The conventional wisdom is that despite the vehement statements from Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, the anger shall pass and relations will get back on track. It's a "familiar script," observed the Washington Post, of anger some believe is aimed at a domestic audience, or meant to help in negotiations over a status-of-forces agreement.
Karzai's pronouncement this week that NATO troops need to withdraw from Afghan villages and hand over security to the Afghans, was explained away by White House spokesman Jay Carney as really a reflection of Karzai being on the same page as NATO and President Obama.
I would simply say that the two leaders did discuss President Karzai’s concern about U.S. forces in Afghan villages. And within the context of a discussion about the transition that is already underway and is taking place that will result in U.S. forces turning over to Afghan forces greater and greater responsibility to the point where they have the combat lead by 2013 and full responsibility for Afghan security - full lead by 2014, I think that the two men were very much on the same page.
His top diplomat in Washington, Eklil Hakimi, told CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday that Karzai was "doing whatever any legitimate president would do."
"He's reflecting somehow whatever our people are saying," Hakimi said in the interview that aired on CNN's State of the Union.
So having said that, we have a strategic partnership and now we are working on another partnership to define our relationship for the years to come. So this is the bigger picture. We should not forget that. But down the road, it's a bumpy road...
CROWLEY: It is. And you mentioned that Afghanistan is grateful for some of the help that the U.S. has done and that it's an ally. And yet when you see the president of Afghanistan talking about the U.S. in the same breath as the Taliban, as a demon, there's a disconnect. Why is there a disconnect?
Is this something - I understand the anger in Afghanistan about these women and children and men, the innocent people that were killed. But is the president of the country in those words, I would think, undermine American support which was very much there at the beginning of this war.
HAKIMI: Well, our president is doing whatever any legitimate president would do. He's reflecting somehow whatever our people are saying, the situation there, especially with this very tragic incident, is not that easy.
So meanwhile he understands very well the relationship and also the partnership that we have with the international community. Mainly, with the United States of America. He attaches great importance to that.
While Karzai may be playing to a domestic audience, so is President Obama who is at the start of his re-election campaign. While the president speaks frequently of his foreign policy wins, he's lost the country's support on fighting this war which he set a 2014 expiration date on. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll found that half of Americans believe the U.S. should speed up the withdrawal timetable from Afghanistan.
While Karzai may be playing to a domestic audience, so is President Obama, who is at the start of his re-election campaign. While the president speaks frequently of his foreign policy wins, he's lost the country's support on fighting this war, which he set a 2014 expiration date on. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll found that half of Americans believe the United States should speed up the withdrawal timetable from Afghanistan.
As the U.S. continues to negotiate the final elements of a post-2014 presence in Afghanistan, the question arises if the end will be too similar to Iraq, especially after incidents like the recent shootings where the suspect, an American soldier, was whisked out of the country by the U.S. In Iraq, any plans for the U.S. to maintain a military presence to help advise and train Iraq troops was jettisoned over Iraqi insistence that the American troops not be given immunity from Iraqi laws.
But as former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said on CNN's State of the Union, the U.S. has a national security interest in staying in Afghanistan, beyond 2014.
It's in the American interest, we sort of have to get off this idea that it's a favor to Afghanistan. That 9/11 attacks were planned in Kandahar, that's where Osama bin Laden. We don't want that to be a place again. So that's basic. But from the point of view of the American troops, I think what's more important is, are we as a country committed to finishing the job that we set out to do. And we knew it was going to be hard.
One of the biggest point of contention between Karzai and the U.S. is over night raids, which Karzai has long said must stop. For Karzai and many Afghans, the raids are the most egregious sign of hostility against innocent civilians by U.S. and NATO forces. For the U.S., the raids are an essential part of the counter terrorism fight, to grab insurgents when they are least ready to fight back.
The fight against the Taliban and Blair said on Sunday, will "not be done by 2014."
We have to get back to that if we are to follow this strategy. If not, let's look at the consequences. Afghanistan in civil war had a minimum. At a maximum, the Taliban coming back, violent extremist groups coming back into the country the way they were before, and able to freely plot attacks against their enemies, who will include the United States.
And if we want that kind of a future and we have to - that means we have to increase our homeland security. That means the risk of a bomb flown up here into New York goes up, OK. I'm going to have that discussion. But don't pretend that pulling out will give you the safeties that you have now.