White House repeats criticism of Karzai as lawmakers worry

Karzai upset the Obama administration by criticizing Western governments and the United Nations for electoral fraud in last year’s presidential election.

Over the weekend, Karzai reportedly told members of his parliament that he would consider leaving the political process to join the Taliban if he continued to come under outside pressure.

“On behalf of the American people, we’re frustrated with the remarks,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Monday. He said the April 12 meeting in Washington will go on.

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Karzai made the initial remarks in a speech last week, delivered days after President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

He reportedly made the comments about joining the Taliban to lawmakers privately over the weekend.

Obama has increased the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but has made it clear that the success of their mission is intertwined with efforts by Karzai to root out corruption in his government. So far, the U.S. has been displeased with Karzai’s progress.

Obama’s decision to increase the level of troops split congressional Democrats, with liberals opposed to the move. Angst over the mission is likely to be a factor leading up to the midterm elections this fall.

One Democratic lawmaker reflected these worries on Monday, stating that public support for the Afghanistan mission is “shaky” and that Obama could lose political support because of the large number of combat forces in Afghanistan.

“Listening to other members as well as people in the district, I would say that the fiasco in Iraq really has colored public sentiment about what is happening in Afghanistan,” Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) said on MSNBC. “Popular support in this country is very weak and very shaky.”

Asked if the president was considering withdrawing troops, Gibbs said it was not discussed.
 
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with Karzai over the weekend.
 
Gibbs said the substance of Karzai’s remarks is “obviously untrue.”

This story was updated at 11:43 a.m.