The Americans tried their utmost to build up Amrullah Saleh, Afghan intelligence chief whom Hamid Karzai sacked last year. It wasn’t an easy thing to make a spook seem a statesman within a year. But it is an interesting wheel within the wheel, as they say. Saleh is Panjshiri strongman Mohammad Fahim’s protégé but then, these lines blur in today's Afghanistan. ‘Have dollar, will travel.’
Saleh oozes anti-Karzai venom. He can’t get over that he lost a great job in Kabul with perks and privileges. So he puts everything that is wrong with today's Afghanistan at Karzai’s doorstep. American think tankers love to listen to him do that. The US intelligence community sees him as a reservoir of information about Taliban. Saleh wrote recently in impeccable American English an opinion piece in Bloomberg laying claim to an “alternate vision to Karzai’s”. He said: “It entails a complete disarming of the Taliban, an end to Pakistan’s practice of giving sanctuary to Taliban militants and a truth-and-reconciliation process for Afghanistan.” How charming!
But his vision is not like Nelson Mandela’s. It cannot be. If ever there is a truth and reconciliation commission, Northern Shura 'warlords' who ran Kabul in the halcyon days of the Mujahideen takeover in 1992 will have to go into exile - or face suicide bombers; their wanton rape and looting of the Hazara district in Kabul and their subsequent massacres of thousands of Pashtun teenagers ('Talibs')in Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif may come to haunt them. Saleh’s 'vision' is riveted on scattering the Taliban from the face of the earth and forcing Pakistan to lay off. It is a recipe for endless strife. Taliban, too, are Afghans and Pakistan has legitimate interests in an Afghan settlement. Obviously, Saleh is enamoured of US' surge and “brilliant special operations” and wants them to roll on. He wouldn't hear about the war crimes. Nor, intriguingly, has he forthright view on US plans for permanent military presence, although Afghans feel strongly about foreign occupation.
Former foreign minister Abdullah will feel proud of Saleh's 'diplomatic skill' to walk the tight rope. The problem with people like Saleh - or 'warlords' like Mohammed Mohaqiq, Mohammed Atta, et al, - is that they thrive in civil war conditions. Things couldn’t be better if there is a ‘great game’ with regional powers putting big money on the table. Everyone has a jolly good time - 'warlords' and couriers who bring in money from foreign intelligence agencies (and the Dubai-based banks, of course). A broad-based government in peace time Kabul will spoil everything.