Barack Obama-Hamid Karzai spat reaches new low: Report
Washington: The trust deficit between US President Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai has fallen to new depths with the Afghan leader accusing the US of trying to negotiate a separate peace with both the Taliban and their backers in Pakistan, according to a media report.
"A video conference between Mr Obama and Mr Karzai designed to defuse the tensions ended badly," The New York Times quoted both American and Afghan officials with knowledge of the June 27 spat.
Karzai, according to the officials, accused the US of trying to negotiate a separate peace with both the Taliban and their backers in Pakistan, leaving Afghanistan`s fragile government exposed to its enemies, the report said.
Karzai had made similar accusations in the past. But those comments were delivered to Afghans, not to Obama, who responded by pointing out the American lives that have been lost propping up Karzai`s government, the officials said.
Frustrated by Karzai`s attitude, Obama is also is seriously considering speeding up the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, the report said.
"Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and to a `zero option` that would leave no American troops there after next year," the report said, citing American and European officials.
Obama is committed to ending US military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Talks between the US and Afghanistan over a security deal have faltered in recent months over Kabul`s insistence that Washington guarantee Afghanistan`s security and, in essence, commit to declaring Pakistan the main obstacle in the fight against militancy in the region, it said.
The guarantees sought by Afghanistan, if implemented, could possibly compel the US to attack Taliban safe havens in Pakistan long after 2014, when the Obama administration has said it hoped to dial back the CIA`s covert drone war there, the report said.
But Obama`s relationship with Karzai has been slowly unravelling, and reached a new low after an effort last month by the US to begin peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.
Karzai promptly repudiated the talks and ended negotiations with the US over the long-term security deal that is needed to keep American forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
The option of leaving no troops in Afghanistan after 2014 was gaining momentum before the video conference, according to the officials. The officials cautioned that no decisions had been made on the pace of the pullout and exactly how many American troops to leave behind in Afghanistan.
The number of US troops in Afghanistan - now around 63,000 - already is set to decline to 34,000 by February next year, the report said.
American troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001. The US invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban who had supported the al Qaeda terror network responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States.
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