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White House may cancel Obama meeting with Afghanistan's Karzai

WASHINGTON — The White House offered fresh signals of its displeasure with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday, hinting that it might cancel his Washington meeting with President Obama next month.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said a planned meeting between Obama and Karzai on May 12 is "still on the schedule." But later, in a reference to a series of anti-Western comments made recently by the Afghan leader, Gibbs said that "we certainly would evaluate … continued or further remarks" by Karzai before deciding whether it's "constructive to have such a meeting."

Gibbs also pointedly declined to call Karzai a U.S. ally.

The Obama administration has been frustrated by Karzai, who has denounced Western interference in his country, accused foreigners of perpetrating a "vast fraud" in Afghanistan's presidential election last year and suggested that his frustrations might lead him to join the Taliban.

The outbursts, which continued even after a conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, have prompted critics of Karzai to question his leadership.

In an interview Tuesday morning on MSNBC's Daily Rundown, former U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Peter Galbraith said Karzai was "off balance."

"He's prone to tirades. He can be very emotional, act impulsively. In fact, some of the palace insiders say that he has a certain fondness for some of Afghanistan's most profitable exports," said Galbraith, apparently referring to the opium trade.

Galbraith is among Western leaders Karzai has criticized.

The stability of the Afghan government remains at the heart of the American mission there. The monthslong debate last year by Obama's senior advisers about whether to increase U.S. troop levels centered on whether the gains by the U.S. forces would be sustained in the long run by the Afghan government.

"We want to see President Karzai fulfill the commitments that he enunciated both at his inaugural address and at a donors conference in London," Gibbs said. "Those commitments he made not just to his people but to the international community that has invested in ensuring the security of his country."

Fast facts

In other news

• Afghanistan's military said 27 insurgents were killed in ground fighting and airstrikes in a western province and four civilians died in a NATO airstrike in the south.

• The first American civilian found guilty of mistreating a detainee during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has had his prison sentenced reduced to less than seven years. Former CIA contractor David Passaro was resentenced after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the judge failed to explain his reason for giving Passaro a longer term than federal sentencing guidelines suggested.

White House may cancel Obama meeting with Afghanistan's Karzai 04/06/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 11:06pm]
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