Karzai: Gaffe or Insurance
Afghan President Will Side with Pakistan in Conflict with US

Hamid Karzai's statement on Pakistani TV that Afghanistan would side with Islamabad against the US merits analysis.

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Amiel Ungar,

Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai

It would appear that the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, was oblivious to what transpired over the weekend when the US announced its withdrawal from Iraq by the end of this current year.

The decision came after Iraq refused to grant immunity to American servicemen from prosecution and possible punishment by the Iraqi judicial system.

The US is slated to leave Afghanistan in 2014 but the Afghani president may have accelerated its departure when, in an appearance on the Pakistani television station Geo over the weekend, he claimed that in the event of a hypothetical war between Pakistan and the United States Afghanistan would side with Pakistan.

It is precisely such a comment that could encourage the United States to move up the withdrawal date and which undoubtedly will raise complaints about the gross ingratitude of the Afghan government.

Afghanistan and the United States tried to play down the president's remarks. A spokesperson for Karzai claimed that he had been "misinterpreted" and was merely expressing solidarity with Pakistan. Pakistan, the spokesperson said, deserved Afghani gratitude for hosting millions of Afghani refugees during the lengthy period that the country was engaged in war.

A NATO spokesman also played down the remarks, while the US Embassy spokesman in Kabul claimed that the remarks were meaningless and the US was involved in trying to achieve a policy that would coordinate efforts between Afghans, Pakistanis and Americans.

Others believe that Karzai meant what he said.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani claimed that the remarks illustrated the success of his country's foreign policy and demonstrated that his country was not isolated. He welcomed "Afghan President Hamid Karzai's unconditional support to Pakistan against foreign aggression."

Karzai was also criticized within Afghanistan, particularly by politicians in the (non Pashtan) North of the country, who recalled the Afghan president's own past accusations against the Pakistanis.

It is quite possible that Hamid Karzai is attentive to what is going on in Iraq and envisages a greatly reduced and perhaps nonexistent American presence in the region.

Pakistan by contrast is a geographical constant and maintains ties with the Taliban. His statement can therefore be read as an overture to Islamabad in an effort to guarantee his future after an American withdrawal.