One of my Kabul press corps colleagues once described covering President Hamid Karzai’s government and the Western diplomats who are supposed to be supporting it as a lot like being friends with a couple while they go through a savage divorce. We reporters hop back and forth, from cocktail party to quiet lunch to private briefing, listening to charming Afghans and Westerners -– many of whom we personally like very much — say outrageously nasty things about each other. Usually, the invective is whispered “off the record” by both sides, so you, dear reader, miss out on the opportunity to learn just how dysfunctional one of the world’s most important diplomatic relationships has become.
Over the past few weeks, the secret got out. Karzai — in a speech that was described as an outburst but which palace insiders say was carefully planned — said in public what his allies have been muttering in private for months: that Western diplomats orchestrated the notorious election debacle last year that saw a third of his votes thrown out for fraud. The White House and State Department were apoplectic: “disturbing”, “untrue”, “preposterous” they called it. Peter Galbraith, the U.S. diplomat who was the number two U.N. official in Kabul during last year’s election, went on TV and said he thought Karzai might be crazy or on drugs. Karzai’s camp’s response: Who’s being preposterous now?
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai named officials on Saturday to oversee a parliamentary election, sealing a compromise with the United Nations and effectively ending a damaging stand-off with the West.
Karzai’s quarrel with Western donors over rules for September’s vote led to a diplomatic shouting match with Washington this month that brought relations between the war-time allies to a new low.
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai promised on Saturday to hold a transparent investigation into allegations three Italian hospital workers were involved in an assassination plot, charges that have caused an outcry in Italy.
The three Italians from the medical charity Emergency were arrested a week ago in Lashkar Gah, capital of Afghanistan’s most violent province, Helmand, where their hospital is one of the few independent aid organizations.
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai took small but public steps on Saturday to signal he was still friends with the United States after a war of words that tested their alliance.
In what appeared to be a choreographed effort to portray the relationship in the best light, Karzai visited the headquarters of General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander, down the road from Karzai’s own palace in central Kabul.
KABUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A war of words between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the White House escalated on Monday, with Washington expressing frustration that an attempt to smooth over the feud had so far failed.
Karzai said he stood by remarks from last week accusing the West of carrying out election fraud in Afghanistan, and appeared to sharpen the criticism still further by singling out the United States specifically for blame.
WASHINGTON/KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai tried to smooth over his fraying relationship with Washington on Friday after the White House said it was troubled by a strident anti-Western speech he delivered in Kabul.
In his unprecedentedly bitter speech to election officials on Thursday, the Afghan leader accused embassies of perpetrating election fraud in Afghanistan, bribing and threatening election officials and seeking to weaken him and his government.
KABUL (Reuters) – U.S. and NATO commanders released details this week of plans for the biggest offensive of the nearly 9-year-old Afghan war, to seize control of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city and birthplace of the Taliban.
Following are answers to questions about the battle plan, which will unfold during the coming months:
SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (Reuters) – One of the most important trade routes in Asia was closed last week while a boyish-looking man everyone calls “the general” showed around the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
General Stanley McChrystal clambered to the top of a roof, where “the general” — officially a colonel in the Afghan Border Police — pointed out the area where NATO forces plan to build a new $20 million border station.
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan confirmed for the first time publicly on Tuesday that it had enacted into law a blanket pardon for war crimes and human rights abuse carried out before 2001.
Human rights groups have expressed dismay that the law appeared to have been enacted quietly, granting blanket immunity to members of all armed factions for acts committed during decades of war before the fall of the Taliban.
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s government denied a report on Tuesday that it had been holding secret peace talks with the Taliban’s number two leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, when he was arrested in Pakistan.
The announcement last month of Baradar’s arrest in Karachi by U.S. and Pakistani agents has led to numerous unconfirmed media reports the former top Taliban military commander might have been talking to Kabul, and that may have led to his arrest.