US President Barack Obama’s visit to Kabul last week, intended in part to forge a closer working relationship with President Hamid Karzai, has helped produce the opposite: an angry Afghan leader now attacking the West for what he perceives as an effort to manipulate him and weaken his rule.
In remarks to parliament members on Saturday, Karzai said that if foreign interference in his government continues, the Taliban would become a legitimate resistance — one that he might even join, according to lawmakers present.
“When I heard remarks, it really shocked me. It scared me.” a senior Afghan official who works closely with Karzai said. “We should not take this lightly. This is a golden opportunity to have the West here; we can’t squander it.”
Karzai’s comments have angered US officials and some of his prominent Afghan colleagues in the government, who fear he is jeopardising international funding and military support because his pride has been injured.
Obama’s visit was far from the only aggravation for Karzai in a partnership that has simmered with mistrust since the Afghan leader narrowly won reelection last year. But it helped propel him to his new antagonistic stance, according to Afghan and US officials.
Karzai wanted Obama to publicly praise his plans for a “peace jirga,” the planned meeting of tribal elders and political leaders to discuss reconciliation with insurgents.
He also wanted support for his views on how to reform the electoral law ahead of parliamentary elections in September.
What he got was Obama prodding him to perform.
In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post. For additional content please visit www. washingtonpost.com