KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai's critique of U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan over the weekend was not intended as a vote of no-confidence in Gen. David Petraeus but rather was a sign of a "maturing partnership" in which both sides are willing to speak frankly, Karzai's spokesman said Monday.
"This kind of debate has always been there, and as the relationship is maturing, there is room for substantive reflection on both sides," Waheed Omer told reporters at a news conference two days after Karzai, in an interview with the Washington Post, called on the United States to reduce military operations and end special operations raids that have killed or captured hundreds of Taliban commanders.
Omer said that Afghan and NATO officials agree on most of the current NATO strategy. But he added that spirited debate on specific issues is "something that is going to take us to another level of partnership as we are hoping to arrive at in the near future."
Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, was astonished and disappointed by the views Karzai expressed in the interview Saturday, according to Afghan and U.S. officials. The general reportedly did not attend a long-scheduled meeting with Karzai on Sunday, though Omer said no such meeting had been planned.
The back-and-forth between Karzai and Petraeus comes days before NATO leaders, including President Obama, are scheduled to hold a summit in Lisbon that will begin to set a timetable for turning portions of Afghanistan security control over to Afghan forces.
'War of attrition': Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar said Monday that the insurgents' strategy aims to increase operations and battle the U.S.-led coalition in a war of attrition, the Associated Press reported. But in a sign that NATO's campaign may be hurting the militants, Omar also appealed for funding from Muslims around the world.