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Aghanistan's Karzai back to antagonizing the US and attacking free speech

And why not? It's not as though his public statements cost him anything.

By Staff writer / November 5, 2012



The so-called "fighting season" is over and an Afghan leader's fancy can turn to antagonizing his American patrons for amusement over the cold winter months.

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Sure, NATO soldiers, the bulk of them Americans, will be fighting and dying to protect his government in Kabul even as winter embraces Afghanistan, but President Hamid Karzai will probably get even more latitude than normal for airing his views. This is among his favorite times of year to lash out at the Western powers who have given so much so that he can lead Afghanistan. Last October, he said Afghanistan would back Pakistan if the US ever ended up going to war with Afghanistan's neighbor. In April 2010, he sought to blame the UN and the EU for Afghanistan electoral fraud.

This time, Mr. Karzai is unhappy about the International Crisis Group, probably the world's leading think tank when it comes to unbiased, factual reporting on conflict (full disclosure; I briefly worked on contract for ICG 12 years ago helping to write a report on religious wars in eastern Indonesia). The Brussels-based research organization receives much of its funding from the European Union and the US, but has established a reputation for independent analysis in its 17 years of work.

Earlier today, a Karzai spokesman said the government was investigating the ICG for possible legal action, complaining that "the ICG reports and activities have been politically motivated" and that "it is detrimental to Afghanistan's national interests and no country will allow such activities by a foreign organisation."

What has so upset Karzai, who returned to power in a fraud-riddled election in 2009 (Afghan elections in general are driven by vote-buying, intimidation, and stuffed ballot boxes)? Well, the ICG had the temerity to suggest in October that Afghanistan is an unstable place that could easily descend into widespread civil war again. As the first sentence of the ICG's executive summary had it: "Plagued by factionalism and corruption, Afghanistan is far from ready to assume responsibility for security when U.S. and NATO forces withdraw in 2014."

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