Senators say it's time to drop Karzai

 

Top senators are fed up with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and say the Obama administration should wait for the next Afghan president to finalize a deal to keep U.S. troops in the county.

The lawmakers are outraged at Karzai for voicing suspicion that U.S. troops are behind insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, including the Jan. 17 attack on a Kabul restaurant that killed three Americans and 18 other civilians.

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“Karzai’s comments are becoming more detached from reality, and it’s a deep concern because what he said is just plainly false,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said.


“It makes me deeply concerned that he’s almost becoming delusional in terms of what the U.S. role is there,” she said.


“He clearly is divorced from reality at this point,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told The Hill. 


The latest accusations come as U.S. tensions with Karzai are already at a boiling point, and could jeopardize the signing of a security agreement that would allow American troops to stay after the NATO combat mission ends in December. 


Earlier this week, Karzai ignored U.S. objections and issued release orders to 37 of 88 Afghan detainees U.S. officials say are responsible for killing or wounding 42 U.S. and coalition troops. 


“Everything affects [the security agreement],” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, told the Hill. 


Karzai said he intends to wait until the April 5 presidential elections for a new Afghan president to sign the agreement, but privately has set new preconditions for signing.

White House officials say they are done negotiating, and if Karzai does not sign the agreement soon, they will have no choice but to begin planning for a complete drawdown of U.S. forces. 


Some White House officials are advocating for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops regardless of whether the agreement is signed, and Vice President Biden is advocating for a small force of 2,000 to 3,000 troops.  

Some Defense and State Department officials fear a complete drawdown or small presence would leave Afghan troops vulnerable to a Taliban and al Qaeda resurgence, and fear the longer Karzai waits, the more likely the so-called “zero option” becomes.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, has recommended leaving 10,000 U.S. troops to finish the job in Afghanistan, where thousands of U.S. troops have been killed and hundreds of billions have been spent. 

Lawmakers who support leaving troops in Afghanistan have now lost patience with Karzai altogether, and believe their best chance is to wait for the incoming president, who would likely come from a government council that has already approved the agreement.

“The best thing to do is to wait until after the elections with a new president,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who appealed to Karzai personally on a trip to Afghanistan earlier this month. 


“The overwhelming majority of people in Afghanistan want American troops left behind,” he added. 


McCain and another senior lawmaker, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), had urged Karzai to sign the agreement and warned him not to release any of the 88 detainees.


Congress has already slashed Afghan development aid by half, and reduced funds to support Afghan troops from last year in the recently passed 2014 appropriations bill.

“I think we have to get beyond Karzai and realize that, apparently, he’s going to be unwilling or unable to sign an agreement and just say, ‘OK, that’s the facts, fine, we’ll just take it up with the next president,’ ” said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). 


“We didn’t go there to support Karzai. We went there to make our country safer in terms of pockets of terrorists,” McCaskill said.



Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.

This story was posted at 5:46 p.m and updated at 8:40 p.m.