US reacts angrily to Karzai attack on NATO operations
THE US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry delivered a verbal slap to President Hamid Karzai yesterday for his criticism of Nato's operations.
While Mr Eikenberry did not mention Mr Karzai by name, there was no doubting whom he was castigating. It came a day after a speech by Mr Karzai in which he said the Nato countries were in his country "for their own purposes".
"When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost -- in terms of life and treasure -- hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people, they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here," said Mr Eikenberry.
"Mothers and fathers of fallen soldiers, spouses of soldiers who have lost arms and legs, children of those who lost their lives in your country -- they ask themselves about the meaning of their loved one's sacrifice," he said. "When I hear some of your leaders call us occupiers, I cannot look these mourning parents, spouses and children in the eye and give them a comforting reply."
The rift comes at a delicate moment with US President Barack Obama deciding on the details of a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan that is supposed to start this summer.
On Saturday, Mr Karzai also acknowledged that efforts were under way to start talks with the Taliban.
But the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who retires at the end of this month, warned against building up expectations. And he advised against any precipitate withdrawal of US troops, arguing that keeping the Taliban militarily engaged was the only way to draw them into political talks.
"The Taliban have to feel themselves under military pressure, and begin to believe that they can't win before they're willing to have a serious conversation," he said.
Mr Gates is using his last days in office to articulate some of his broader views on America's role in the world. In an interview with 'The New York Times' he said: "If we were about to be attacked or had been attacked or something happened that threatened a vital US national interest, I would be the first in line to say, 'Let's go'. I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice."
Mr Karzai has in the past berated NATO for killing civilians and for conducting nighttime raids which he has opposed.
"They're here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they're using our soil for that," Mr Karzai said on Saturday. (© Independent News Service)