As President Barack Obama prepares to announce the scale of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, one headache for Washington policy makers has been the increasingly incendiary and downright hostile statements coming from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. His latest attack came Saturday:
“You remember a few years ago I was saying thank you to the foreigners for their help; every minute we were thanking them. Now I have stopped saying that... They’re here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they’re using our soil for that.”
Even as Karzai’s rhetoric has turned sharply anti-Western and anti-American, it’s not clear he actually wants foreign troops to withdraw, a step that could endanger his govt’s stability.
Still, his language has frustrated US officials, who feel that he is undermining the war effort. “At the point your leaders believe that we are doing more harm than good, when we reach a point that we feel our soldiers and civilians are being asked to sacrifice without a just cause, and our generous aid programs dismissed as totally ineffective and the source of all corruption,” outgoing US Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eichenberry said, in response to Karzai’s latest verbal barrage. “The American people will ask for our forces to come home.” So what’s behind Karzai’s anger? A chorus of officials and analysts think he has simply become unhinged - US intelligence reports have reportedly voiced the theory that he is “manic-depressive.” But others believe that Karzai is calculating that anti-American statements will burnish his nationalist credentials and curry favor with the Afghan population.
Still, Karzai is running the risk of undercutting support for the military intervention that is crucial for him to fend off the insurgency. Polls indicate that Americans are losing patience with the Afghan war. And when Afghanistan’s leader vociferously condemns American soldiers as occupiers, their impatience only grows. “He’s systematically been creating the impression that we are wasting our time over there,” Nasr said.
Below, Foreign Policy compiled some of Karzai’s most notorious recent statements.
In perhaps his most infamous quote - made in April 2010 at a closed door meeting, and reported second hand - Karzai threatened to quit the political reconciliation process and join the insurgency. The remark came in response to parliamentary refusal to back a proposal he favoured, which he reportedly blamed on foreign conspiracy.