More Depressing News For Withdrawal

From FP Passport:

And here lies a key difference between Karzai and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Whereas Karzai seems perfectly happy to live off the largesse of the international community indefinitely, Maliki was eager to get out from under the U.S. yoke. Iraq, with its vast oil reserves, a much more developed society, and a more robust sense of nationhood, is much more capable than Afghanistan of surviving by itself, even if it becomes just another Middle East rentier state.

Which raises the question: Why would Karzai even want us to leave? We’re protecting him from his enemies and investing billions of dollars in his desperately poor country. Even if his security forces got to the point where they could stand on their own, he’d still have to worry about the strength of his patronage network once the aid money starts to dry up, and Afghanistan doesn’t have a functioning tax system.

The deadline doesn’t necessarily bode well for the fight against corruption, either. If Karzai’s cronies want to maximize the amount of goodies they can stuff in their pockets, they’re going to have more incentive to do so if they believe the clock is ticking.

In other words, not only is establishing a stable, legitimate government in the next 18 months going to be nigh impossible (as I’ve said before), but it’s made even harder by the fact that the head of that government has every reason to hope for an unending American presence.

I tried to give Obama the benefit of the doubt when this plan was first unveiled, but the more I think about it the less confidence I have. I suppose the best we can hope for is that by July, the administration will have found some plausible pretense, no matter how empty, to claim “victory,” so they’ll start the withdrawal.

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