Karzai blasts US, NATO for 'using' Afghanistan, announces Taliban talks
Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s tendency to oscillate between support for NATO and harsh criticism of it has confounded and irked friend and foe alike.
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“The nations of the world which are here in our country are here for their own national interests,” said the president during a youth conference at the presidential palace. He went on to accuse them of polluting Afghanistan with military vehicles and also announced that negotiations have started with the Taliban.
Since March, he has called on the US and NATO to stop operations here (only to later clarify that he meant operations that result in civilian casualties) and given them a stern ultimatum to stop killing civilians. Shortly after each controversial speech, he usually reaffirms ties with NATO and the US.
Karzai’s tendency to oscillate between positions at either end of the spectrum has confounded and irked friend and foe alike, leading to speculation among American diplomats that he may be struggling with a mental illness. But some Afghans say that the main problem could be that Afghans leaders – traditionally used to tailoring their messages to navigate shifting allegiances – are just not used to coping with modern, international media that stand ready to expose any contradictory remark.
“Currently some politicians are the same as Karzai, but the media is not focusing so much on small politicians. Karzai is the president and has the most media coverage,” says Babrak Shinwari, a former member of parliament from Nangarhar province. “I would suggest that he use only written speeches and does not deviate from them. When he goes off script, he says anything and that’s why it brings the mistrust of the regional countries and the international community on Karzai.”
Fluid allegiances, competing messages
Throughout history, Afghans have been notorious for working with competing sides and changing allegiances when it becomes clear their rivals are becoming more powerful. For Afghan politicians, this has meant a history of working closely with rivals and communicating sometimes seemingly competing messages to different audiences.