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Karzai sees US as an enemy

world Updated: Mar 31, 2010 00:09 IST
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This month, with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai looking ahead to a visit to the White House, he received a terse note from aides to President Barack Obama: Your invitation has been revoked.

The reason, according to American officials, was Karzai’s announcement that he was emasculating an independent panel that had discovered widespread fraud in Karzai’s re-election last year.

Incensed, 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.”

The dispute was smoothed over only this week, when Obama flew to Kabul for a surprise dinner with Karzai. White House officials emphasized that the most important purpose of Obama’s trip was to visit American troops there.

But the red carpet treatment of Ahmadinejad is just one example of how Karzai is putting distance between himself and his American sponsors, prominent Afghans and American officials here said.

Even as Obama pours tens of thousands of additional American troops into the country to help defend Karzai’s government, Karzai now often voices the view that his interests and the US’ no longer coincide.

According to Afghan associates, 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 — Karzai stood mostly in the shadows.

Indeed, the recent behaviour by Karzai offers the latest illustration of the central dilemma that faces the Obama administration in Afghanistan: how to influence the actions of an ally who they regard as unreliable, without undermining America’s ultimate goals here.

Perhaps the clearest example of the American dilemma is the graft in Karzai’s government. American officials have repeatedly pushed Karzai to clean up his government, as Obama stressed during his dinner with the Afghan leader. But Karzai has resisted all but the most feeble gestures.

the new york times