British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had a rather whimsical interpretation of the Karzai inauguration bash, remarking “it was a great sight to see all the tribes, a great gathering of the clans.”
But putting aside for a moment this view of Afghanistan as a charmingly uncivilized nation, Karzai’s guest list was very telling. Lots of international guests, like Miliband and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and lots of cronies, like the infamous General Dostum.
Missing from the 800-man guest list, however, were the Afghan politicians calling for serious political reform. Instead Karzai had to make his big promises about tackling corruption in front of a melange of corrupt Afghan politicians and the international community which looked the other way on his campaign’s fraudulent vote campaign.
Still, it was all smiles and high hopes in Afghanistan, at least until you went outside, where a “day of national celebration” declared by the Karzai government was met with empty streets and general ambivalence. With even the banners for Karzai’s victory celebration in English, the sense is that the “celebration” is more for the benefit of the international diplomats trying to sell the continued war to weary populations than for the Afghan public, which has long sense been inoculated against the false hopes of foreign-backed politicians.
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