A dubious ally of the United States
It is outrageous that Afghanistan's waspish leader, Hamid Karzai, would accuse the United States of colluding with the Taliban in order to make sure the conflict in his country is extended. The timing of Karzai's remarks (delivered on national television, no less) was clearly intended to maximize the insult: Chuck Hagel, the newly minted American defense secretary, had just arrived in Afghanistan on his first overseas mission. Hagel, who must now be wondering why he bothered to endure the considerable agonies of his very difficult confirmation process on Capitol Hill, was entitled to a far more respectful reception from the Afghan leader, who is in power solely because the United States got rid of the terrorist-friendly Taliban regime. Karzai has long enjoyed strong support from the United States, despite ample evidence that Afghanistan has a long-standing culture of corruption and despite his penchant for lecturing Washington.What Karzai claims is ludicrous. The United States would never consent to any tactic — especially in collaboration with the ruthless Taliban — that would extend this conflict, especially when President Obama repeatedly has made it clear that all American combat troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by next year. "We have fought too hard over the past 12 years," Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said Sunday. "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 past 12 years to think that violence or instability would be to our advantage." Hagel, a seasoned politician — he had represented Nebraska in the U.S. Senate — appeared to take his rough encounter with Karzai in stride. "I know these are difficult issues for President Karzai and the Afghan people," he said diplomatically after a private dinner with his host. It's regrettable that Karzai didn't exhibit the same caliber of diplomacy — and class.