Kabul President Hamid Karzai’s scathing attack on the West for its role in Afghanistan drew criticism from Afghan politicians after the White House described his remarks as genuinely troubling.
Despite Karzai’s attempt at damage control, including a telephone conversation Saturday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, his allegations laid bare the growing mistrust between the Afghan government and its international partners as the United States and NATO ramp up troop levels to try to turn back the Taliban.
Karzai’s speech Thursday also heightened an ongoing political power struggle between Karzai and an increasingly independent-minded parliament, which has refused to confirm nearly half of his Cabinet nominees because they were allegedly incompetent, corrupt or too weak to resist pressure from powerful people.
During the speech, Karzai lashed out against the U.N. and the international community, accusing them of perpetrating a “vast fraud” in last year’s presidential election as part of a conspiracy to deny him re-election or tarnish his victory.
He also said foreigners were looking for excuses not to help fund the September parliamentary elections because they “want a parliament that is weak and for me to be an ineffective president.”
Karzai also suggested that parliament members who threw out a presidential decree strengthening his power over the election process were serving foreign interests.
That drew a sharp rebuke Saturday from Yunus Qanooni, speaker of the lower house of parliament and a former Karzai Cabinet minister who finished second in the 2004 presidential election.
“This is the house of the people and all the members have been elected,” Qanooni told parliament. “It’s not possible that we would be influenced by foreigners.”
Other lawmakers also expressed outrage over Karzai’s remarks, which they considered a clumsy attempt to appeal to Afghan national pride which has been strained by the presence of thousands of foreign troops.