Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kabul Kold-Shoulder

Hamid Karzai is acting like he discovered Taliban lipstick on Chuck Hagel's shirt collar.  Oh, for shame.

America's freshly-minted defense secretary called off a joint press conference with Karzai after the Green-Breasted Loon of Kabul angrily accused the Americans of collaborating with the Taliban to keep foreign troops in Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal.

Hagel's people cited security concerns but the Afghans were having none of it.

"It doesn't make any sense," said one Afghan official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to discuss the sensitive issue. "It was supposed to take place at the palace, we don't see any security problems there."

US officials said the decision was taken because security concerns were raised, and only after consultations with the Afghan government.

But it was the second time in two days that US-Afghan tensions had been made public: on Saturday the planned handover of the final batch of Afghan prisoners held by US forces was also cancelled at the last minute.

Both of the planned displays of public trust and unity were called off in the wake of remarks by Karzai, although US and Afghan officials declined to comment on whether there was any connection with the subsequent halt of the transfer and cancellation of the press conference.

Earlier on Sunday Karzai had said that recent suicide bomb attacks in Kabul and Khost province, in which 17 people died, were a sign of shared Taliban and US efforts to justify a longterm foreign troop presence.

"The explosions in Kabul and Khost yesterday showed that they [the Taliban] are at the service of America," Karzai said in a nationally televised speech to mark International Women's Day. 

"They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners are not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents."

Karzai's final term in office ends next year just as most Western troops depart.  It's hard to imagine he won't be heading out with them.  Afghanistan is a tough country to govern and a guy like Karzai would face plenty of threats from among his own team as well as the Talibs.   By all accounts he's got his money, it is squirreled away in banks in a variety of  countries, and voluntary exile to a life of comfort abroad for an English-speaking Pashtun boy could be pretty sweet.

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