Petraeus and Karzai

Joshua Partlow and Karen DeYoung report that General David Petraeus is none too happy with Afghan President Hamid Karzai:

General David H. Petraeus, the coalition military commander in Afghanistan, warned Afghan officials Sunday that President Hamid Karzai’s latest public criticism of U.S. strategy threatens to seriously undermine progress in the war and risks making Petraeus’s own position “untenable,” according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Officials said Petraeus expressed “astonishment and disappointment” with Karzai’s call, in a Saturday interview with The Washington Post, to “reduce military operations” and end U.S. Special Operations raids in southern Afghanistan that coalition officials said have killed or captured hundreds of Taliban commanders in recent months.

I don’t really get this. Everyone’s looking for a viable exit strategy from Afghanistan. And what better strategy than a handshake with the President of Afghanistan over a concrete plan for a reduced tempo of operations followed by a steady withdrawal of American soldiers? The premise of a counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan is that we’re there to help the Afghan government. That strategy can’t work if the Afghan government doesn’t share our vision, and the strategy lacks legitimacy if the Afghan government doesn’t back it. Watch Michael Cohen’s head explode over this if you like.

One interesting wrinkle in this is that Abdullah Abdullah, a leading figure in the non-insurgent opposition to Karzai, has basically reacted to the interview by slamming Karzai as soft on the Taliban. I’m not sure that what Abdullah thinks about this matters, but it’s a reminder that Karzai would face political constraints in any effort to reach a power-sharing deal with the Taliban. Tajik and Uzbek leaders, Northern Alliance veterans, etc., could all plausibly defect from any such arrangement.