Speaking today on the growing rift with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, White House Press Secretary refused to answer direct questions of whether or not the US still considers Karzai an ally, saying only that “Karzai is the democratically elected leader of Afghanistan.”
When pressed further on the issue, Gibbs reiterated yesterday’s remarks that Karzai’s comments were “troubling,” and said the administration would continue to use “stern language” until Karzai tackles corruption.
The latest row with the US began when Karzai alleged last week that the US and UN had set up massive voter fraud in the August vote to try to deny him reelection. The comment was particularly galling as Karzai won in no small part on the back of fraudulent votes, and the US and UN repeatedly defended Karzai’s reelection in spite of this.
The claim could have been the end of things, but on Saturday Karzai gave a rambling anti-West speech to members of parliament in which he threatened to join the Taliban and followed it up yesterday with a reiteration of the alleged conspiracy.
Gibbs went so far as to say that while Karzai’s planned May visit was still scheduled “as of now” it was possible that the administration might uninvite Karzai if he continues to criticize them.
Though tensions between Karzai and the US are nothing new, the extent of the recent dispute seems to be unprecedented. Exactly how it will play out remains to be seen, but pressure for the US to show “progress” in the Afghan War could force a reaction against Karzai.