Karzai's Crisis of Legitimacy

Reading the press of late, you might conclude that all Harmid Karzai, Afghanistan's chief, needs to pacify his country is an expanded international peacekeeping presence and faster delivery of aid. The carrot of international assistance and the stick of peacekeeping forces will allegedly prevent Karzai's government from dying in the cradle.

Swayed by this logic, the US has pushed to accelerate delivery of aid--a task it knows well how to achieve, having provided nine-tenths of all emergency relief money to Afghanistan even during the Taliban years. President Bush's announcement that the US, Japan, and Saudi Arabia have created a $180 million fund to reconstruct Afghanistan's trunk highways is the most recent measure to speed up the flow of development assistance.

The international security force, staffed mainly by Turks, is being upgraded and its mandate extended to the entire country. When Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Secretary of Defense, announced this, it represented a reversal of America's earlier position, which favored confining the peacekeeping forces to Kabul lest they get in the way of US operations against Al Qaeda and Taliban diehards.

The trouble with this carrot-and-stick strategy is not that it is wrong but that it is insufficient. It fails to recognize that neither expanded peacekeeping nor efficiently delivered aid will achieve their desired ends until the Afghan public accepts the Karzai government as fairly representing its interests. Today it does not.