Karzai’s troublesome independence

After Benjamin Netanyahu was recently insulted by President Obama during his March visit to Washington (Obama declined to offer him dinner), Israeli commentators struggled to make an appropriate comparison and for some reason thought this was treatment that the head of a small African state might expect — the rather transparent implication being that Netanyahu should get the kind of deferential treatment that Israelis apparently believe is reserved for white Western leaders.

Israelis could but won’t console themselves with the observation that Netanyahu has yet to be treated like Hamid Karzai.

Last month, Karzai got uninvited by the White House and then, adding insult to injury, an uninvited visit and reprimand from Obama. Karzai is now pissed off. I wonder why?

President Hamid Karzai lashed out at his Western backers for the second time in three days, accusing the U.S. of interfering in Afghan affairs and saying the Taliban insurgency would become a legitimate resistance movement if the meddling doesn’t stop.

Mr. Karzai, whose government is propped up by billions of dollars in Western aid and nearly 100,000 American troops fighting a deadly war against the Taliban, made the comments during a private meeting with about 60 or 70 Afghan lawmakers Saturday.

At one point, Mr. Karzai suggested that he himself would be compelled to join the other side —that is, the Taliban—if the parliament didn’t back his controversial attempt to take control of the country’s electoral watchdog from the United Nations, according to three people who attended the meeting, including an ally of the president.

The prospects of Karzai joining the Taliban are minimal but his threat highlights Washington’s dilemma: they want an Afghan leader who is compliant but doesn’t look like a puppet. They want someone who looks independent but does what he’s told.

The hypocrisy inherent in the American approach is no more evident than in the run-up to the highly-publicized offensive against the Taliban stronghold, Kandahar. Will President Karzai publicly approve the offensive, or merely accede to it, Doyle McManus asks. “He’s got to be seen as the guy who’s leading this fight,” a military officer says.

Much to the frustration of American planners, it turns out that Afghans, including Karzai, have minds of their own. How inconvenient.

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