Share This Page

Karzai accuses U.S. of colluding with Taliban

| Sunday, March 10, 2013, 8:24 p.m.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai ratcheted up his criticism of the United States on Sunday, marring a debut visit by new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and highlighting tensions that could undermine Washington's strategy to wind down the unpopular war.

A day after two Taliban bombings killed 18 people, Karzai accused the United States and the Taliban of colluding to convince Afghans that foreign forces were needed beyond 2014, when NATO is set to end its combat mission and most troops withdraw.

The bombings by the Taliban in Kabul and the eastern Khost province “were not to show (the insurgents') power, but to serve the United States,” Karzai said, adding that the bombings were intended “to pave the way for foreigners not to leave, but to stay.”

The comments were made hours before Hagel was scheduled to hold a news conference with Karzai at the presidential palace. The news conference was canceled because of security concerns, not because of Karzai's inflammatory speech, U.S. officials said.

Karzai claimed that U.S. officials were meeting with the Taliban “every day,” an apparent reference to Taliban representatives opening an office in the gulf nation of Qatar as a precursor to possible peace talks with Kabul. U.S. officials have denied direct contacts with the Taliban.

U.S. officials said they had no explanation for Karzai's statements, and the Taliban immediately denied that it had resumed talks with the United States.

“President Karzai has never said to me that the United States was colluding with the Taliban. I don't know what caused him to say that today,” said Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of the U.S.-led military coalition.

“It's categorically false. We have no reason to be colluding with the Taliban.”

Karzai often uses inflammatory rhetoric in his public statements. He has referred to the Taliban as his “brothers” and accused Western countries of invading Afghanistan to steal its resources.

Hagel's visit got off to a rocky start on Saturday with the bombings. Despite the cancellation of the joint news conference with Karzai, Hagel went ahead with a private meeting and dinner with the Afghan leader in the palace.

Later, Hagel said he raised the comments in his dinner with Karzai.

“I told the president it was not true that the United States was unilaterally working with the Taliban and trying to negotiate anything,” Hagel said. Asked whether it was astonishing for Karzai to question U.S. motives after 11 years of war, Hagel said, “I addressed that question rather directly.”

The U.S.-Afghan relationship has grown increasingly testy since Karzai visited the White House in January, as the Afghan leader has issued a stream of decrees aimed at limiting the role of the U.S. military and its allies. Last month, his office ordered the United States to withdraw its special forces from Wardak province, claiming that the troops and Afghans working for them had tortured and kidnapped villagers, a charge the United States rejected.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.