Realpolitik in the Hindu Kush

Talk of peace, liberty, democracy and an end to Taliban barbarism has long since ceased.

On Oct. 7, the war in Afghanistan began its 10th year. During that time many of the goals declared by alliance nations who, as they said in 2001, were also fighting for European freedom, have been relativized. Nothing illustrates that better than two recent reports from the region: There was massive manipulation in the recent parliamentary elections, and NATO allowed Taliban leaders to fly to Kabul for peace talks on an alliance aircraft.

No one has mentioned peace, liberty and nationwide democracy for Afghanistan for a long time, nor does anyone talk about ending Taliban barbarism any longer. Such naiveties don’t even suffice for public relations strategies. These days, realpolitik is being practiced on the “graveyard of empires,” and rightly so, because it’s probably the only way of achieving anything remotely approaching “success” in Afghanistan.

The recent elections were clearly a farce. It’s also clear that President Hamid Karzai and his entourage aren’t — to put it politely — ideal leaders. There’s nothing further to be said about Taliban goals and objectives. Bottom line: What you see is what you get in Afghanistan these days. The United States and its allies have to try to cobble together some sort of relative stability under those conditions. That’s the only remaining option for those like Barack Obama who want to find an exit strategy. Even another 10 years won’t suffice for anyone wanting to accomplish more than that in Afghanistan.

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