The US-Afghan discord

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has in recent times developed a penchant for straight talking much to the chagrin of Washington.

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Published: Wed 17 Nov 2010, 9:43 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:47 PM

Not only has there been a notable increase in criticism of the strategy employed in Afghanistan, there has also been a corresponding rise in tension between Kabul and Washington. Therefore, it does not surprise that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out in defence of the special forces’ night raids, Karzai has recently criticised in rather strong terms.

In order to not let things blow up into yet another showdown on the same footing as before elections, Kabul was forced to take a step back. Karzai’s spokesman said that the president is not critical of the overall strategy. Irrespective of how Kabul has been forced to retreat on the issue, continued foreign military presence in the country is gaining stronger opposition among the Afghans. This is true even for those who initially supported the Coalition for the purpose of defeating the insurgents, principally the Taleban. Mounting civilian casualties at the hands of the coalition forces and special operations have led to rising anger.

While Kabul does not have a choice at present considering the lack of capability of the Afghan national forces despite billions spent on training and recruitment, Karzai is cognisant of the growing apathy to the foreign forces. He also strongly opposed the special forces’ night raids targeting insurgents. This is deemed a vital component of the strategy deployed by General David Petraeus, the US Commander in Afghanistan. These night raids have netted the Coalition key insurgents in the hundreds and it is unlikely that these will be stopped anytime soon. Hillary Clinton’s rejoinder pertaining these is, therefore, significant. General Petraeus’s reaction was brusquer. Not only did he warn that criticism of US strategy from the Afghan president would undermine progress but would also make his own position “untenable”. The problem is that the military commander and the Afghan leader are both right in their own respective ways. Criticism, even that bound in inherent limitations and voiced for political reasons is hardly helping the war efforts. It is imperative that both Washington and Kabul resolve their differences and move ahead, if they want to achieve at least some objectives for starting the operation in the first place.

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