Big Afghan leaders don't cry

I'm no expert on Afgahanistan -- but I know enough about the country to understand that crying in public probably won't win you too many supporters:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai wept on Tuesday as he called on Afghans to “come to their senses” and move faster towards peace, or risk seeing the next generation flee abroa and lose their Afghan identity.

Afghans must live and work in their country and serve it, he said, as he identified for the first time some of the members of a peace council that will help seek a political rather than military end to fighting with Taliban-led insurgents.

“I do not want Mirwais, my son, to be a foreigner, I do not want this. I want Mirwais to be Afghan,” said Karzai, who himself spent many years in exile in Pakistan, while fighting the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and later during Taliban rule.

“Therefore come to your senses ... you are witnessing what is happening on our soil and only through our efforts can our homeland be ours,” he added, drawing huge applause from an audience at a international literacy day event in a Kabul school.

I wonder how the Taliban will make use of this? Aside from the crying, the sentiment here is not exactly inspiring: Apparently Karzai is considering getting out of Dodge, or at least sending his son abroad for safekeeping. What does that say about his confidence in his own leadership?

I hope Doug Lute and David Petraeus are drawing up contingency plans right now.

One other note: I've been reading the Woodward book, and apparently not only do some U.S. intelligence reports say that Karzai is manic-depressive, others say he smokes weed. Again: not confidence-inspiring.



Will the end of the freeze reconcile Hamas and Fatah?

Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based leader of Hamas, said today that the best response to the end of Israel's 10-month "settlement freeze" would be a reconciliation with rival Palestinian faction Hamas.

DPA reports:

Meshaal argued that internal reconciliation would make the Palestinians more powerful in negotiations, calling it a national necessity and the best way to react to the 'Zionist intransigence.'

Meshaal does have a point. A leadership that represents only half of the Palestinian people, and basically acts as though Gaza doesn't exist, is pretty limited when it comes to negotiating the "final status" issues with Israel. At the same time, the Israelis probably wouldn't be willing to enter negotiations with a Palestinian coalition that includes Hamas. (U.S. envoy to the region George Mitchell has said as much.) It certainly doesn't help that Meshaal also said today that Hamas will continue to "kill illegal settlers on [Palestinian] land."

We may soon find out how a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation will affect Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Good news for the Palestinians may be on the horizon. A Hamas spokesperson told a Kuwaiti newspaper today, "We will all celebrate Palestinian national reconciliation in Egypt soon."

Of course, we've heard that one before. In 2008 Hamas and Fatah signed a Yemeni-sponsored deal Sanaa saying they would begin the reconciliation talks soon. They changed their minds a few days later. In September 2009 the two groups were again close to reaching an agreement, but nothing came of that. In January of this year, Meshaal told reporters in Riyadh, "We made great strides toward achieving reconciliation," and, "We are in the final stages now."

Will this time be different? It's hard to tell and these agreements have often been called off at the last minute. But if Fatah and Hamas do reach an agreement, it will undoubtedly change the course of the negotiations that President Obama has been supporting so vocally. The Palestinian negotiators will become more legitimate and the Israelis more resistant.

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