Afghan President Hamid Karzai is scheduled to arrive in Washington DC Monday morning, but in contrast with the high profile feting he has enjoyed in the past, lingering tensions with the Obama Administration will make for a chilly welcome to kick off what may be the most important visit of Karzai’s presidency.
In fact even as President Karzai hopes to build some American support for his Taliban peace talks, President Obama is openly warning his aides not to be “distracted” by Karzai but instead focus on fighting the Taliban.
Karzai had a very public falling out with the Obama Administration last month, which included the Afghan President telling a large number of MPs that he might join the Taliban in the future, a comment which led one MP to joke that even the Taliban wouldn’t want him.
There was even talk for a time that the White House might rescind Karzai’s invitation for this visit, though in the end it seems like they have opted to just make the visit extremely low profile.
What isn’t low profile however is the administration’s doubts about Karzai, including a recent Pentagon report warning that the corrupt Karzai government had very little sympathy among the populace in the regions that really matter to the war effort.
There is growing speculation that the administration even intends to cast Karzai off entirely, whether by reducing his position to a mere figurehead or by overtly ousting him. Karzai’s claims of US plots against him are nothing new, but the rancor seems to have built to a boiling point, and if the visit doesn’t do something to salve over ties it could make Karzai’s second term in office very short indeed.