Shah Marai/POOL afp
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and General David Petraeus expressed very different views on the way forward in Afghanistan over the weekend.
As a NATO summit later this week to determine strategy in Afghanistan, including a likely timetable for withdrawal, a spat over that strategy erupted in Kabul over the weekend between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and General David Petraeus, who commands NATO and US troops there.
On Saturday, the Washington Post published an interview with Karzai.
"The time has come to reduce military operations," Karzai said. "The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan . . . to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life."
Karzai particularly called for the end to night raids on Afghan homes, and for American troops to get off Afghan roads.
This is in direct opposition to Petraeus' strategy in Afghanistan. The night raids by Special Forces have increased dramatically since he took over. The General's strategy and the state of Afghanistan are up for review at the White House next month.
The Post this morning quotes officials saying Petraeus expressed "astonishment and disappointment" with Karzai's remarks. Now the whole piece is full of anonymous sources, and full of Afghan officials backpedaling from Karzai's remarks. Petraeus skipped a meeting with Karzai yesterday, but did meet with one official, Ashraf Ghani, who oversees the transition effort.
Petraeus "never actually threatened resignation," but his comments to Ghani reflected his desire to ensure that the Afghans understood the seriousness of the situation, a senior NATO military official said.
"We've been [subsequently] assured that President Karzai is fully supportive of the joint strategy, that we share the desire for Afghan forces to take the lead, and that we've worked hard together to address all the issues over which [Karzai] raised concerns and will continue to do so," the official said.
Karzai is seen by many to be an increasingly unreliable partner for the NATO effort in Afghanistan. The spat comes only days before a NATO summit in Lisbon. Petraeus is expected to present a plan there to transition responsibility to Afghan security forces by 2014.