Petraeus “Astonished” At Karzai’s Position On U.S. Troops
KABUL – Gen. David H. Petraeus, the coalition military commander in Afghanistan, warned Afghan officials Sunday that President Hamid Karzai’s latest public criticism of U.S. strategy threatens to seriously undermine progress in the war and risks making Petraeus’s own position “untenable,” according to Afghan and U.S. officials.
Officials said Petraeus expressed “astonishment and disappointment” with Karzai’s call, in a Saturday interview with The Washington Post, to “reduce military operations” and end U.S. Special Operations raids in southern Afghanistan that coalition officials said have killed or captured hundreds of Taliban commanders in recent months.
In a meeting Sunday morning with Ashraf Ghani, who leads the Afghan government’s planning on transition, Petraeus made what several officials described as “hypothetical” references to an inability to continue U.S. operations in the face of Karzai’s remarks.
The night raids are at the heart of Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy and are key to his hopes of being able to show significant progress when the White House reviews the situation in Afghanistan next month.
Officials discounted early reports Sunday that Petraeus had threatened to resign. But “for [Karzai] to go this way, and at that particular stage, is really undermining [Petraeus’s] endeavors,” one foreign diplomat in Kabul said. “Not only his personally, but the international community.” Several officials in Washington and Kabul requested anonymity in order to discus the issue.
Petraeus “never actually threatened resignation,” but his comments to Ghani reflected his desire to ensure that the Afghans understood the seriousness of the situation, a senior NATO military official said.
“We’ve been [subsequently] assured that President Karzai is fully supportive of the joint strategy, that we share the desire for Afghan forces to take the lead, and that we’ve worked hard together to address all the issues over which [Karzai] raised concerns and will continue to do so,” the official said.
Petraeus did not attend a scheduled meeting Sunday with Karzai, officials said. Karzai’s spokesman also cancelled a scheduled news conference. Some Afghan officials Sunday attempted to smooth over the issue by declaring Karzai’s respect for Petraeus and faith in his strategy.
Petraeus’s reaction is, of course, understandable considering that Karzai was clearly undermining Petraeus’s authority and the strategy that he was sent to implement and see through to fruition. Of course, being that Karzai is the leader of the country in which Petraeus is operating it seems fairly clear that it’s his authority that has primacy here. We are not, after all, an empire. Right?