Accessibility links

Breaking News

Washington Warns Karzai His U.S. Visit In Jeopardy

Hamid Karzai (right) had only one hour's notice of Barack Obama's arrival on March 28 -- a loss of face by traditional Afghan standards.
(RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has uttered some astonishingly hostile comments in recent days aimed at his Western allies, mainly the United States.

These have led the administration of President Barack Obama to publicly warn him that it might cancel his May 12 visit to Washington if he continues his tirades. That would be a serious diplomatic rebuke.

"We certainly would evaluate whatever continued or further remarks President Karzai makes, as to whether it's constructive to have such a meeting," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on April 6.

It all started last week, when Karzai in a speech accused the West of being responsible for the fraud that characterized last year's presidential election.

He capped that by saying he might join the Taliban militants, who are fighting the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan, if opposition legislators and "the international community pressure me more."

More Than Military Threat

Gibbs said that in the fight against corruption, Karzai needs to recognize that good governance is as essential for security in the long run as is military effectiveness:

Gibbs said that "we understand, and we think that President Karzai needs to understand, that the safety and security of his country is not going to be gained simply by rooting out or moving extremist threats in certain areas that isn't ultimately then filled with good governance."

Another shocked reaction came from NATO headquarters in Brussels, warning Karzai against undermining public support for the alliance's efforts in Afghanistan.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said the international community and NATO are making "enormous efforts and sacrifices" to support the Afghan people against terrorism.

"We hope and expect that this is recognized by the Afghan people, including at the highest levels," he added.

Karzai Challenged

The boiling pot has been stirred by the former deputy head of the UN Mission to Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith. Galbraith said on U.S. television on April 6 that there are questions about Karzai's "mental stability." He said this has been of concern to diplomats in Kabul for some time.

Galbraith was sacked from his job by the United Nations in a dispute over how far to press Afghan authorities on electoral fraud charges. He is one of the Western officials accused by Karzai of involvement in vote rigging in the presidential election.

The long-simmering tensions between the Americans and Karzai have come to a head since the surprise visit to Kabul by President Obama on March 28. Karzai had only one hour's notice of Obama's arrival, and by traditional Afghan standards, he is considered to have lost face.

He is known to be very sensitive on matters of sovereignty, and he has repeatedly spoken of the necessity for the Afghan government to be popularly seen as free of influence by foreigners.

He pointedly referred to this on April 4 while speaking to an assembly of tribal leaders.

He said Afghanistan will be well again "when its people trust that their president is independent and not a puppet." He went on to say that Afghans have to demonstrate their sovereignty, and that they are standing up for their values.

with agency reports