Global Politics

Why there's a lot for Afghans to worry about

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Credit: REUTERS/Win McNamee

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (second from the left), then interim leader, attending the annual State of the Union speech by President George Bush in January 2002.

The Afghan people are really worried about the election and about the pull-out of the US military from Afghanistan.

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That's according to Sangar Rahimi. He's reported for the New York Times in Afghanistan since 2007, but is currently on fellowship with the Nieman Foundation at Harvard this year.

Complicating the situation for Afghans is that the country's president, Hamid Karzai, is blaming American forces for the January 15 deaths of civilians by military airstrikes. Rahimi says Karzai has been critical of the US before, but this week, he was especially harsh. 

"It's the recent civilian causalities which really infuriated him and he lashed out to the (US) military for causing civilian casualties," Rahimi says. "That's what's in the public but who knows what's beyond that. I'm sure President Karzai might be thinking to use the issue of civilian casualty as leverage to get more things from the United States." 

What a big difference 12 years make. Back in 2002, Hamid Karzai was just interim president of Afghanistan when he was invited by President George W. Bush to attend the State of the Union speech. Karzai sat next to first lady Laura Bush.

"President Karzai was once the most beloved president, in particular, for the Bush administration," Rahimi says. "But in the recent year, we also see a change in the mood of both administrations in terms of relations. I know that relations are now the coldest ever in the past 12-13 years."

According to Rahimi, many in Kabul feel Karzai is trying to show that he is patriotic and a nationalist leader who doesn't want to be seen as a puppet of America.

There are a lot of Afghans, concedes Rahimi, who feel Karzai should not trade Afghan's future for his reputation.

Also playing a big factor in everything is that Karzai has yet to sign the BSA, or the Bilateral Security Agreement, with the US on its military's future in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Foregoing a deal with the US, fears Rahimi, would be a huge loss for Afghanistan.

"We will lose all the achievement we have gained in the past 10 years." 

Rahimi cites women's rights, improved infrastructure and human rights as some of the gains.  "If we lose the support of the international community and in particular the United States, all those gains will just vanish."

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