Hamid Karzai's call for Western troops to leave Afghanistan earlier than planned could be a risky move by the president. It shows that he's in a truly desperate situation, says DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz.
International troops are rapidly loosing the respect of the people of Afghanistan: The desecration of corpses, the burning the Koran, a US soldier going on a shooting spree killing women and children.
In the shortest time possible, the behavior of US troops has lead to the West loosing whatever sympathy was left for the ISAF mission.
It is from that perspective that Afghan President Hamid Karzai's call for international troops to leave by 2013 already seems to make sense.
Karzai's proposal stands a good chance of being welcomed in at least some Western countries that have soldiers stations in Afghanistan. Such long deployments are not only expensive and costing lives but are also extremely unpopular as few still believe the mission has been a successful one. For the US, the troop withdrawal and an end to the war in Afghanistan has added significance in the run-up to presidential elections in November this year.
But the international community must remain cautious. Army and police in Afghanistan are nowhere near to being able to safeguard stability in the country without the assistance of international troops. Their training is insufficient, their funding is unclear and their structure makes it easy for the Taliban to infiltrate their ranks.
Afghan troops not yet ready
There is not even a proper strategy in place for handing over control by 2014. Implementing Karzai's suggestion to hand over one year earlier would be even more difficult.
It is unlikely that police and military in Afghanistan would be able to fill the gap left by the 130,000 ISAF troops by next year. A hasty withdrawal would be a worst-case scenario and could see the country quickly descend into civil war.
Karzai's proposal is especially surprising as his own power has for some time been entirely dependent on the presence of international troops. His system of corruption and favoritism would collapse following a Western withdrawal; he would loose power and influence. Karzai has his back to the wall.
Seeking Taliban support
His proposal is a sign of his desperation: Karzai is not very popular among his own people and the latest move could be an attempt to move closer to the Taliban to ensure his survival in the post-ISAF days. He desperately needs to shed his image of being nothing more than a puppet of the western powers.
But his plan might not work out: The Taliban don't need Karzai. Already now, they are strong and influential enough to talk directly with the US. Once the western troops withdraw, the Taliban expects to take back power. Should they succeed, the West would stand empty handed despite 10 years of war. But that would be too high of a price to pay.
Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz / ai
Editor: Darren Mara