Several explosions ripped through Afghanistan over the weekend during U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s visit, killing 19 civilians and highlighting security concerns that continue apace ahead of a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.
According to Karzai, the attacks by the Taliban were meant to show that international forces will still be required after the 2014 deadline passes. Karzai chose a curious time to air his theory, putting it forward while delivering a speech on Afghan women:
“The explosions in Kabul and Khost yesterday showed that they are at the service of America and at the service of this phrase: 2014. They are trying to frighten us into thinking that if the foreigners are not in Afghanistan, we would be facing these sorts of incidents” he said.
Defense Department officials quickly cancelled a planned joint press conference after Karzai’s statements, denying the cancellation had anything to do with Karzai’s statements. The head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) — the coalition headed by the U.S. in Afghanistan — strongly denounced the idea that the U.S. would work with the Taliban to keep U.S. forces in the country. “We have fought too hard over the past 12 years. We have shed too much blood over the past 12 years. We have done too much to help the Afghan Security Forces grow over the last 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage,” said Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Karzai has a lengthy history of inflammatory statements, usually intended to provide himself some form of leverage when dealing with his Western counter-parts or bolster himself domestically. In 2010, Karzai threatened to join Taliban after coming under pressure to launch reforms in the Afghan government. Karzai also warned against the continuation of NATO airstrikes in 2011, saying that NATO risked becoming an occupying force, adding that “history shows what Afghans do with trespassers and with occupiers.”
Tensions between the U.S. and Afghans stretch beyond difficulties in relations with Karzai. Reports on Monday say an Afghan police officer opened fire killing two U.S. troops and three of his fellow officers. These “green on blue” attacks — in which Afghan allies turn on their Western counterparts — have proved to be an ongoing impediment to lasting trust between U.S. and Afghan forces. Gen. John Allen, then the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told 60 Minutes that coalition troops were willing to sacrifice for the Afghan campaign, but unwilling to be murdered.