| ||US lawmakers call Karzai a wrong choice|
By Lalit K Jha
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WASHINGTON - Afghan President Hamid Karzai was the top choice Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence after Taliban’s fall, a top American expert told Congressmen after lawmakers raised concerns over the Afghan leader’s recent statements.
“President Karzai was the ISI's choice as their most palatable option in Afghanistan. That view clearly changed over the next several years,” Seth G Jones, associate director at the International Security and Defense Policy Center, RAND Corporation, said.
Jones was responding to questions from legislators as to why Karzai, who was also a choice of the US after 9/11, was giving anti-US statements. “Karzai has accused us of working hand in hand with the Taliban to spread violence in Afghanistan,” one legislator said.
“These inflammatory comments put the lives of our service men and women in danger,” Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said during the hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
She added Karzai wanted to be remembered as the one who kicked out foreign invaders and he feared that he would suffer the same fate as previous Afghan leaders before him who were overrun or executed by the Taliban.
Ros-Lehtinen asked why Karzai was so adamant on the issue of the Bagram jail transfer and why it had been such a difficult question to address with all corruption problems surrounding the Afghan government.
“Can the US trust that government to properly secure those prisoners in a manner consistent with our standards? Why is Karzai willing to undo all of the goodwill that had occurred between the US and his government over this issue?” she questioned.
Congressman Ted Dutch wanted Karzai to recognise that his “recent inflammatory rhetoric seriously harms our efforts” to ensure stability in Afghanistan. The most important indicator for future stability was the peaceful transfer of political power that would occur after the presidential elections.
Kimberly Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, explained the president wanted to ensure a smooth succession between him and someone who represented the same ideas of Afghan-Pashtun unity.
“To do so, he is going to play to some of his Afghan audiences by reinforcing his commitment to his own sovereignty, something frankly that he has emphasised quite a lot in public rhetoric and also in private rhetoric over a number of years when it comes to legal immunities of detainee transfers, special operations forces privileges, and so on and so forth,” she said.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher alleged Karzai had no popular base. “We foisted Karzai on the Pakistanis... Instead of letting King Zahir Shah play his rightful role in bringing about a new type of government, we superimposed Karzai on them,” he remarked.
Another lawmaker, Brad Sherman, asked: “Why did we choose to install someone who was so distrusted by Pakistan or at least elements of the ISI that they have chosen to keep the Afghan Taliban as a potentially useful asset for future involvement in Afghanistan?”
Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations told lawmakers: “I think most of the countries in the region also believe that they have been thoroughly beaten and that this was a very winnable prospect and that Karzai, if it is true that the ISI were willing to accept him as a sort of a best-of-bad-alternative candidates, they were willing to do so because they believed the war had been won by us, that it was over.”