Karzai Demands Complicating US Plan To Withdraw

Remember when even liberals thought Afghanistan was the "good war?" It's been apparent almost from the beginning what a huge headache it was going to be. All you had to do was look at the experience of the Soviet Union to know the only smart thing was to not start a war there in the first place:

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai’s denunciation last week of abuses at the main American prison in Afghanistan — and his abrupt demand that Americans cede control of the site within a month — surprised many here. The prison, at Bagram Air Base, is one of the few in the country where Afghan and Western rights advocates say that conditions are relatively humane.

American officials, caught off guard by the president’s order, scrambled to figure out the source of the allegations. Now they have at least part of an answer: the Afghan commission that documented the abuses appears to have focused mainly on the side of the prison run by Afghan authorities, not the American-run part, according to interviews with American and Afghan officials.

Mr. Karzai was, in essence, demanding that the Americans cede control of a prison to Afghan authorities to stop abuses being committed by Afghan authorities.

But the American snickering subsided quickly as it became apparent that the Afghans were not backing off their demand, the officials said, and instead appeared intent on turning it into a test of their national sovereignty.

“We have the right to rule on our own soil,” said Gul Rahman Qazi, the chief of the Afghan commission that investigated the prison, at a weekend news conference in which his panel listed accusations of abuses.

The matter is exposing the deep vein of mutual mistrust and suspicion that runs beneath the American and Afghan talk of partnership, and officials characterize the prison dispute as a critical complication for the United States’ intent to withdraw from the Afghan war on its own terms.


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