Karzai speech ‘put NATO forces at risk’, commander warns

"His remarks could be a catalyst for some to lash out against our forces"

From Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland, New York Times:  The American commander in Afghanistan quietly told his forces to intensify security measures on Wednesday, issuing a strongly worded warning that a string of anti-American statements by President Hamid Karzai had put Western troops at greater risk of attack both from rogue Afghan security forces and from militants. . . .

An array of Afghan political leaders issued a joint statement criticizing Mr. Karzai and saying his comments did not reflect their views. And though American military and diplomatic officials have mostly refrained from replying publicly to Mr. Karzai’s criticism, in private they have expressed concerns that relations between the allies had reached a worrisome low point right at a critical point in the war against the Taliban.

Frustration with Mr. Karzai was clear in the alert, known as a command threat advisory, sent on Wednesday by Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. to his top commanders. “His remarks could be a catalyst for some to lash out against our forces — he may also issue orders that put our forces at risk,” the advisory read.

Senior American military officials confirmed that a copy of the advisory obtained by The New York Times was genuine, although they said it had not been intended to be released publicly. While threat advisories are circulated routinely, one directly from the commanding general is unusual, one Western official said. . . .

In Washington, even Republican members of Congress who had long been strong supporters of the Afghan war and Mr. Karzai, were scathing in their denunciation of him in recent days. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has visited Mr. Karzai repeatedly and has long been involved with Afghanistan policy, expressed “disgust and resentment” over the Afghan’s comments, in remarks quoted on Foreign Policy magazine’s Web site. He added: “I am perfectly capable of pulling the plug on Afghanistan. . . .”

One senior Obama administration official said Wednesday that commanders on the ground were taking appropriate steps given the circumstances. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss negotiations, said that many in the administration were “obviously unhappy” with Mr. Karzai’s comments, but insisted the latest tensions would do little to alter the current military assistance plan for Afghanistan. . . .

In Kabul, both Afghan vice presidents met with Mr. Karzai for two hours Wednesday morning, while a group of representatives from 14 political parties — most of them opposition groups but several with members in government — held a news conference to denounce the president’s stance.

“All these remarks may destroy our relations with the international community, and especially America, and lead to the isolation of Afghanistan again,” said Faizullah Zaki, the spokesman for Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the powerful Uzbek leader and warlord who campaigned for Mr. Karzai in his 2009 election and later fell out with him. “We are calling on the president to stop doing this because we believe it is not in our national interest.”

From BBC:  International troops in Afghanistan have been put at risk after an "inflammatory speech" by President Hamid Karzai, Nato’s commander warned.

On Sunday, Mr Karzai accused the US and the Taliban of colluding to prolong the conflict in the country.

"His remarks could be a catalyst for some to lash out against our forces," US and Nato forces commander Gen Joseph Dunford said in a leaked email.  (photo: AP)

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