Afghan President Hamid Karzai is a man known for making incendiary statements during public speeches. But on Sunday he seemed to take that to new levels when he accused Washington and the Taliban of working together to convince Afghans that violence will only worsen when foreign troops leave. The top U.S. general in Afghanistan responded with dismay to the suggestion, which was delivered during the first visit by the newly minted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, reports Reuters.
In a televised speech the day after Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 18 people, Karzai said the United States doesn’t see the Taliban as an enemy and doesn’t want to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Karzai also accused the United States of negotiating with the Taliban behind his back, reports the Wall Street Journal, describing the speech as “a new low” in the “fraying ties” between Washington and Kabul.
"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," General Joseph Dunford, the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said. After Karzai’s speech, Hagel and the Afghan president canceled a joint news conference, but U.S. officials insisted it was due to security concerns and not as a reaction to the critical comments.