Robert Gates, the former US Defence Secretary has confirmed in writing what Afghan President Hamid Karzai had said all along: that the US wants to manipulate the 2014 presidential election in Afghanistan the way it tried in 2009. In his about to be published memoirs, Gates says the late US diplomat for Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke was actively involved in undermining Karzai.
Washington DC, Crescent-online
Friday January 10, 2014, 16:47 EST
In what he described as a “clumsy and failed putsch”, the former US Defence Secretary Bill Gates has written in his memoirs that the US tried to oust Afghan President Hamid Karzai from power in the 2009 presidential election.
Gates has also taken shots at US President Barack Obama saying his policy on Afghanistan was doomed to fail since his heart was not in it. In another embarrassment for Obama, Gates writes that he could not stand Karzai.
The former defence secretary also complained that he was constantly blocked by White Staff to present his candid opinion to the president.
It is, however, his revelation about US manipulation of the 2009 Afghan presidential elections that confirms what Karzai himself had publicly complained about at the time.
And one of the reasons why Karzai has refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US until after the April 2014 presidential elections is precisely because he wants to prevent a repeat of the 2009 fiasco.
At the time, Richard Holbrooke, the gruff and bullying US diplomat for Afghanistan, was actively supporting Karzai's rivals. The aim was to force the polling to go to a second round that Karzai would lose, thereby putting Abdullah Abdullah, America’s favourite in the presidential palace.
Holbrooke died in December 2010.
Karzai was able to thwart American manipulation by his manipulations and electoral fraud. Gates described the episode as follows: “It was all ugly: our partner, the president of Afghanistan, was tainted, and our hands were dirty as well.”
Can anyone really blame Karzai from trying to prevent the Americans from manipulating the situation again?
Washington has threatened to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan unless the deal is signed soon. There is, however, little likelihood that Karzai would oblige. Besides, despite its name, there is nothing bilateral about the agreement. Kabul cannot come to America’s rescue, in case such help were needed.
The threat of troops withdrawal is also not credible. It is the US that is anxious to keep between 9,000 to 12,000 troops in Afghanistan. They will not be under Afghanistan jurisdiction and that they would continue to raid Afghan homes. This last point has been a sticking point with Karzai who has in the past bitterly complained about US troops conduct in barging into people’s homes and killing innocent civilians.
The US wants to retain troops in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 deadline because of economic and strategic reasons. Washington has its eyes fixed on Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth estimated at $4 trillion. Further, many players including China and Russia covet Afghanistan for its strategic location and wish to keep rivals out.
The US wants to keep them out and maintain a tight grip over the country.