Don’t read the media’s spin about Karzai’s remarks; read what the media actually say about Karzi. He certainly does.

Relying on the US media to learn about the world results in cluelessness.  They wash the news until no color remains, nothing unsettling to our sensibilities.  Yet the truth is plainly visible, and easily available.  Here’s a small example.  While the American people remain ignorant of our relationship with Afghanistan’s people, both they and US journalists know the truth.  As seen in this exchange at the State Department Press Briefing on 5 April 2010.  The journalists clearly regard Karzai as a puppet — or a poorly trained dog — and regard his disrespect as insane.  How do the Afghanistan people(s) respond to our attitude?  Red emphasis added.

This is a follow-up to Today’s example of American foreign policy weirdness (about our allies) (Karzai’s speech). 

QUESTION: Can I just get one thing clear? Have you sought clarification from the president on these latest weekend comments? … after his first comments last week, {h}ave you asked for clarification … whether he was standing next to Bozo the clown?

MR. CROWLEY: I will ask whether Ambassador Eikenberry has done any follow-up today.

QUESTION: Well, just one last follow-up. Do these comments matter? Do you think that this is indicative of some kind of problem that he has with the United States? Or do you just hear what he says, roll your eyes, and it doesn’t really affect how you’re dealing with him?

MR. CROWLEY: No, they do matter. As we’ve just been talking about, we are – we think we are working hard to sustain Afghan support for our presence in Afghanistan. And what we’re trying to do, both on our behalf and on behalf of the people of Afghanistan – we are very conscious of the fact that we are expending considerable U.S. treasure in terms of resources, the lives of our soldiers, to do something that we think is important to us and important to the Afghan Government. These comments can undercut the kind of support that we think we need on all sides of this equation if we’re going to move forward. I think President Karzai – he was sensitive enough and expressed in his call with Secretary Clinton on Friday that he was surprised by the stir that these were created. And I think —

QUESTION: But then he did it again. It’s like Britney Spears.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m reserving judgment because I haven’t seen a particular transcript of what he said. But clearly, what he says does have an impact back here in the United States, and he should choose his words carefully.

Earlier in the briefing there was a less graphic but equally telling discussion.

QUESTION: P.J., speaking of Afghanistan, what is with President Karzai?

MR. CROWLEY: The Secretary had a discussion with President Karzai on Friday afternoon.

QUESTION: It doesn’t seem to have done much good.

MR. CROWLEY:  We’re focused, looking ahead, to the important work that we have with the Afghan Government. We have a common goal. We want to see the Afghan National Government expand, assert itself, and, over time, take greater responsibility for security and agriculture and the basic elements of Afghanistan’s future. So our goals are the same, and beyond that —

QUESTION: Well, do you take him seriously?

MR. CROWLEY: He is the elected leader of —

QUESTION: Yeah, but he says that he’s threatening to join the Taliban. I mean, is this a serious threat, in your estimation?

MR. CROWLEY: That particular comment is a bit of a head scratcher. But beyond that, we were troubled by some of his comments last week. We think we’ve addressed them. We’re moving forward.

QUESTION: Yeah, but do you still think that this guy is an effective, capable, competent leader given –

MR. CROWLEY: He is the leader –

QUESTION: I realize that he was allegedly elected in an election that you recognized in the end, but –

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, he is the elected leader of –

QUESTION: Yeah, but do you have confidence in him when he keeps going off the handle like this?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll leave the president and his government to explain his comments. He was in Kandahar with General McChrystal yesterday. We are working with the government on the way forward both in terms of military operations, but as we were just talking about before, working with specific ministries. We want to see the Government of Afghanistan step up, take responsibility in key areas, demonstrate the kind of leadership that the Afghan people are expecting of it. We are there in Afghanistan because – in our national interest to do so. We’re obviously spending significant resources both on the military side and the civilian side to do that. But there are clearly things that we want to see the government step up and do, and we’re working with President Karzai and his government to see that happen.

QUESTION: So he’s standing – well, I don’t know if he’s actually standing alongside of him, but he’s in Kandahar with General McChrystal and he says to about a thousand tribal leaders, “We will not conduct the operations in Kandahar unless you say we can.” Do you share his assessment?  Is the United States going to be dictated by Afghan tribal leaders as to where they’re going to undertake operations?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, in the operations that we are putting forward in Marjah, potentially in other places, we will rely upon the support of the Afghan people. We will work closely with the Afghan national and local governments as we execute what is a joint strategy. As our strategy has moved forward, sustaining popular support for our presence there and the activities there that we are undertaking on behalf of the Afghan people is vitally important. So I think we are satisfied with the support that we – the close cooperation that we have achieved with the Afghan Government, as you saw. It worked quite effectively in the context of the Marjah operation, and I would expect that that is just simply forecasting that. The same approach that we took to Marjah is the kind of approach we’ll take to Kandahar and other places.

QUESTION: But he’s specifically saying that these tribal leaders will have the ultimate say as to whether the U.S. and Afghan forces, jointly or whatever, undertake these operations. Do you share that assessment?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Afghanistan is sovereign. Ultimately, what we are doing there, we are doing there jointly with the Afghan Government. And I’ll defer in terms of how the specific operations are planned and executed and how the interaction between General McChrystal and his staff and how that works with Afghan security forces. But I don’t think we’re troubled by the fact that as we move forward together, we want to make sure that we are sustaining the support of the Afghan people and the support of international public support, including American public support for what we’re doing there. We think that has become a much more important and vital aspect of our strategy and that, we think, is the key to –

QUESTION: So those comments aren’t troubling or frustrating?

 MR. CROWLEY: All right. Look, how we do this – we’ll work closely with the Afghan Government. We’re not going to give any particular tribal leader veto power over what we think and the Afghan National Government thinks is important to stabilize and secure Afghanistan. But obviously, popular support is an important component of what we’re doing.

QUESTION: Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I don’t hear you condemning the remarks that Karzai made over the weekend in which he said if foreign influence – Western influence continues — this will legitimize the Taliban, a cause that he might join. Are you reluctant to condemn those remarks?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I have not seen a specific transcript of his remarks. So frequently –

QUESTION: Then why did they report it, though? I mean –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, put it this way. Frequently comments made from some distance can be taken out of context. I’ll let the president of Afghanistan explain his own remarks. We were concerned about his remarks last week. We expressed our concern through Ambassador Eikenberry to President Karzai and his government. As a result of that, President Karzai called Secretary Clinton on Friday to clarify his remarks. He specifically said during the course of his conversation on Friday that they weren’t directed at the United States. In fact, at one point he said he was complaining about media coverage, as politicians tend to do.

 So I’m going to take a cautious approach here. I can’t explain what he said about the Taliban. He is the elected leader of Afghanistan. We’re working closely with he and his government. Ultimately, as I said last week, this is not about the relationship between President Karzai and the United States. This is about the relationship between President Karzai, his government, and his people. Ultimately, he has to demonstrate leadership and effectiveness to his people. And it’s not about us; it’s about the basic relationship between the Government of Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan. They want to see that government perform more effectively and so do we.

I’m sure that on a daily basis, we are talking to the Afghan Government, and if we have sought a further clarification of his remarks over the weekend, I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: It’s not really about clarifying comments, is it? Are you concerned at all that his impressions or the way he is approaching his relationship with the United States where there are dozens of thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan fighting, yes, for a U.S. national security interest, but also fighting for the Afghan people – are you worried that these remarks that he’s making that are not the remarks that a leader that should be fighting in this joint – you say – common goal, should be talking about?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll just repeat what you just said, Elise. We are there because we are following our own national interests. It is in our interest –

QUESTION: Are these remarks the attitude of a man that’s working in favor of U.S. national interests?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, can I go back to what the president said to Secretary Clinton on Friday? He did not direct his comments earlier in the week at the United States. And I’ll leave it to him to explain.

Updates about Karzai

Afterword

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