Ahmed Rashid writes: The Afghan people are exhausted by a war that has gone on in one form or other since 1979, when most US soldiers now in Afghanistan were not even born. Increasing numbers of Afghans would agree with what the Taliban have been arguing for almost a decade: that the western presence in Afghanistan is prolonging the war, causing misery and bloodshed. The hundreds of civilians killed already this year across the country are almost forgotten now in the aftermath of the killing of children by a farengi, or foreigner.
Moreover, faced with an increasingly corrupt and incompetent government, Afghans are seeing fewer improvements on the ground. So-called “nation building” has ground to a halt, simple justice and rule of law is unobtainable and a third of the population is suffering from malnutrition. The people blame not just the Americans but equally Hamid Karzai and his inner circle, which gives him conflicting and contradictory advice, leading him to flip and flop on policy issues.
The Afghan president’s desire to seek a strategic partnership agreement with the US is becoming more and more unacceptable to the Afghan people. At the same time he also wants to make peace with the Taliban, but they have no desire for a pact with Washington. His dilemma, which he still refuses to understand, is that he can either ask for a long-term US presence or peace with the Taliban, but not both.