Washington-Kabul ties seem to take a new turn for the worse after Afghan president claimed US colluded with Taliban
KABUL — Tensions between the United States and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai have peaked as the Afghan leader accused Washington of conspiring with Taliban to spread fears that the radically militant Islamic movement will regain control after foreign troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
Karzai’s fiery remarks on Sunday came a day after double bombings blamed on Taliban killed at least 17 Afghan people.
“Those bombs that went off in Kabul and Khost were not a show of force to America. They were in service of America. It was in the service of the 2014 slogan to warn us if they (Americans) are not here then Taliban will come,” Karzai said just hours before a meeting with the top US defense official, Chuck Hagel.
The US discontent with the Afghan president’s accusation was quick to show when a scheduled joint press appearance of Karzai and Hagel was cancelled with Gen. Joseph Dunford, US commander of the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, saying the collusion claim was “categorically false.”
Analysts have said the latest sabre-rattling between the US and Karzai was just the tip of the iceberg as the two sides have been at odds with each other over a broad array of issues.
For one, the issue of custody of Afghan prisoners still remains unclear, and the transfer of the Bagram Prison to the Afghans was cancelled last Saturday, an apparent setback to Karzai’s assertion that Afghans were regaining control of their own country.
Karzai said the full handover of the jail would take place next week.
The Afghan president has earlier said many of the prisoners held at the Bagram jail were innocent and he has pledged to secure their release.
Last month, Karzai ordered for the withdrawal of US special forces from Wardak and Logar provinces within two weeks, accusing the American troops of causing “insecurity and instability” as well as harassing the local people.
Also in February, Karzai banned Afghan forces from calling for foreign air strikes in residential areas.
Some Afghan analysts see the change in Karzai’s stance on relations with the US as an election move ahead of presidential vote in 2014.
Although, Karzai will not run for a third presidential term, he will back his elder brother Abdul Qayum Karzai, who already launched a intense campaign for the top Afghan post.