recognised as a lackey of foreign powers. Since September, when he survived an assassination attempt in Qandahar, Karzai’s bodyguard has consisted of American special forces soldiers because he can no longer trust Afghan troops. In fact this conference will have done little to boost his standing, merely confirming the Afghans’ opinion of him.
American forces also have little more respect in Afghanistan than their puppet. They suffered another blow on December 18, when two US soldiers were seriously injured in a grenade attack in Kabul. Their bases in eastern Afghanistan—in the Kabul, Khost and Qandahar areas—come under almost daily attack, and soldiers seldom venture outside the bases. The Americans also do not dare to establish permanent bases in other parts of the country for fear of suffering higher losses.
The operations they do undertake tend to be large cordon and search operations through villages, designed to root out armed men. Newsweek reported last year that the famous 82nd Airborne Brigade, the most highly trained infantry unit in the US military, brought in in the summer to bolster the US presence after earlier disasters, were creating more enemies than ever because they behave as if "bin Ladin was in every house."
Despite all the talk of nation-building and creating democracy in Afghanistan, the reality of US rule is plain for all to see.