Sunday, October 23, 2011

Karzai’s pledge of support to Pakistan jolts America: WSJ

NEW YORK - President Hamid Karzai’s statement over the weekend that he would back Pakistan if it went to war with the US gave an ‘unexpected jolt’ to Washington’s latest attempts to strengthen its relationship with the Afghan leader, a major American newspaper said Sunday.
“The prospects for a US war with Pakistan are remote, and Mr Karzai’s comments were viewed by some Afghan and Western officials in Kabul as a poorly executed effort to blunt his recent angry comments about Pakistan’s support for Afghan insurgent groups,” The Wall Street Journal said in a dispatch from the Afghan Capital.
“This is not about war with each other,” Gavin Sundwall, spokesman for the US Embassy in Kabul, was quoted as saying by the Journal. “This is about a joint approach to a threat to all three of our countries.”
“Mr Karzai’s comments came as a surprise to some Western officials in Kabul, who were heartened by the success of last week’s visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” the dispatch said.
In the past, the Journal pointed out that Karzai has alienated his Western allies with comments suggesting that he might side with the Taliban, or that America could come to be seen as an occupier if its forces didn’t stop killing Afghan civilians.
“Mr Karzai’s latest remarks struck a nerve with some Afghan and Western officials in Kabul who were reminded of the president’s penchant for criticising the US-led coalition that supports and funds his government,” the dispatch said.
“It was totally careless, unnecessary and, yes, irresponsible,” an unnamed Afghan official was quoted as saying. “He hasn’t pleased anyone except, maybe, a few Pakistani generals.”
American officials said, however, that Karzai’s remarks wouldn’t overshadow Mrs Clinton’s visit. “Mr Karzai and Mrs Clinton were united during her trip in demanding that Pakistan stop supporting the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups.”
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have vacillated over the past year between spells of political chill and attempts at a rapprochement, the Journal pointed out.
Karzai and the US have sought to pressure Pakistan in recent weeks to clamp down on the Haqqani insurgent network suspected of staging a series of deadly attacks on American and Afghan targets.
Afghan officials also accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of involvement in last month’s assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former Afghan president who had been leading the country’s peace entreaties to the Taliban. Pakistan denied these accusations.
Earlier this month, Karzai flew to New Delhi to sign a strategic agreement with India. The move angered Pakistani officials, who viewed it as political provocation, the dispatch said.

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