Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai may be under the impression that the Taliban forces in his country are working with America to justify the presence of U.S. troops in the country–but the White House is having none of it.
“That’s categorically false, and nobody believes it,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday. “Any suggestion the United States is colluding with the Taliban is categorically false. The United States has spent enormous blood and treasure for the past 12 years supporting the Afghan people…The last thing we would do is support any kind of violence, particularly involving innocent civilians.”
Karzai made the bizarre remarks on Sunday, just after newly-minted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to the country. The Afghan leader pointed to recent bombings in Kabul and Khost that resulted in the death of 17 people. “It is their slogan for 2014, scaring us that if the U.S. is not here, our people will be eliminated,” he said.
What’s fueling Karzai’s hostility?
NBC News’ Mike Taibbi weighed in from Kabul on Monday’s Hardball. He said there were a number of events that may have spurred Karzai’s reaction in the days and weeks leading up to his speech.
- On Saturday, the U.S. was supposed to hand over control of a prison in Bagram to the Afghans. To Karzai, it symbolized “authority,” “autonomy” and that he wasn’t “Obama’s poodle,” said Taibbi. The deal fell apart at the last minute because Karzai objected to a clause allowing the U.S. to have final say on whether or not prisoners were “high value” and if they were to stay in prison.
- Two weeks ago, Karzai ordered all special forces from a U.S. coalition to withdraw from Wardak province over unconfirmed allegations of abuse against civilians. Two weeks later, the forces are still there.
- The two deadly suicide bombings, just minutes apart on Saturday morning. In one, a bicyclist detonated explosives strapped to his body in Kabul, just outside the Defense Ministry in Kabul. And then in Khost, a suicide bomber on foot blew himself up.
Taibbi said he spoke with a NATO source who told him Karzai “has a touch of paranoia” and is “worried about being marginalized.” The Afghan leader’s rhetoric “may derail any chance of any prospect of peace talks” between Afghanistan and the Taliban, Taibbi warned.
Bobby Ghosh, editor-at-large at Time magazine, was puzzled by Karzai’s speech, calling it a “ridiculous conspiracy theory.” “No one in his country believes it…It doesn’t make any sense at all,” said Ghosh.