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Afghanistan caught in friendly fire

Asia Times January 21, 2009  By M K Bhadrakumar

The Barack Obama era is commencing on a combative note in Afghanistan. The Afghan bazaar is buzzing with rumors that the equations between Washington and Kabul have become uncertain. Senior Afghan figures have been quoted as concluding that “the new US administration and the current Afghan administration will not be speaking the same language”.

This followed a controversial visit to the Afghan capital Kabul last week by United States vice president-elect Joseph Biden. As the chairman of the powerful US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden is not a novice to foreign affairs and diplomacy, or to Afghanistan. Yet, during his visit, Biden apparently pulled up Afghan President Hamid Karzai for not giving a good account of himself as a ruler.

Again, Afghan Foreign Minister Dadfar Spanta has objected to US secretary of state-designate Hillary’s Clinton’s use of the term “narco state” to describe Afghanistan in her Senate testimony last Tuesday on her nomination. He called in the Associated Press specifically to rebut that Clinton’s characterization was “absolutely wrong”. Nerves are getting frayed at the edges.

NATO chief chips in
Alas, the Obama presidency is starting on a false note when close coordination between Washington and Kabul ought to be the hallmark of relations. As if taking a cue from the irate Americans, the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, tore into the Karzai government in an unprecedented opinion piece in The Washington Post on Sunday, alleging among other things that “the basic problem in Afghanistan is not too much Taliban; it’s too little good governance”.

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