Afghan Envoy Assails Western Allies as Halfhearted, Defeatist

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States attacked Western governments fighting in and providing billions in aid to his country, saying that those who claim the international community is not winning the war against extremists there "should know that they never fully tried."

"We never asked to be the 51st state," Ambassador Said T. Jawad said, a reference to a suggestion last month by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) that the United States should concentrate on "realistic goals" and its "original mission" of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.

"To suggest that Afghans do not deserve peace, pluralism and human rights is wrong and racist," Jawad said.

He said negotiations with the Taliban should be conducted by the Afghan government and should be withheld until it was in a "position of strength." President Obama, in a New York Times interview last week, echoed numerous administration and U.S. military officials in suggesting that the United States seek negotiations with "reconcilable" Taliban elements.

Obama also said the United States and NATO were not winning the war in Afghanistan and spoke favorably of U.S. military plans to bolster Afghan tribal forces to participate in the war against extremists -- a policy seen as successful in Iraq and being tried in pilot programs in Afghanistan. Jawad said yesterday that such plans "will not work" and would undermine the country's stability.

Jawad's remarks, in an address last night at Harvard University, were a forceful public expression of issues privately raised here last month with the Obama administration by a top-level national security delegation from President Hamid Karzai's government.

Jawad accused those aiding Afghanistan of "total negligence" in building the Afghan police force and judicial system, "under-investment" in the national army, and providing "meager resources" devoted to helping the Afghan government deliver services and protect its citizens.

U.S. military expenditures in Afghanistan have totaled more than $173 billion since 2001, with an additional $35 billion spent in reconstruction aid. U.S. military deaths total more than 660, with 431 NATO troops killed.

Many of Jawad's complaints echo assessments made by the Obama administration, which lays much of the blame for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan on what it sees as its predecessor's obsession with Iraq at Afghanistan's expense. But the ambassador's tone and rejection of any Afghan responsibility for the situation reflected an escalating tension between the Obama and Karzai governments as Obama's national security team forges a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Karzai "doesn't seem to be ready to take any responsibility for the problems," an administration official said.

Obama officials have made little secret of their concern that Karzai -- installed as Afghanistan's interim leader in 2001 and elected president in 2004, both times with U.S. backing -- is incapable of providing the leadership needed to extend government control and services. They believe corruption is rife within his government, although they have not accused Karzai himself.

U.S. hopes of replacing him in elections this year have foundered on the lack of a viable opposition candidate. Meanwhile, the near-term future of Afghanistan's government hangs in the balance as Karzai's term expires in May, while the independent electoral commission has scheduled the ballot for August, a delay that administration officials hope will allow other possibilities to emerge.

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