Top US Commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus reportedly responded with “astonishment and disappointment” today after learning that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had criticized the US war effort, calling for them to scale back the offensive and end the practice of night raids, which has killed large numbers of Afghan civilians.
“For Karzai to go this way, and at this particular stage, is really undermining Petraeus’ endeavors,” noted one diplomat. Petraeus reportedly told Afghan officials that Karzai’s criticism was harming the war effort and making the US occupation “untenable.”
The US has regularly clashed with the Afghan President, and while Karzai has regularly condemned the attacks which have killed civilians he has been largely mum on the overall strategy in recent days, apparently indicating no opposition to the US notion of building “permanent bases” in his country.
Though Petraeus was said to be furious during his “warnings” to the Afghan government, officials denied earlier reports that the general had threatened to resign. Petraeus took control of the war effort just months ago, replacing Gen. Stanley McChrystal. As McChrystal had been very obviously more concerned about civilian killings than Petraeus, it seems the new general’s policies are in no small measure a part of this public condemnation.
But they aren’t entirely out of the blue. President Karzai’s call to “scale back” in many ways reflects the comments made by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in their own report on Afghanistan just days ago, though their concerns were obviously not for Afghan civilian deaths but rather the massive cost and unwinnability of the conflict.