The Lisbon Summit

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The Nato summit has begun at a time when President Karzai is increasingly under attack from his American patrons for criticising Gen Petraeus kill or capture night raids on the Taliban. Karzais problem is that he occasionally tends to forget that he holds his position as President courtesy the US and its allies and that he is supposed to carry out orders without throwing tantrums. His latest fits of pique have landed him in hot soup and he is being asked to explain which side he is on.

What Karzai has discovered after nine years was common knowledge for an intelligent newspaper reader. Civilians are not being killed for the first time in attacks launched by the American and allied forces. Karzai is suddenly frustrated with the west and critical of neighbours forgetting their compulsions. He wants to hold talks with the Taliban who would like to see his back at the earliest along with those of his foreign allies and supporters. Meanwhile he blames the US for following no consistent policy. The US allies in turn maintain that the situation in Afghanistan has turned out to be altogether different from what they had conceived when entering the country. They, nevertheless, leave no occasion to berate Karzai for corruption which is impolite though factually correct. While he wants to reassert Afghan sovereignty and have a peaceful country, he remembers what happened to Najibullah, a man much superior to him in intellect and administrative skills.

While Karzai has a lot to worry about, Pakistan too cannot avoid keeping its Afghan policy under constant review. The US which had originally come to Afghanistan to rebuild the country, spread the light of democracy, defeat the Taliban and eradicate Al Qaeda, has gradually brought down its targets to merely train Afghan security forces and hand over the country by 2014 to the Afghan government which would fight its war against the terrorists, thus replicating the experiment in Iraq. With the US still having four years to settle things, the pressures on Pakistan to do more will continue over a longer period. What is more, Islamabad will have to deal with the Taliban single-handedly if it fails to get rid of them by the time foreign troops leave Afghanistan.