With the war at a critical stage, Afghanistan’s president is publicly berating his NATO allies, criticising military tactics and occasionally reminding them, that they are not the only players in his country.
President Hamid Karzai’s behaviour has left his international partners bewildered as they try to decipher his, motives — whether he’s trying to provoke them, play to a domestic audience or ensure his long-term survival by portraying himself as no puppet of the American-led coalition.
All this comes as the NATO alliance prepares to unveil plans that would keep international soldiers at the forefront of the combat role until 2014.
Recently Karzai demanded in an interview last weekend that NATO reduce its military operations and stop what the military believes is its most successful tactic, night raids against suspected Taliban leaders.
NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, said Karzai’s comments were unproductive, especially since they came days before a meeting in Lisbon that is meant to finalise the 2014 target date for a transition of security to Afghan forces.
Then, just ahead of a weekend NATO summit he will attend, President Karzai met on Wednesday with the top US commander and said he supported NATO’s military campaign and, reluctantly, its nighttime special operations raids, a senior NATO official.
It wasn’t the first time the mercurial Karzai has raised eyebrows and befuddled many of his supporters in the West.
Last August, Karzai stood beside Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the Iranian railed against the US.