Afghan President Hamid Karzai's statement that his country would back Islamabad if the US and Pakistan ever went to war drew a sharp rebuke on Sunday from Afghan lawmakers who claimed the country's top officials were adopting hypocritical positions.
The scenario is exceedingly unlikely and appears to be less a serious statement of policy than an Afghan overture to Pakistan, just days after Karzai and US. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Islamabad must do more to crack down on militants using its territory as a staging ground for attacks on Afghanistan.
"If fighting starts between Pakistan and the US, we are beside Pakistan," Karzai said is an interview with private Pakistani television station GEO that aired yesterday.
"If Pakistan is attacked and the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan's help, Afghanistan will be there with you."
He said that Kabul would not allow any nation, including the US, to dictate its policies.
Both Washington and Kabul have repeatedly said Pakistan is providing sanctuary to militant groups launching attacks in Afghanistan.
The comments set off a firestorm of criticism in the country. Afghan lawmakers argued they were particularly hypocritical coming just weeks after the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani by a suicide bomber.
While it is unclear who masterminded Rabbani's killing, the Afghan government has said it was planned in the Pakistani city of Quetta, the Taliban leadership's suspected base. In addition, the Afghan interior minister accused the Pakistani intelligence service of being involved, a claim that has not been substantiated.
"Pakistan has never been honest with Afghanistan, and the nation of Afghanistan will never forget those things that happen here" because of Pakistan, Shah Gul Rezaye, a lawmaker from Ghazni province told The Associated Press, citing Rabbani's death and other incidents of violence.
"They make deal with terrorists, and then with the international community ... to get $1 billion from the US under the name of the struggle against terrorism," she said. The US Embassy in Kabul said it was up to the Afghan government to explain Karzai's remarks.
"This is not about war with each other," Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall told the AP.
"This is about a joint approach to a threat to all three of our countries: insurgents and terrorists who attack Afghans, Pakistanis, and Americans."