Hamid Karzai, the mercurial President of Afghanistan, has given the US and ISAF another reason to panic. Just one week after threatening to join the Taliban over a row on the appointment of election monitoring officials, Karzai has threatened to put the kabosh on the planned ISAF offensive in Kandahar province. The London Times reports:
The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has cast doubt over Nato’s planned summer offensive against the Taliban in the southern province of Kandahar, as more than 10,000 American troops pour in for the fight.
Karzai threatened to delay or even cancel the operation – one of the biggest of the nine-year war – after being confronted in Kandahar by elders who said it would bring strife, not security, to his home province.
Visiting last week to rally support for the offensive, the president was instead overwhelmed by a barrage of complaints about corruption and misrule. As he was heckled at a shura of 1,500 tribal leaders and elders, he appeared to offer them a veto over military action. “Are you happy or unhappy for the operation to be carried out?” he asked.
The elders shouted back: “We are not happy.”
“Then until the time you say you are happy, the operation will not happen,” Karzai replied.
Read the whole article. General McChrystal was present at the meeting and was described as appearing “distinctly apprehensive.” An unnamed US diplomat who was also present said the following about Karzai:
“He can rail against the West all he likes – no one wants him to look like a foreign puppet. The trouble is, his erratic speeches are matched by erratic actions. That’s why this tension is undermining the offensive.”
My friend and colleague John Batchelor has been probing about this very issue the past week during my spots on his radio show. My answer has been that somewhere in the bowels of ISAF, there are planners who are sweating out this very scenario.
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