US lawmakers raised objection to a reported statement of President Hamid Karzai about American forces being occupiers in Afghanistan, saying they are dismayed by comments.
While I agree that there are times when we have not listened adequately to President Karzai, I agree with that, on this occasion I was absolutely dismayed because I thought that comment of his, talking about us as occupiers, plays right into the hands of a common enemy, the Taliban, Senator Carl Levin said at the Confirmation hearing of General David Petraeus.
Petraeus, who is currently the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, has been nominated by the US President, Barack Obama, as the next CIA Director. He would replace Leon Panetta, who this week was confirmed by the US Senate as the next Defense Secretary.
I would hope that in your determination to speak truth to power, which is your commitment here as the new CIA director, that you also will speak truth to Karzai that that comment and that speech of his was really totally unacceptable and dismaying and plays into the hands of our common enemy, Levin told Petraeus during the confirmation hearing.
Petraeus said he was also dismayed by Karzai comment. It did cause concern, without question, he said in response to a question.
You can understand some of the pressures of some issues that are out there that are of enormous concern to our Afghan partners, but at the end of the day, it's not just about the Afghan domestic public opinion. There's some domestic opinion in the 49 troop-contributing nations, not the least of which is right here in the United States, Petraeus said.
Senator Dienna Feinstein said she took has been concerned by many of Karzai's statements. We all know what this country has done in the last 10 years, and it seemed to me to be the development of an adversarial relationship, she said.
There have been times when, we have not always seen issues the same way, and we have worked very hard to resolve such situations. Secondly, there have been times where we think that perhaps communication to domestic audiences led to some of the kinds of statements that we have heard, which I think have caused legitimate concern among some who have heard those, and that is very understandable, Petraeus said.
I should note that I have sat down with President Karzai on innumerable occasions. People ask what's the relationship like, and I say that it is a productive, it is a forthright relationship, it is one in which, again, we do not always see issues from the same perspective initially, but typically, when we have batted these around, we have come to mutually acceptable solutions, he said.
Petraeus noted that there have been times that US has not listened closely enough to Karzai. I think this is an important element of the relationship, that at times, we need to think about walking a mile or a kilometer in his shoes in the Hindu Kush and to understand, again, that perspective, and the need to maintain, again, this political foundation that is so challenging there, but without which he cannot operate, he said.
So I have a degree of understanding in this case for President Karzai, with whom I have partnered over the past year, and during which time we have made significant gains on the security front in the greater Kabul security area, in Helmand province, in Kandahar and in other areas in the face of a resilient insurgency, Petraeus said.