Thursday, April 1, 2010

Improving our standing in the world:
This month, with President Hamid Karzai looking ahead to a visit to the White House, he received a terse note from aides to President Obama: Your invitation has been revoked...

Incensed, Mr. Karzai extended an invitation of his own — to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, who flew to Kabul and delivered a fiery anti-American speech inside Afghanistan’s presidential palace.

“Karzai was enraged,” said an Afghan with knowledge of the events, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue. “He invited Ahmadinejad to spite the Americans.”

...But according to Afghan associates, Mr. Karzai recently told lunch guests at the presidential palace that he believes the Americans are in Afghanistan because they want to dominate his country and the region, and that they pose an obstacle to striking a peace deal with the Taliban. During the recent American-dominated military offensive in the town of Marja — the largest of the war — Mr. Karzai stood mostly in the shadows.

The comment about the US spiking peace deals with the Taliban is a direct reference to the recent arrest of Mullah Baradar by the Pakistanis. Smart diplomacy, indeed.

UPDATE: Karzai repeats his criticism, this time very publicly:
President Hamid Karzai on Thursday delivered one of his most stinging criticisms to date of the foreign presence in Afghanistan, accusing the West and the United Nations of wanting a "puppet government" and of orchestrating fraud in last year's election.

Karzai's comments come just five days after President Obama, in his first visit to Afghanistan as commander in chief, pushed the Afghan president hard in a tense exchange to crack down on his government's pervasive corruption, ensure independently monitored elections and draw up a clear plan for how to reintegrate defecting Taliban foot soldiers into Afghan society.

Karzai, of course, has to walk a tightrope, trying to please the Americans to keep the security backing, while simultaneously trying to appeal to a domestic audience. His comments about puppets are surely somewhat geared towards showing his independence. But, the apparent bad blood between the American and Afghan administrations does not seem to be subsiding.
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