President Karzai has been on a roll recently. He dropped talks with the Taliban, decided to negotiate with Pakistan, signed a strategic partnership with India and has just promised to stand by Pakistan if it ever goes to war with the US or India.
On a diplomatic time-frame, that’s all on the scale of one short breath. But it’s President Karzai we’re talking about, so we shouldn’t be surprised. Even if he made his newest strategic partner and the country that props his government into imaginary foes and decided to fight them in support of a country that he maintains backs the enemies of his government.
In his latest comments he said Pakistanis are his brothers, so he would stand behind them. But then again, he once called the Taliban his brothers, even when his army and international partners were fighting the group.
Given this context of perplexing and often contradictory statements, your guess is as good as mine about why Karzai made his latest comments. But they are hardly surprising. They follow a pattern of progressively worsening relations with the US under the Obama presidency. After all, he had weekly video conferences with President Bush, took walks in the Rose Garden and even testified before Congress. (Yes, that was 2003, and Bush called him afterwards to apologize for the grilling he received from the overzealous lawmakers.)
But as soon as Obama became president, he put Karzai under a lot of pressure to fight graft and corruption in his government. At one point, Obama even conditioned further aid to Afghanistan on Karzai’s crackdown on corruption. But Karzai wouldn’t budge. He kept scraping investigations against high-ranking officials in his government, and when the pressure got too high, he threatened to join the Taliban.
Upping the ante by more than just a few notches, he hosted Ahmadinejad in Kabul, providing the Islamic Republic’s firebrand president with the perfect forum to lambaste the US.
US Defense Secretary Gates was also in town, exploring the possibility of sending more troops to buttress Karzai’s government. But Karzai stood beside Ahmadinejad in a joint press conference as he uttered the following words:
Your country is located on the other side of the world, so what are you doing here?
Did Karzai even try to ameliorate the force of his rude guest’s comments? The BBC reports that he didn’t say much at the press conference, be he was sure to say this:
We are very hopeful that our brother nation of Iran will work with us in bringing peace and security to Afghanistan so that both our countries will be secure.
This was around the time when the US was discovering rockets and other arms that Iran was allegedly supplying to the Taliban.
So, in a nutshell, Karzai’s diplomatic pyrotechnics are not new. We are not even sure he quite understands the significance or symbolism of his words/actions sometimes. After all, he was just a teacher of English language in Quetta before he was suddenly thrust into the limelight of the Afghan presidency.
But the only thing we can be fairly certain about is that his latest comments are just another milestone in his rocky relationship with his current US counterpart.