Is Obama the Odd Man Out in Kabul?

If you’re interested in a political scorecard for Afghanistan — post-election fiasco — from a non-Coalition perspective, MK Bhadrakumar has a pretty sobering assessment at Asia Times Online. The essential takeaway is that in going after Afghan President Hamid Karzai but failing to either effectively sideline him or force him to accept an acceptable power-sharing arrangement, the Obama administration — and Western governments in general — emerge dramatically weakened.

The irony, according to Bhadrakumar, is that in emphasizing legitimacy as the election’s litmus test, the West burned its bridges with a Karzai team that is actually well-positioned to deal with most of its national and regional interlocutors, including some key insurgent leaders.

With almost all of the Obama administration’s major political players now essentially persona non grata in Kabul, that leaves the U.S. military command as the major “handler” of U.S. policy moving forward. Bhadrakumar identifies Amb. Karl Eikenberry as the sole diplomat left with some room for maneuver in Kabul. Of course, Eikenberry is a recently retired general who used to be commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

That doesn’t bode well for an Obama administration that seems to be engaged in a power struggle with the Pentagon brass over the military effort in Afghanistan. Also of concern is that, for years now, the mantra has been that the solution in Afghanistan is not a military one, but a political one. That was meant to reassure in the face of a failing military effort to contain the insurgency. But given how the Obama administration’s handling of the political component is being perceived in the region, it’s no longer very reassuring.