KABUL, Afghanistan – The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan warned his troops to be ready for increased violence because of a series of anti-American statements by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, NATO said Thursday.
In an email to battlefield commanders, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said the remarks could spur more insider attacks, days after members of Afghan security forces killed two U.S. troops and a U.S. contractor in two separate shootings.
“We’re at a rough point in the relationship,” Dunford said in the email, according to a senior U.S. official.
After news of Dunford’s email broke, Karzai’s office released a new statement Thursday explaining the president’s earlier remarks.
“My recent comments were meant to help reform, not destroy the relationship,” the statement quotes Karzai telling an audience gathered for a televised talk show filmed at the presidential palace Thursday. “We want good relations and friendship with America, but the relationship must be between two independent nations.”
Karzai did not back down or retract his earlier statements, instead saying the relationship “is complicated” by “terrorism, transition of the Bagram detention facility, continued civilian casualties (from NATO operations), and lack of respect for the national sovereignty of Afghanistan.”
Karzai’s statement may do little to soothe U.S. officials’ unease. Over the weekend, the Afghan leader accused the U.S. of colluding with the Taliban on suicide attacks to keep the country unstable and give foreign forces an excuse to stay beyond their 2014 mandate. His remarks followed two suicide attacks that killed at least 19 Afghans on Saturday, coinciding with the first official visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.