Panetta upset with Karzai, says Afghan leader should thank US troops for sacrifices
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Panetta upset with Karzai, says Afghan leader should thank US troops for sacrifices

Kabul : Afghanistan | Oct 06, 2012 at 12:17 PM PDT
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US DEFENCE Chief LASHES out at KARZAI for NOT thanking America

Report By: Nina Rai

Kabul, Oct. 06, 2012

Amid accusations that the United States is not doing enough to deal with terror in Afghanistan, the U.S. military chief lashed out that it would help if Afghan leadership at-least expressed its gratitude for the sacrifices made by Americans for the progress of Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said on Friday, in rejecting President Hamid Karzai’s recent criticism of the war efforts, said that the latter ought to thank America for the sacrifices of thousands of its soldiers who fought and also gave their lives in Afghanistan.

An obviously miffed American defense chief’s comments came after allegations by President Karzai that the United States is not doing enough to fight terror in neighboring Pakistan. It is also not supplying Afghan forces weapons required to combat the rebels, he bemoaned.

Panetta speaking to the media shortly after landing in Lima, Peru, for a meeting of Latin American defense personnel, opined that progress has been made in Afghanistan as there were soldiers who were prepared to fight and sacrifice their lives for “Afghanistan's sovereignty and their right to govern and secure themselves." In this war led by U.S., NATO allies and the Afghan govt., thousands of U.S. troops have been killed, he noted

"Those lives were lost fighting the right enemy, not the wrong enemy, and I think it would be helpful if the president, every once in a while, expressed his thanks for the sacrifices that have been made by those who have fought and died for Afghanistan, rather than criticizing them," declared an apparently upset Panetta.

The stern rebuttal from Panetta against the Afghan president came a day after Karzai accused the U.S. and NATO of playing a “double game” in his country by fighting the rebels in the Afghan villages, rather than targeting the support groups located in Pakistan.

Karzai told at a news conference in Kabul that U.S. and NATO should go to the places where the roots of terrorism exist. "But the United States is not ready to go and fight the terrorists there. This shows the double game. They say one thing and do something else," said Karzai, reported the New York Times.

The Afghan president said he had asked the American government to equip its air force with weapons, intelligence and transport planes. “We still haven't received a response from them …Our discussions will continue next week as well, and if they show no interest in this, we will decide whether to purchase from Russia, China, India or any other country."

Tensions between Washington and Kabul have mounted sharply in recent weeks, against the backdrop of a series of fatal attacks on U.S. and NATO soldiers by their Afghan counterparts or rebels in security uniforms on the one hand and the accidental killings of civilians by the coalition forces, on the other hand.

Even the refusal by the U.S and allied forces to hand over several prisoners of war over to Afghan control has further worsened the already tense situation. Meanwhile, Panetta said the United States and the head of international forces in Afghanistan, American Gen. John Allen, is committed to the latter’s plan for withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014.

Opinion:

Panetta definitely has a point when he says the Afghan president ought to be grateful to the American troops for putting their lives on line to fight for another country. Also, let's not forget that U.S has spend more than $510 billion in that country to secure it.

As it is, the timing of Karzai's condemnation of Washington is all wrong, as it comes even as the number of military casualties from U.S. in the 11-year old conflict last month reached a massive 2,000, in addition to the thousands maimed and wounded critically.

Having said this in a conflict of this nature nothing is black and white, as to which side is fully right or wrong. Karzai too is facing plenty of problems internally. There is regular shelling on Afghanistan’s eastern border provinces by insurgents.

There is also persistent frustration with the insurgents, including members of the Haqqani network which launches attacks against the Afghan forces and then slips back to its safe havens in Pakistan. Without adequate ammunition, it is becoming rather difficult for the Karzai government to tackle the insurgents both within his country and those on other side of the border.

Hence Karzai’s request for more weaponry from U.S is well-justified and ought to be taken on board. Moreover, according to the Afghan-U.S strategic agreement the U.S is committed to defend Afghanistan from any foreign threat until the latter is in a position to defend itself. Obviously Afghanistan now cannot do so.

It has also to be noted that volatile instances such as the burning of Holy Quran at the American army base, the abuse of corpses by allied soldiers and a rebel American soldier attacking civilians have alienated the Afghan citizenry against the U.S. forces stationed there, thereby losing out on the initial goodwill enjoyed by the coalition forces.

Meanwhile, the assurance by the U.S Defense Secretary that he along with NATO partners headed by Allen are working together with the Afghans to address the problem of insider attacks is a good step to tackle the problem there. Panetta said: "My goal is to make clear to NATO and to our allies that we are taking all steps necessary to confront this issue.”

Besides, U.S. officials have repeatedly also pressurized Islamabad to forcefully go after the insurgents, including Haqqani factions in and around North Waziristan. It has also been routinely using drone strikes to flush out and kill militants across the border in Pakistan.

Hopefully the messy situation in Afghanistan is sorted out, so that by the time the allied forces leave the Afghan soil in 2014, the Karzai government and the people there will be in a position to take care of their own country.

Sources/References: CNN/Agency France Press/Chicago Tribune/New York Times

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The U.S. defense chief called on President Hamid Karzai to thank Americans for the sacrifices of those who fought and died in Afghanistan rather than level criticism at the United States.
Nina Rai is based in Mangaluru, Karnataka, India, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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