Afghan President Hamid Karzai Thursday revealed that Washington wants to maintain nine US military bases scattered across the country after the formal deadline for the withdrawal of US and NATO coalition forces at the end of 2014.
In a speech delivered at Kabul University, Karzai stressed that he was amenable to the US demand, indicating that he was willing to trade the bases for promises of a continued flow of economic aid from the West and security for his puppet government. Another likely condition is US support for the election of his handpicked successor in an election set for next year.
“If these conditions are met, we are ready to sign the contract with the United States,” he said. As to the continued presence of foreign troops on Afghan soil after more than a dozen years of war and occupation, Karzai stated, “We see their staying in Afghanistan beyond 2014 in the interests of Afghanistan as well as NATO.”
The statements represented an abrupt rhetorical shift by the US-backed president. In recent months, Karzai has accused Washington of colluding with the Taliban to increase violence and create a pretext for a continued US military presence. He has repeatedly demanded an end to US aerial bombardments and to night raids by US Special Forces, which have claimed civilian lives and increased hatred for both the foreign occupation and Karzai’s corrupt puppet government in Kabul.
In February, Karzai barred US special operations troops from operating in the entire province of Maidan Wardak, southwest of Kabul. These and other statements and gestures have been aimed at deflecting popular hostility and posturing as a nationalist leader, rather than Washington’s stooge.
Karzai’s casting himself now as a pragmatic deal maker, however, was by no means welcomed by the Obama administration, which appeared blindsided by the Afghan president’s remarks.
US officials refused to confirm the request for nine bases, which Afghan aides to Karzai said was contained in the latest American draft proposal submitted last month.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington, “The United States does not seek permanent military bases in Afghanistan, and any US presence after 2014 would only be at the invitation of the Afghanistan government and aimed at training the country’s forces and targeting the remnants of Al Qaeda.”
Carney stressed that Washington was negotiating a bilateral security agreement that “will address access to and use of Afghanistan facilities by US forces.” He reiterated three times in