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The view from Afghanistan

Photo: AP Photo/Dusan Vranic

When Gen. Stanley McChrystal was summoned back to the U.S. to face the president after that fateful Rolling Stone article hit the stands, Afghan President Hamid Karzi and his half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzi, pleaded on McChrystal’s behalf. A spokesman for Hamid Karzi, Waheed Omar, said that McChrystal was “the best commander that NATO and coalition forces have had in Afghanistan over the past nine years.” Ahmad Wali Karzai went as far as saying that McChrystal was the first good thing to happen to Afghanistan.

Now that McChrystal has been fired and replaced by Gen. David Patraeus, the Karzis have backed off and say they respect Obama’s decision.

However, there’s a sense from some within Afghanistan that the victims of this debacle are ultimately the Afghan people.

On Radio Free Afghanistan yesterday, Afghani lawmaker, Noor ul-Haq Uloomi, said that the the McChrystal episode exposes a rift within the U.S. administration and its international allies, and that it’s the Afghan people who suffer as a result.

“Who is harmed when they don’t have coordination among themselves?” he asks. “The Afghan people are at a loss when the situation deteriorates — insecurity increases and more innocent people are killed,” Uloomi says.

An editorial in the Afghan newspaper Outlook Afghanistan points out that the firing of General McChrystal comes at a time of deep instability for Afghanistan…

“…when the Interior Minister and Intelligence Chief of Afghanistan have recently resigned from their positions. Quick changes in the positions in Afghanistan can be harmful as it already suffers critical instability.”

The editorial asserts that the people who benefit from McChrystal’s dismissal are the insurgents.

The dismissal of McChrystal also shows the frustration over the war which seems to be endless as well as calls the coalition partners to get together around a table and reevaluate their strategy. Differences in the approach and vision how to deal with the insurgency in Afghanistan will weaken the international mission and strengthen the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda Allies.

The Taliban are celebrating and agree with Uloomi that they are beneficiaries of dissent in the U.S. ranks.

“We are enjoying every minute of it on TV and the radio,” a senior Afghan Taliban official told Newsweek “All the talk about this being America’s longest, most expensive, and most unpopular war — and about the tension between McChrystal and Obama—is music to our ears.” The official continued by saying, “What we are seeing is the mindset of a U.S. general and other commanders who are getting mentally ready for failure, so they criticize and make jokes about the president.”

However, McChrystal’s departure from Afghanistan is not being universally mourned there. Some Afghan opposition politicians felt that McChrystal’s relationship with Karzai was too close for comfort.

Abdullah Abdullah, a leading opposition politician and presidential candidate, told the Christian Science Monitor that he thinks Patraeus’ appointment is “an enormous change for the better. I’ve met the man, and I feel he’s much savvier, more mature, more settled,” he said. “I think McChrystal was too much, you know, interested in a war-hero image.”