Sunday, April 15, 2012

The politics of Rabani’s appointment

There is little doubt that the High Peace Council (HPC) is anything but a jamboree of President Hamid Karzai’s appointees who are more traditional powerbrokers than genuine peacemakers.

The bizarre appointment of Salahudin Rabani as the new chairman of HPC could be interpreted by some as yet another sarcastic decision by President Karzai. Sebgatullah Mujadadi has already tendered an emotional goodbye to President in protest to Rabani’s appointment.

However, the one thing that President Karzai has always been good at is compromise in political appointments. Over the past 11 years, Mr. Karzai has distributed state positions as a reward to buy in consent and alliance from different political and ethnic factions.

President Karzai has “ethnicized & factionalized” so much that even his cabinet ministers are selected based on their diverging ethnic and factional loyalty to the traditional Jihadi powerbrokers. Despite a somewhat enlightened constitution and an internationally bankrolled democratization agenda, Mr. Karzai’s government is more a fragile coalition of greedy Jihadi groups than a rational, coherent and competent organization.

Unsurprisingly the young Rabani’s appointment will not attract Taliban’s satisfaction. Perhaps the only side Mr. Karzai did not consult with regarding Mr. Rabani’s new job was the Taliban. Instead Salahudin Rabani’s appointment was heavily influenced by a well-positioned anti-Taliban & Hezbe Islami Network of former Northern Alliance. This powerful Network is often both the government and the opposition. Fahim Qasim, Ustad Atta, Ismael Khan, Bismillah Khan, Yonus Qanooni, Dr Abdullah and Amrullah Saleh are some of the key figures of this mostly Panjshiri Network which also maintains strong external relations.
President Karzai’s rapprochements to Hezbe Islami and the Taliban – the network is alleging the influx of Hezbe Islami elements in the government with blame fingers mostly pointed to Karim Khurram, Karzai’s chief of staff, and Farourq Wardak, the education minister  – have both incensed and scared the Network. While Taliban claim their representatives have not even met Karzai’s men for a single time, the Network has bombarded the government with criticisms of an imminent “illicit deal” with the Taliban. The Network leaders and spokespeople not only dominate almost all domestic media outlets with their hypothetical rhetoric but also regularly meet foreign diplomats and politicians inside and outside Afghanistan.

Salahudin’s mission

It appears that Salahudin’s presence in the HPC will not be for peacemaking with the Taliban but rather to repair Karzai’s relations with the dissident Network leaders.  During the introduction ceremony of Salahudin Rabani as the new head of HPC in the Arg on Saturday, the triumphant faces of Ustad Atta and Marshal Fahim meant a lot. After all, why was a governor invited to the ceremony and why was he given the podium to deliver a glitzy speech?

It would be too unprofessional of Mullah Omar and his Shurra comrades to negotiate with a nouveau riche Salahudin Rabani.  President Karzai knows this.  Karzai is also confident that all reconciliation mechanisms and a possible peace deal would certainly have to be approved by him. So Mr. Rabani would only be acting as one of his numerous advisers, albeit with a portfolio in reconciliation affairs.

Now that Ustad Atta, Marshal Fahim and other Network leaders are contented with the HPC leadership, it is time for the anti Karzai-Taliban-Hezb criticisms to subside. This will facilitate a breathing space for Mr. Karzai to focus on his “heavy agenda” for 2013-2014.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the thoughts – seems like the HPC is all about Karzai/Kabul politics and next to nothing about reaching out to the Taliban!


    Tim Foxley