WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan has warned Afghan officials that President Hamid Karzai’s latest public criticism of U.S. strategy seriously undermines the war effort, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
U.S. General David Petraeus on Sunday expressed “astonishment and disappointment” with Karzai’s call to “reduce military operations” and end U.S. Special Operations raids in southern Afghanistan, the newspaper reported, citing Afghan and U.S. officials.
In a meeting with the official leading Afghanistan transition planning, Petraeus made what officials described as “hypothetical” references to an inability to continue U.S. operations in the face of Karzai’s remarks, the Post said.
Petraeus’s comments reflected his desire to ensure that the Afghans understood the seriousness of the situation, a senior NATO military official told the newspaper.
Karzai, said in a interview published on Sunday, that he wants the U.S. military to reduce its visibility and the intensity of its operations in Afghanistan and end the use of night raids.
Such raids incite Afghans to join the insurgency, Karzai told The Washington Post.
“The time has come to reduce military operations,” Karzai said. “The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan … to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life.”
A foreign diplomat in Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Karzai’s comments at this stage undermine Petraeus’s endeavors, the Post reported. “Not only his personally, but the international community,” the diplomat was quoted as saying.
A senior official told the newspaper that it was “categorically false” to interpret Karzai’s remarks as a “vote of no-confidence in Gen. Petraeus.”
The public rift came ahead of a summit of NATO leaders later this week in Lisbon with Afghanistan at the top of the agenda. Many European NATO leaders are under increasing pressure to justify their continued support for the drawn-out war.
U.S. President Barack Obama is set to review his Afghanistan war strategy next month amid sagging public support, after his Democratic Party suffered a mauling in midterm elections.