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US President Barack Obama (right) looks on as his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai gestures during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House earlier this year.
KABUL: The US commander in Afghanistan has warned troops that they face an increased threat of attack after a series of inflammatory anti-US comments by President Hamid Karzai.
Nato’s International Assistance Security Force (ISAF) yesterday confirmed a strongly-worded advisory was sent by US General Joseph Dunford to his senior commanders on Wednesday.
“Karzai’s remarks could be a catalyst for some to lash out against our forces — he may also issue orders that put our forces at risk,” Dunford said in the advisory, The New York Times said.
“The advisory was prudent given increased coalition casualties in recent days. General Dunford’s email is an example of this vigilance,” ISAF said.
“We’re at a rough point in the relationship,” Dunford said in his advisory. “(Militants) are also watching and will look for a way to exploit the situation — they have already ramped up for the spring.”
Nato is training Afghan soldiers and police to take over the fight against the Taliban as 100,000 international troops prepare to head home by the end of 2014.
Karzai’s recent outbursts have also triggered criticism from rival politicians, who say he is deliberately misleading ordinary Afghans and could threaten the future of international aid on which the country relies.
“He says the Taliban and Americans are one, and that Taliban came here for strengthening the Americans,” Abdullah Abdullah, a former presidential candidate, said.
“Our people are worried about whether Karzai is right — or they ask whether it is another conspiracy. I was not surprised at the remarks, I was saddened.”
As Karzai will stand down after elections in April 2014, he appears to have one ambition — to ensure that his people do not remember him as a puppet of the US. He.
This week he accused the US of colluding with Taliban militants to justify the presence of 100,000 international troops in Afghanistan and banned international troops from university campuses due to unproven claims of harassment of students.
He has also clashed with the US military over repeated delays to the scheduled handover of Afghan detainees.
“I was in Pakistan beforehand, and everyone there from the foreign ministry downwards told me he was a nutter and off his trolley,” said British historian William Dalrymple, who spent 90 minutes discussing his new book with the president last week.
Dalrymple said Karzai had spoken of the fate of Shah Shuja, the puppet leader whom British colonialists put on the throne in Kabul in 1839 and who was later assassinated. “His view was that the US were doing to him what the British had done to Shuja, which was to treat him as a puppet and to use him for their own interests,” Dalrymple said.
“Karzai thinks Shuja didn’t stress his independence enough, and... I do think he is concerned with his legacy.”
Karzai, 55, was a darling of the West when he became leader of Afghanistan after the US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban.
But US-Afghan ties became increasingly strained as the bloody Taliban insurgency gained pace, US casualties mounted and Karzai’s government became a by-word for corruption.
In recent weeks he has ordered US special forces out of the key province of Wardak and stopped Afghan forces from calling in US air strikes.
“These are desperate attempts by President Karzai trying to justify himself before history,” Waheed Mujda, a former Taliban government official and political analyst said. “His remarks remind me of president Najibullah (leader of the pro-communist government that fell in 1992) who made similar remarks as the Soviets were preparing to leave and who started holding talks with mujahideen fighters.”
Like Shuja, Najibullah met an untimely end. When the Taliban seized power in 1996, they hanged him from a traffic light in central Kabul.
Karzai is also motivated by anger that the Taliban refuse to include him in any peace talks and further delays over the handover of Afghan detainees held by the US — an issue he has made a symbol of national sovereignty.
For ordinary Afghans, his attacks on Washington echo their own outrage over civilian deaths caused by coalition operations, night raids and a sense that foreign troops trample on local culture.
“Over the past few years, the trust between Karzai and the US administration has completely faded,” said Waheed Wafa, Director of the Afghanistan research centre at Kabul University. “What he says now shows his frustration.”
Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham spoke of his “disgust and resentment” at Karzai, and warned that he could support a withdrawal of US funding for his government. “I am perfectly capable of pulling the plug on Afghanistan,” Graham told Foreign Policy. AGENCIES