Afghan President Says His Country Would Back Pakistan in a Clash With the U.S.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, October 20, 2011

From Ray Rivera and Sangar Rahimi , the New York Times:  Days after he stood with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and accused Pakistan of harboring his country’s enemies, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan said this weekend that his country would support Pakistan if it ever went to war with the United States. 

He appeared to be trying to reassure Pakistan of Afghanistan’s friendship after months of increasing tensions between the neighboring countries, while also urging Islamabad to sever its ties to militant extremists who are using the country as a haven to attack Afghanistan.

But the comments, which were broadcast Saturday on Pakistani television, again displayed Mr. Karzai’s ability to mystify his Western backers who have shored up his administration with billions of dollars in aid and military support during his nearly 10 years as Afghanistan’s leader.

“God forbid, if there is ever a war between Pakistan and America, then we will side with Pakistan,” he said in the interview with Geo Television, which was conducted partly in Urdu, partly in English. He added that Afghanistan would back Pakistan in a military conflict with any other country, including its archrival, India, which recently signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan.

“If Pakistan is attacked, and if the people of Pakistan need help, Afghanistan will be there with you,” Mr. Karzai said. “Afghanistan is a brother. . . .”

One senior European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he had not had a chance to speak to the president, called the statements perplexing.

“I’m trying to understand what he was really saying,” the diplomat said. “I wish we had clarity on that. This is not the first time that he has made controversial assertions. . . .”

There was also political backlash from officials. “We must never involve ourselves in any war, particularly backing Pakistan, which is the cause of all our problems,” warned Arif Rahmani, a Parliament member from the southeastern province of Ghazni, one of the more violent and unstable regions of Afghanistan.

Mohammad Saleh Saljoqi, a Parliament member from the western province of Herat, seemed as baffled as anyone. “One day we say that Pakistan is a safe haven for the terrorists, that the Haqqani network is based there and that it is the source of a lot of our problems,” he said. “And the next day we say Pakistan is our brother country.”  (photo: AP)

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