Karzai statement highlights frayed US-Afghan relations
If you are wondering just how well things are going in Afghanistan, today's outburst by President Hamid Karzai should tell you everything you need to know. The ever-mercurial Karzai, who in the past has called the Taliban his "brothers," accused the Taliban of serving US interests. From The Wall Street Journal:
In a televised speech Sunday, the Afghan president said the U.S. doesn't really see the Taliban as an enemy, doesn't want to leave the country after the coalition's mandate ends at the end of 2014, and is engaged in negotiations with Taliban leaders behind his back.
"Taliban are every day in talks with America, but in Kabul and Khost they set off bombs to show strength to America," Mr. Karzai said. "The bombs that went off in Kabul and Khost yesterday were not a show of power to America, but were in service to America... It was in the service of foreigners not withdrawing from Afghanistan."
Mr. Karzai's accusation drew a swift retort from U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who took command of coalition forces last month.
"It's categorically false," Gen. Dunford told a small group of reporters soon after reading about Mr. Karzai's comments. "We have no reason to be colluding with the Taliban. We have no reason to be supporting instability in Afghanistan. And all that we have been about over the past 12 years is to bring peace and stability to the Afghan people so they can take advantage of the decade of opportunity that will follow 2014."
Despite the tensions, Gen. Dunford defended U.S.-Afghan relations, especially between military leaders of the two countries, as dynamic partnerships that can be the "shock absorbers" through turbulent times. "We do not have a broken relationship," he said. "We do not have a lack of trust. We have a relationship that can actually absorb this tension as we work through difficult issues."
Following Mr. Karzai's speech, Mr. Hagel and the Afghan leader canceled an evening news conference at the presidential palace. U.S. officials said this was because of security concerns that rippled across Kabul in the wake of Saturday's bombings.
According to the Guardian, Afghan officials denied that security concerns caused the cancellation:
"It doesn't make any sense," said one Afghan official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to discuss the sensitive issue. "It was supposed to take place at the palace, we don't see any security problems there."
Karzai's statement capped several weeks of bad news from Afghanistan (not to mention the daily grind of Taliban suicide and IED attacks). Earlier this week, Karzai embraced the Taliban, calling for them to "save our country." From TOLONews:
"O Taliban, come and let's save our country!" He said, adding that he did not mind which political groups dealt with the Taliban as long as the High Peace Council led the peace process.
"Meet with the Taliban. I am fine. But let the peace council take care of the foreign aspect of the peace talks," he said.
At the end of February, Karzai ordered US Special Forces to leave Wardak province after publicly accusing them of murdering Afghan civilians (a charge the US military says is without basis). Then ISAF was forced to reveal that its statistics that purportedly showed a drop in enemy-initiated attacks in 2012 are incorrect, and that the number of Taliban attacks didn't drop; ISAF subsequently said it would no longer release statistics on enemy-initiated attacks in Afghanistan.
And just days ago, as newly appointed US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was visiting Afghanistan, three Afghan soldiers attacked a US base in Kapisa province, killing one US civilian contractor and wounding three US soldiers. The next day, ISAF failed to transfer the Parwan Detention Facility to Afghan control. A ceremony for the planned transfer was cancelled.