'Inadequate partner': what US really thinks of Karzai

Ambassador's leaked cables to the White House reveal increasing exasperation with the President of Afghanistan

The leak yesterday of confidential cables written by America's ambassador in Afghanistan voicing doubts about the wisdom of troop increases and sharply criticising President Hamid Karzai has reignited tensions between Washington and Kabul at a politically sensitive time.

In private missives sent to the White House last November as US President Barack Obama was closing in on his decision to deploy an additional 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry said Mr Karzai was an "inadequate partner" who continued to "shun responsibility for any sovereign burden, whether defence, governance or development".

While Mr Eikenberry's reservations about an additional American troop surge were well known at the time of the internal debate, the full strength of his feelings were revealed only yesterday by the verbatim publication of sections of the cables in The New York Times. The newspaper received them after lodging a formal request for their release.

The timing may not be propitious, however, coming just before tomorrow's international conference in London on the future strategy for reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan, where Mr Karazi will be across the table from Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State.

Yesterday, attending a preparatory meeting with his neighbouring countries, Mr Karzai appeared stung by the force of Mr Eikenberry's assessment of him.

"Afghanistan is on the frontline of the war on terror," he told reporters in Turkey, which has cost "massive casualties". He added: "If partnership means submission to the American will, then, of course, it's not going to be the case. But if partnership means co-operation between two sovereign countries, one of course very poor and the other very rich... then we are partners." This latest incident with Mr Karzai is unlikely to be viewed as helpful by the White House. Relations between the two came close to collapse late last year in the wake of the Afghan presidential elections, which featured fraud and widespread ballot stuffing. The US urged Mr Karzai at the time to accept a run-off election but that was cancelled when his rival pulled out.

On Monday, President Obama's National Security Advisor, the retired army General James Jones, praised the Afghan president for actions taken since then. "We're encouraged by the steps President Karzai has taken to improve the effectiveness and the credibility of his government," Mr Jones told the Centre for American Progress, a Washington think-tank. "We're committed to working in partnerships to reduce corruption."

The British hosts of the London conference had hoped for better mood music, even if there is no disguising the continuing difficulties in Afghanistan. Germany yesterday pledged to boost its troop strength in the country and to nearly double its reconstruction aid.

The Nato alliance meanwhile announced that it had appointed the British ambassador to Kabul, Mark Sedwill, to be its new civilian representative in Afghanistan.

Bolstering the non-military component of the West's strategy will be central to the London conference with delegates due to discuss ways forward to entice low- and mid-level Taliban officials and soldiers away from their extremist leadership and re-integrate them into the broader civil fabric.

The reduction of the West's reliance on simply military superiority was also a thread running through Mr Eikenberry's cables. "Sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable," he wrote in one cable dated 6 November 2009.

In an interview with Reuters news agency, a son of Osama bin Laden voiced serious doubts as to whether al-Qa'ida and the Taliban had a relationship that went beyond one of strategic convenience. "Although al-Qa'ida and the Taliban organisations band together when necessary, they do not love one another," Omar bin Laden, 28, said. "If there were no more enemies left on earth, I believe they would fight each other."

History shows that President Obama largely ignored the Eikenberry cables. The ambassador himself has since stated that his concerns have now been addressed and he supports the president strategy.

It may have been his influence, however, that persuaded Mr Obama to insist while authorising the 30,000-troop increase that the process of winding down the military commitment would begin in mid-2011 – a timetable that looks even less tenable now than it did then.

Ambassador's fears: Extracts from the Eikenberry cables

* "President Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner... [He] continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden, whether defence, governance or development. He and much of his circle do not want the US to leave and are only too happy to see us invest further. They assume we covet their territory for a never-ending "war on terror" and for military bases to use against surrounding powers."

* "We hope we can move him toward taking firm control of his country and guiding its future. But sending more combat forces will only strengthen his misconceptions about why we are here."

* "Before any troop announcement, we should first have a high-level dialogue with Karzai... to explain our goals and obtain agreement on what we expect from them. Even with such an understanding, it strains credulity to expect Karzai to change fundamentally this late in his life and in our relationship."

* "Beyond Karzai himself, there is no political ruling class that provides an overarching national identity that transcends local affiliations and provides reliable partnership. Even if we could eradicate pervasive corruption, the country has few indigenous sources of revenue, few means to distribute services to its citizens, and most important, little to no political will or capacity to carry out basic tasks of governance."

* "Expanding assistance, either military or civilian, will increase Afghan dependence and make more remote the day when we can transfer most sovereign responsibilities to the Afghans and draw down our presence."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Product Owner - Business Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Product Owner/Business Analyst is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Technician

£28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

Recruitment Genius: Java Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity for an ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea