Karzai Accuses U.S. Of Colluding Against Him With Taliban
Afghan President Hamid Karzai made some rather odd comments today:
KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan accused the Taliban and the United States on Sunday of working in concert to convince Afghans that violence will worsen if most foreign troops leave — an accusation that the top American commander in Afghanistan rejected as “categorically false.”
Mr. Karzai said two suicide bombings that killed 19 people on Saturday — one outside the Afghan Defense Ministry and the other near a police checkpoint in eastern Khost Province — showed that the insurgent group was conducting attacks to demonstrate that international forces would still be needed to keep the peace after their combat mission ends in 2014.
“The explosions in Kabul and Khost yesterday showed that they are at the service of America and at the service of this phrase: 2014. They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners are not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents,” he said during a nationally televised speech.
Mr. Karzai is known for his incendiary comments, a tactic that is often seen as an effort to appeal to Taliban sympathizers or to gain leverage when he feels his international allies are ignoring his country’s sovereignty. In previous speeches, he has threatened to join the Taliban and has said that the NATO allies are occupiers who want to plunder Afghanistan’s resources.
The American military commander, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., said Mr. Karzai had never expressed such views to him, but added that it was understandable that tensions would arise as the coalition balances the need to complete its mission and the Afghans’ move to exercise more sovereignty.
“We have fought too hard over the past 12 years, we have shed too much blood over the last 12 years, to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage,” General Dunford said.
The Karzai government’s latest comments and actions come as it negotiates a pact with the United States for the long-term presence of American forces in Afghanistan and just days after an agreement fell through to transfer an American prison outside of Kabul to Afghan authority. They also came during the first visit to the country by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a trip made in part to meet with Mr. Karzai. Hours after the Afghan president’s speech, Mr. Karzai’s and Mr. Hagel’s joint news conference was canceled by officials who cited security concerns, though they said the two men planned to meet privately.
Mr. Karzai said in his speech that any foreign powers that want to keep troops in Afghanistan need to do so under conditions set forward by the government.
“We will tell them where we need them, and under which conditions. They must respect our laws. They must respect the national sovereignty of our country and must respect all our customs,” Mr. Karzai said.
It’s always been difficult to figure out exactly what motivates Hamid Karzai, so I wouldn’t even begin to venture a guess as to what’s going on here. It’s entirely possible, though, that this is either an effort on his part to gain some kind of advantage in the negotiations over an agreement for the future presence of U.S. and other foreign troops in the country, or it’s a sign that those negotiations aren’t going well. In either case, it’s yet another example of just what kind of person we’re relying upon in one of the most dangerous country’s in the world. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,does it?