Afghan President Hamid Karzai allegedly believes that the U.S. is behind insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, a sentiment that reveals how poor relations between Washington and Kabul have become, and one that is infuriating U.S. officials. Even the Taliban isn't willing to share the credit with America.
According to people close to Karzai, who spoke to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity, the Afghan leader is compiling a list of Taliban strikes he believes the U.S. orchestrated in order to weaken his government and distract from American drone strikes that have killed local civilians. Civilian drone strike deaths have been a point of contention, understandably and publicly, for Karzai.
Though Karzai hasn't been shy about his occasional anti-Americanism in the past, his accusations against the U.S. have greatly accelerated over the past weeks. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that the Afghan government distributed a Taliban-like dossier showing graphic images and video of attacks on civilians supposedly carried out by U.S. troops. The Times found at least two of the images to have been recycled from earlier events, rather than resulting from a recent strike as the propaganda material claimed:
In an apparent effort to demonize their American backers, a coterie of Afghan officials appears to have crossed a line that deeply troubles Western officials here: They falsely represented at least some of the evidence in the dossier, and distributed other material whose provenance, at best, could not be determined. An examination of the dossier by The New York Times also revealed that much of the same material was posted on a Taliban website last week, a rare instance of the militant group’s political speech matching that of the government it is fighting to topple.
The misleading information was, according to officials, passed around to explain to the Afghan people why Karzai is holding off on signing a long-term security agreement with the U.S., which would order some U.S. forces to extend their stay in the country to guard the government from falling into the Taliban's hands. In November, Karzai announced that he would serve out his term, through April, without signing an agreement, leaving his successor to decide how to proceed. The dossier could also be a type of overture towards the Taliban itself — essentially a preliminary way of reaching out for peace negotiations.
According to The Washington Post, the recent revelation of Karzai's views could also be a strategic attempt to make friends with the Taliban:
U.S. officials and analysts offer a variety of theories for why Karzai has come to accuse his American counterparts of deeply insidious behavior. Conscious of his legacy, he might be looking to raise his profile by confronting a superpower, some say. Or, in shifting suspicion for major attacks from the Taliban to the United States, he might be trying to endear himself to the insurgents in hopes of a reconciliation, others speculate.
Regardless of motive, the accusations are hitting U.S. officials where it hurts.
“It’s a deeply conspiratorial view that’s divorced from reality,” U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham said Monday. He suggested that one reason for the allegations might be to “throw us off balance.”... “It flies in the face of logic and morality to think that we would aid the enemy we’re trying to defeat,” said Cunningham, who added that he was aware of such allegations but had not directly heard such charges from Karzai.
One top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., also spoke to the Post about the accusation, saying:
Any suggestion that the U.S. has been involved in any way in suicide attacks or deliberate attacks on Afghan civilians is ludicrous... We have spent 12 years trying to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan in the face of threats from terrorist and insurgent networks . . . to suggest otherwise does a grave disservice to those who have sacrificed for the people of Afghanistan.
One source who agreed with the Afghan leaders' views admitted that there was no hard evidence to suggest that the U.S. had been involved in Taliban attacks, and Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that "Whatever claims we make, those are attacks that have genuinely been carried out by our forces."
For once, it appears, the Taliban and U.S. have found something to agree on.