Petraeus “Astonished” At Karzai’s Position On U.S. Troops

General David Petraeus is clearly not pleased by the remarks made over the weekend by Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the American military presence in his country:

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?

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Asia, Military Affairs, National Security, World Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Boyd says:

    It’s certainly Karzai’s prerogative to change strategies for his country. You’d think he’d discuss it with the folks who are implementing that strategy before he announces it to the world.

    I have to wonder if he’s been getting into Yeltsin’s liquor cabinet. Or maybe processing some poppy seeds for personal use.

  2. DC Loser says:

    Karzai’s moved on from the dream of a US victory. What’s most on his mind is the eventual withdrawal of US and NATO forces. He knows he needs to cut a deal with the Taliban if he has any sense. The picture of Najibullah, after having been abandoned by his Soviet protectors, hanging from a lampost after being been tortured by his Taliban captors must be foremost in his mind as something to be avoided. And I don’t think Karzai wants to be exiled in the US running a 7 Eleven.

  3. John Personna says:

    Doug seems offended that a foreign leader would decide his own interests. Not being a good little brown brother, is he?

    (What I’m saying is you have a choice when you go to aid another country: you can aid them in their goals, or use them for your own. The standard hypocrisy is TP pretend the former, while practicing the latter.)

  4. I think you’re misreading what I wrote.

    Karzai’s statements are just further proof to me that we need to drastically scale down our mission in Afghanistan.

  5. john personna says:

    Well the vibe I’m getting is that for you his words are somehow wrong, when you know, you aren’t a likely voter in the next Afghan election.