March 29, 2010
Afghan Leader Is Seen to Flout Influence of U.S.
By DEXTER FILKINS and MARK LANDLER
The reason, according to American officials, was Mr. Karzai’s announcement that he was emasculating an independent panel that had discovered widespread fraud in Mr. Karzai’s re-election last year.
Incensed, Mr. Karzai extended an invitation of his own — to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, who flew to Kabul and delivered a fiery anti-American speech inside Afghanistan’s presidential palace.
“Karzai was enraged,” said an Afghan with knowledge of the events, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue. “He invited Ahmadinejad to spite the Americans.”
The dispute was smoothed over only this week, when Mr. Obama flew to
But the red carpet treatment of Mr. Ahmadinejad is just one example of how Mr. Karzai is putting distance between himself and his American sponsors, prominent Afghans and American officials here said. Even as Mr. Obama pours tens of thousands of additional American troops into the country to help defend Mr. Karzai’s government, Mr. Karzai now often voices the view that his interests and the
Neither Mr. Karzai nor his spokesman, Waheed Omar, could be reached Monday. But according to Afghan associates, Mr. Karzai recently told lunch guests at the presidential palace that he believes the Americans are in
Indeed, the recent behavior by Mr. Karzai offers the latest illustration of the central dilemma that faces the Obama administration in
“We’re trying to find this balance of keeping pressure on him, without setting up bluffs that can be called,” said a senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter. “We’re coming to terms with dealing with the Karzai we have.”
Perhaps the clearest example of the American dilemma is the graft in Mr. Karzai’s government. American officials have repeatedly pushed Mr. Karzai to clean up his government, as Mr. Obama stressed during his dinner with the Afghan leader. But Mr. Karzai has resisted all but the most feeble gestures.
Some prominent Afghans say that Mr. Karzai now tells associates that the Americans’ goal here is not to build an independent and peaceful
In January, Mr. Karzai invited about two dozen prominent Afghan media and business figures to a lunch at the palace. At the lunch, he expressed a deep cynicism about
“He has developed a complete theory of American power,” said an Afghan who attended the lunch and who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “He believes that
Mr. Karzai said that, left alone, he could strike a deal with the Taliban, but that the
The description of the lunch was largely affirmed by two other Afghans who attended and who also declined to be identified. The person who described the meeting said some of the participants urged Mr. Karzai to reconsider his views and his plans to be more assertive with the
Mr. Karzai’s ultimate motives are not always clear. It may be that while Mr. Karzai supports the Americans presence here, he believes that distancing himself from the
Though Mr. Karzai won another five-year term last August, he emerged as a badly bruised leader. Amid widespread allegations of fraud, the Election Complaint Commission nullified nearly a million votes counted in his favor. He won after his nearest opponent dropped out of the race.
For their part, officials in the Obama administration have tried to work with Mr. Karzai even as they have seethed over his failure to crack down on corruption. Plans for him to visit
The move would have deprived the United Nations of any oversight over future Afghan elections. The Obama administration, which had floated several dates for a Karzai visit but not decided on one, decided to delay it, several officials said.
“We wanted to have a great visit,” one official said. “But in order to have a great visit, we needed to see four or five things happen.”
Last week, under Western pressure, Mr. Karzai backpedaled slightly and agreed to appoint two non-Afghan members to the election commission. Still, Mr. Karzai is reserving the right to appoint the foreigners himself; before, that authority rested with the United Nations. And Mr. Karzai did not restore the spaces once reserved for two other independent members.
Iran is a neighbor of Afghanistan, and American officials say they do not object to the two countries discussing issues of mutual interest. “He can be close to us, have a cooperative bilateral relationship with us, and a good working relationship with his neighborhood,” a senior American official said.
But the recent visit by Mr. Ahmadinejad seemed designed to generate as much attention as possible — including in
Dexter Filkins reported from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Mark Landler from
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs