The complexity of Karzai
March 11th, 2013
06:25 PM ET

The complexity of Karzai

By Mike Mount

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is not in an enviable position.

The man who has led the country for nearly 10 years is a difficult politician to deal with for the most part.

Beyond his seemingly outrageous comments toward the United States, he has also been called corrupt and often impossible to predict.

In his latest eyebrow-raiser following a bomb blast in Kabul that killed at least nine people, Karzai said on Sunday there are "ongoing daily talks between Taliban, American and foreigners in Europe and in the Gulf states."

The comment effectively claimed the United States was trying to foment continued violence inside Afghanistan.

The top commander of U.S. and allied forces, Gen. Joseph Dunford, quickly denounced the remark.

"We have fought too hard over the past 12 years. We have shed too much blood over the past 12 years. We have done too much to help the Afghan Security Forces grow over the last 12 years to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage," he said.

It cannot be denied Karzai has timing. He made the comment as the new U.S. defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, made his first visit to Afghanistan.

Hagel met with Karzai and assured him the United States was not engaged in a deal with the Taliban to continue violence inside Afghanistan.

In fact, Hagel seemed to understand why Karzai made the statement.

"I know these are difficult issues for President Karzai and the Afghan people," Hagel said after a meeting with him.

"I was once a politician, so I can understand the kind of pressures that especially leaders of countries are always under. I would hope, again, that we can move forward and I have confidence that we can and will deal with these issues," Hagel said.

He may not have been far off base.

"A lot of times, he has to say these things because he is playing to his domestic base, especially the Pashtuns in the East and the South who are his constituency and who are concerned that he is only acting at the request of the international community," says Javid Ahmad, program coordinator at the Washington-based policy analysis group German Marshall Fund.

"He (Karzai) has to give that internal audience the message that he's still president and still in charge, especially now that he has to ensure his legacy," Ahmad said.

But amid the continued drumbeat against the United States and NATO allies, Karzai's comments continue to chip away at allied support.

"It is unfortunate that President Karzai chose to make remarks that are so unfounded," says Kimberly Kagan, who leads the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.

"It is possible for American's to overreact to those comments, which President Karzai aims at an international audience, at our senior leaders as well as a huge domestic audience, when he is engaged in negotiation with us over really important issues," Kagan said.

The Karzai government is in the middle of discussions to gain full access to the main detention facility at Bagram Air Base as well as a bi-lateral agreement on keeping a security agreement with Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal of U.S. forces.

In another recent decree, Karzai prevented Afghan troops from calling in NATO air support under "any circumstances" which reflects his bigger problem, according to Mark Jacobson, a former NATO adviser in Afghanistan.

"Karzai, rather than seeking a "mature" discussion of the issues, acted reflexively and issued a decree barring Afghan forces from asking "for the foreigners" planes for carrying out operations on our homes and villages," Jacobson wrote in an opinion piece for

"His unfair and irresponsible characterization that "foreigners" are the threat to the Afghan population, and that it is "foreigners" who wage war on Afghan homes, threatens to weaken the coalition that has helped build Afghanistan's capacity to secure its future," according to Jacobson.

And to muddy the waters a bit more, it is not entirely clear where Karzai's comments come from.

"He has opted to act this way, to take the NATO allies to task, because he believes western officials and Americans don't take him seriously and they fail to listen to him during private meetings," Ahmad said.

But Ahmad says the Karzai aides that he has spoken with say the Afghan leader will often say publicly exactly what his advisers tell him without thinking it through.

"Strategic communication is very important. But when he surrounds himself with such an unholy alliance of people, it's really hard to gauge where his comments are really coming from," Ahmad said.

Regardless of what Karzai thinks and says, the United States cannot ignore him.

"It is vital to continue having a relationship with Afghanistan precisely because it is vital to ensure there is no return of al Qaeda, there is a stable government and that the region of Afghanistan and Pakistan and Central Asia does not become a bout of civil war or instability," says Kagan.

"The relationship between the U.S. and Afghanistan is essential, but we have to recognize the uncertainty," Kagan said.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Karzai
soundoff (83 Responses)
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  15. PeteyFF747

    South East Asia is key in restoring our world economy, unfortunately private military corporations are responsible for more terrorism in the middle east then some terrorist organizations. At this point Afghanistan is a sovereign state our government has helped them restore some semblance of Democracy. Karzai is more than capable foreign policy has perpetuated violence in Afghanistan for way too long .

    March 14, 2013 at 9:36 am | Reply
  16. John Doe

    First: The majority of individuals that have commented on this article, statistically, have little to no experience within the realm of international crisis / world affairs, DOD (Department of Defense), international political compromise, or historical / present cultural understanding, therefore rendering those particular individuals opinions irrelevant.

    Second: Media is media, enough said. There is no possible way for any average citizen to know the full details and composition of the situation without being organic to anyone of the said communities above. In other words there is a "need to know" and based on most of your responses, the majority of you do not have that authority.

    Third: The Afghan cultural perception on "corruption" is far different than what western / more developed civilization(s) perceive as corrupt. Do some research, the facts are there. I base this statement off of first hand experience.

    Fourth: According to this article, newly appointed Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, stated "It is possible for American's to overreact to those comments." The comment section following this article is a small glimpse of proof that this particular statement holds a little bit of weight.

    March 14, 2013 at 4:46 am | Reply
  17. Uncle Mike


    March 14, 2013 at 1:46 am | Reply
  18. pete

    Afghanistan is a crap hole. It always has been and always will be. Why don't people learn the lessons of history?

    March 13, 2013 at 11:04 pm | Reply
  19. jimmy lim

    What I cant understand is why are americans so darn stupid. Why is US giving away billions every year to Karzai's govt? For what? Karzai is corrupt muslim and a double headed snake. Just get out of Afghanistan. Period. There is nothing more to do n gain.

    March 13, 2013 at 9:14 pm | Reply
    • chutrit

      He's the Manderin, I saw the Iron man 3 trailer.

      March 13, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Reply
    • Uncle Mike

      Oil pipeline

      March 14, 2013 at 1:46 am | Reply
  20. Irwin

    What a one-sided article! Do you really thing that NATO and it's efforts to 'secure' Afghanistan's future are popular with the people there? Why don't you interview those people and some independent NGOs about the brutal raids, the killing of civilians and the humiliations. The Taliban may be hated, but so is NATO!

    March 13, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Reply
  21. Joe

    He might as well put the noose on his neck, tie it to the bumper and put in drive!

    March 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Reply
  22. jack 2

    We should wack him on the way out

    March 13, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Reply
  23. materialman80

    Karzai the corrupt is a dead man, and he knows it. He won't last a month after the U.S. is gone.

    March 13, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  24. Al

    he will run away or will be sent to the gallows as soon as the US/Nato will surrender in Afghanistan.

    March 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  25. Keith Grant

    The complexity of Karzai


    ' Kairzai tells the TRUTH = ' Think About It '….....................................

    He has to 'try' to keep the United States Military, NATO Military, Soviet Military, Chinese Military and Any other participating Military AND the Taliban and the Village Leaders of Afghanistan AND UNFORTUNATLEY the C.I.A. – HAPPY !

    Again, think about it: ' who would want that job ' …................................. ?

    That's why 'he tells the TRUTH = there's too many players to Lie in the GAME'

    Keith Grant


    March 13, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  26. Joe

    Karzai is no better then the rest of the corrupt drug dealing warlords that run their country. We need to get the hell out of that country AS SOON AS POSSIBLE and cut off ALL funding. I’m sure they can find enough guns and IED’s to kill each other with out our support.

    March 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  27. Barbara

    You might want to read The Kill Team in Rolling Stone. We have been at ward too long.

    March 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  28. What

    He's right guys..,..
    We are aiding "rebels" in Syria, yea?
    Guess what they also happen ti be *gasp*

    March 13, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Reply
  29. don Jones

    A case of the puppit making the puppitmaster damce

    March 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Reply
  30. thg

    His government is very corrupt. Also, we have this inconvenience rarely discussed:

    March 13, 2013 at 9:43 am | Reply
  31. Bangash

    Although every Afghan ruler like Karzai has been imposed on Afghans by the West under the barrel of gun however every one of these compliant rulers have finally revolted against their Masters. This is Afghan pride which usually rise when realise the evil intentions of Master and see him a threat to his homeland. Karzai since years spoke of corruption in funds meant for the reconstruction of Afghanistan but he was being ignored which is making thigs difficult for Americans as they may lose the option for safe withdrawal from Afghan quagmire. History repeat itself once again on Afghan soil when the fate of US empire will be decided here.

    March 13, 2013 at 8:55 am | Reply
    • cvg22

      what a load of goat dung...KarZai as well as any of the war lords that have ruled the Afghans are spin doctors that west has to deal with. the ONLY reason the "master" invaded the country this time was to curb the world-wide scourge of extremism. there is NOTHING in Afghanistan worth the lives of American servicemen. He as well as the other war lords profit at the expense of his people. You can place blame on the west all you like but the truth is that the people of Afghanistan are living better lives than they were 12 years ago despite the on-going turbulence brought forth by the radicals...the spin-doctors rule in your world and will always do so under the guise of religion, nationalism, tribalism, and ethnic cleansing. you are pathetic in your justifcation of doing evil...spin in your world is transparent...just open your eyes and stop point the finger at the west. you alone are responsible for the plight of your people...eventually they will see you for who you are or perish. somehow, i doubt the Americans will be there to pick you up the next time...but rest assured, you promote your filth elsewhere and we will return!

      March 13, 2013 at 10:27 am | Reply
      • Bangash

        cvg22 be realistic and sincere to what you believe in. Wars, in human history have never been appreciated as in wars all are losers. You can't deny that USA is at war all over the world and spending trillions of dollars in death merchandise which has given nothing to common American except rising unemployment, recession, fiscal cliff and bad name as arrogant and baby killers. This is not for which America has come into existance after freedom from the British empire which stands for universal peace, justice and fraternity.
        cvg22 if you feel some thing wrong in above mentioned ground realities then I suggest you see the history of falling Empires you will see writing on the wall. Any way, freedom of expression is there and you can call my opinion goat dung but remember CNN is the biggest forum in the world and whole world is watching you and will decide.

        March 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • cvg22

      I am perfectly comfortable in my view. Simple facts...Afghanistan harbored this generation's Hitler, the west took him out and began to rebuild the Afghan society providing modern education, health care, and an economy built on something other than opium. for the first time in decades, the afghan people have access to resources the rest of the world has taken for granted and women have a voice and rights. IT has nothing to do with a Western Evil Empire. It has everything to do with simple truth...people like you live to to keep your people enslaved and ignorant so that you can take advantage of them. Simple truth, your leaders use you and your faith to keep you lining their pockets. The west doesn't profit, our self interest is simple, peace and prosperity for our people...and for your people. Anarchy and poverty is not a way of life.

      March 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Reply
      • Bangash

        Afghans are by nature loving people and respect every one, landing on Afghan soil as a guest and secrify what ever they can to make their guests comfortable. This is their human nature which no one can match in rest of the world including West. However West has always missunderstood their sincere feelings and instead of being guest West has always tried to subjugate them under the barrel of gun for which they have always paid and humiliated. This West agression under USA is part of the same Great Game with new name American name the New World Order. You are wrong to say that occupation of Afghanistan is in any way for protction of human rights or reconstruction of Afghanistan and this now Karzai has exposed. So cvg22 do not missguide public opinion, as this is now internet age and world has become a global village therefore today it is difficult to fool others as usual. 70% American public opinion support universal peace, justice and fraternity and have rejected Bush for his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite this if you continue beating your drums it mean either you are a military man and wars are your business or you have some shares in MIC and need marckets for your deadly production. Remember world is changing and concentrating on trade the way China has done and soon their will be no one to buy your crap.

        March 14, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  32. jimmy

    I believe he will leave before the US.

    March 13, 2013 at 8:13 am | Reply
  33. Stillwaters

    There is more to this than meets the eye. It sickens me to see all these comments of 'we should pull out'. This is the reality Americans: your country will never pull out of Afghanistan. It took two towers and thousands of American lives to get in there. Now you're stuck and Karzai knows it.

    Whatever his background may be, no matter how and by whom he was put in power, he has consolidated his position and he is a power to be reckoned with in Afghanistan. Go ahead, put a bullet in his brain like the Soviets did with Hafizullah Amin. Witness, then, the consequences.

    A very interesting fact is that in countries like Afghanistan presidents have real power and they can cause real problems for you if you try to go around them. This is at odds with countries like the US where presidents such as 'Obie' have no real power and are just there for symbolic reasons, i.e. to give speeches and dazzle you with election campaigns.

    I'm not saying that the US should not have secret ties with the Taliban or the other 'mad dogs' in Afghanistan; it's just politics. The fact that the US is doing it in these days, however, is extremely counterproductive and dangerous to Karzai's efforts in consolidating the government's authority. Additionally, the fact that the US doesn't give a damn is what I think, has infuriated Karzai so much that he has lost his tact and is now speaking openly to the public.

    March 13, 2013 at 2:18 am | Reply
    • kv

      Are we still trusting a Muslim?

      March 13, 2013 at 4:49 am | Reply
      • Batman

        Why are the still trusting the US? that is racist. U are the one who gave us the ideology.

        March 13, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  34. Jaimie

    I like American dollars to pad my pockets.

    March 13, 2013 at 1:26 am | Reply
  35. Stephen Swain

    For the thousandth or millionth time: "Never get in a land war in Asia." Never. Never. Never.

    Solution: Time to leave. Period. Maybe the Chinese would like this challenge. Oops! They still haven't fully digested Tibet, and they have a bit of a twitchy neighbor in North Korea to contend with. Would India like to try? No? OK. How about Russia? They used to want Afghanistan so they could trump Britain. No? OK. Who's left: Pakistan. No worries. OK.

    So that's it. All the other stans are covered up with their own issues.

    Let us see, then: How about if we void our contract with Karzai et al for obvious reasons, wish them all well, and very carefully leave, giving everyone concerned fair warning: We are leaving. If you attempt to hinder us in any way, ...
    Oh, I forgot. We can't do that.

    So, let's leave any way. It's time. And don't forget the vertical envelopment before leaving.............................

    March 12, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Reply
  36. lweba

    Karzai is just a third rate crook now he has his millions he does not need America, go en check his bank account!

    March 12, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Reply
  37. US Army Veteran

    Will somebody in our government with courage please pull the plug on this heroin producing / poppy growing corrupt country which has zero national security significance to the US.

    March 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  38. cornhusker1969

    Im so sick and tired of supporting all of these ungreatful countrys when we could be useing this money right here in the USA screw them all and take care of are own people for a change

    March 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Reply
    • lter

      well you start a war and blow the cra p out of infrastructure i think you have a part to play in rebuilding the country

      March 12, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Reply
      • Stephen Swain

        Who started the war, please? When you start an argument from flawed premises, whatever results that you produce can hardly help being flawed as well. The United States was physically invaded, resulting in several thousand deaths and a host of other horrors attendant thereunto. That attack emanated from an organization that was, at that time, domiciled in Afghanistan. Every nation has the right of self-defense. The United States identified its assailant as being Osama bin Laden and his criminally insane gang, then operating from Afghanistan. What would you have suggested that our leaders do? Invite them to the UN for a parley? Don't be absurd.

        March 12, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
  39. T dot

    United States is the one that put this corrupt karzai in power. When United States dislikes its old puppet, you think you can get rid of him? Karzai knows this war on terror is a bigger fraud then himself lol. Now you call Karzai a fundamentalist, a taliban, After Karzai you will elect another corrupt leader. I've seen the Afghan leaders they're all warlords from soviet war that America funded them. This region will ALWAYS be corrupt because America doesn't want a legitimate president, they want to bribe a corrupt warlord to ensure the natural resources are in US hands.

    March 12, 2013 at 11:10 am | Reply
    • John Geheran

      Yeah. The US is responsible for corruption worldwide. When in doubt blame the CIA and Mossad. And before Karzai the US was responsible for the brutal, murderous regime of the Taliban. And it doesn't stop there. Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Libya, et al. It never ceases to amaze me how one country can exert so much influence.

      March 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Reply
    • Ree

      Tip of the iceberg. you have know idea how Karzai played you, American taxpayer . lol

      March 12, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  40. wolfpackbob

    Karzai is complex? The true description is that Karzai is corrupt. If the US does not admit to that, they and their dealings with Karzai will remain in an alternate reality and we have failed. With corrupt leadership, whether we pull out today or in ten years we have failed in Obama's "Good War". We can then watch school girls get beheaded by the Taliban on Al Jazeera. This is the one issue that even President Obama's Chicago team will not be able to spin. But you can be sure that the beheadings will not begin until AFTER the 2014 elections. Cynical? You bet. Ugly American indeed.

    March 12, 2013 at 9:42 am | Reply
    • Lucke

      C N N has finally found the great lider of Afghanistan! Cheers

      March 12, 2013 at 10:05 am | Reply
    • Afghan

      Well the base of problems are pakistan.

      March 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Reply
  41. rad666

    America just needs to stop providing money and troops.

    With America in the region, the natural order has been disturbed.

    March 12, 2013 at 9:33 am | Reply
    • John Geheran

      Yeah. The Taliban were doing just fine with their weekly firing squads and stonings. Saddam was likewise fully engaged in the "natural order" invading Kuwait to save their oil from those Western thieves as well as gassing tens-of-thousands Marsh Arabs and troublesome Kurds. ditto Gaddafi and Assad. Let the "natural order" rule!

      March 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Reply
      • US Army Veteran

        Who cares what these tyrants do – there is far worse going on in Morth Kore and Iran and the US says nothing and does nothing There is far far worse going on in the African continent but thr Us says nothing and does nothing....

        We should justget out of the Mideast altogether and let the oil rich nations deal with their Muslin brothers and sisters

        March 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  42. Bart Brown

    Karzai is an Islamic Fundamentalist Teabagger> The Republican Party's been paying the freight for his sorry ass since the election of Bush43.

    March 12, 2013 at 9:31 am | Reply
  43. Rosslaw

    Can't wait until we pull out and Karzai gets to handle the whole situation with the Taliban just like he wants. Wonder how long his head will be attached to his shoulders?

    March 12, 2013 at 9:30 am | Reply
    • whO622

      He is a Taliban and a lier. Also corrupt and willing to do anything to stay in power.

      March 12, 2013 at 10:12 am | Reply
    • Ree

      Dont worry. Karzai's gona be in Europe post 2014. !

      March 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Reply
      • Paradise Lost

        He is not going to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 as he would not live very long. Don't worry, the guy is filthy rich and has cash stashed in Swiss banks or elsewhere and will enjoy his ill-gained money somewhere abroad.
        He also suffers from bi-polar disorder, but does not take his meds. This might also explain part of his bizarre behavior.

        March 12, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  44. coyote

    I see through this. complicated my Mrs Duckworth! You see that robe? You know we put this guy there. They have a psychopath test they pass around to the armed discontents plant wide. its a leader lottery and you get to do little good things or bad things wile you tow the international line on big things and they let you dress up. Go on vacation. play lots of golf. Have dungeons, keep dragons if you like. The catch is... the kool aide. This one was found in the oil and gas business. (no sense in using those nutzo idealists anymore – even if they do dress up..) and now he thinks he's the real leader. This is what... Qatar was saying... you can't believe it. not really. because then.... yet every day some wanna be with stars in his eyes accepts their offer... who wants a cookie? –

    March 12, 2013 at 9:07 am | Reply
  45. It's Me

    Complex? More like stupid.

    March 12, 2013 at 9:03 am | Reply
  46. ABullet

    A Bullet in Karzai's head would simplify him, and quick. It's an investment someone in the US should have made years ago. It's an investment someone should make soon.

    March 12, 2013 at 8:53 am | Reply
    • Bob Hope

      Would it be considered an enemy kill or fractricide?

      March 12, 2013 at 10:05 am | Reply
    • lter

      im with you, a bullet in the head to all that dson't support us, thats the american way....

      March 12, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Reply
  47. Tutuvabene

    Karzai's very "complexity" makes it all the more urgent for the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan.

    March 12, 2013 at 8:49 am | Reply
  48. Anon

    Why don't they just kill karzai and put in someone new? This guy has some real nerve to talking down to the US. He's a terrorist just like the rest of em!! He thinks he's a pimp with his green and purple coats. I think he's more like a clown.

    March 12, 2013 at 8:47 am | Reply
    • coyote

      He works for us silly. apparently to some degree they all work for us. maybe Obie did come to save the world. First he showed everyone, that isn't a job you want. period. (sorry – but someone had to be sacrificed and you volunteered) How in the heck are they going to ever get anyone to want to be what I call – famous by expectation?

      March 12, 2013 at 9:16 am | Reply
  49. PJ

    Complexity? Mental Abberation, you mean. Stop giving money to this drug dealer, terrorist and parasite. Afghanistan is NOT a Nation and will never BE one. If the Taliban take over, nuke Kabul and be done with it. LEAVE, STOP giving this garbage OUR money and fix America.

    March 12, 2013 at 8:29 am | Reply
  50. Ol' Lefty

    The guy's a goof. Speed up the pull out and let's see how long before he's swinging from a lamp post. My money is less than a year.

    March 12, 2013 at 8:25 am | Reply
  51. 1371usmc

    The complexity of Kazai really????? he is a thief what more you need to know.

    March 12, 2013 at 6:48 am | Reply
  52. lweba

    Why doesn't America leave Afghanistan and go home? It seems as though America needs Afghanistan more than it leaders(Afghan). I wonder if this rhetoric won't lead to a state where America finds itself fighting Afghan security forces instead of the Taliban.

    March 12, 2013 at 6:24 am | Reply
  53. garrfield

    Afghanistan received a total aid of $2,659,021,205 in 2011. You can visit

    March 12, 2013 at 3:45 am | Reply
  54. metalhead65

    I give him 3 months tops after the U.S withdraws before he is over thrown by the taliban. when our troops go home so does all the money he has been stealing from us and they should also ban all immigration from that hell hole of a country. you had your chance at freedom and all you did was blow each other up then blame the U.S. you deserve what ever happens to you under the taliban. before they leave they should order a massive airstrike on all their poppy fields so the taliban can't m,ake any money of it. to bad if innocents die they are killing

    March 11, 2013 at 10:05 pm | Reply
    • lejaune

      Nah, Karzai is smarter than that. He would either become a lead of Taliban or retire on a Mediterranean island with his million is Swiss bank.

      March 12, 2013 at 8:28 am | Reply
  55. me

    Karzai has seen billions of dollars enter into the afghan economy, his own citizens are killing women and children almost daily. I can understand America would like to see a country where this wasn't happening. Its seems like Karsai doesn't give a hoot about his own civilians or his military personnel, having the ability of air support in any confrontation. Soldiers lives would be lost as a result of Karzai's decisions, the man is unstable and isn't going to help his country in the future. The sooner the Afghan society get rid of this criminal the better. As for the guy with the claim that Karsai may be taken out, it may happen sooner then later. Does anyone anywhere think Karzai will remain in Afghanistan after his plotical career is come to and end, I think he will fly out the day after his term is over, leaving the country with his pockets lined with the blood money of his own people.

    March 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Reply
  56. Mr. T

    President Karzai is certainly not in an enviable position. One the one hand, the western world expects him to make Afghanistan a successful democracy. On the other hand, the Pakistani and Taliban terrorists want him to make Afghanistan a terrorist, Islamic fundamentalist state. After the troops leave Afghanistan, I wouldn't be surprised if the Pakistani/Taliban terrorists will assassinate him.

    March 11, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Reply

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