Afghan President Hamid Karzai says would side with the Taliban if he had to do it all over again.
In late October, Gen. David H. Petraeus, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and other top officials were trying to convince Karzai to back down on an order banning all foreign private security contractors from Afghanistan. The Afghan president decided he had heard enough, according to a new report in The Washington Post.
“If I had to choose sides today, I’d choose the Taliban,” Karzai seethed.
The “main enemies” of Afghanistan are the Taliban, the United States and the international community, according to Karzai.
In August, Karzai had surprised the US Embassy in Kabul by announcing that he was banning foreign security contractors.
“[T]he [US] officials say that Karzai gave no advance notice to the embassy or other U.S. officials that he would attempt to address the problem with the radical step of trying to outlaw such contractors with the stroke of a pen,” Newsweek reported.
Karzai had been set off by a July incident where one Afghan was left dead as a result of a collision with a sport-utility vehicle driven by private contractors.
Reports that security contractors bought drugs and boys for Afghan police also likely played a role not Karzai’s decision.
While the decision left some contractors panicked, many humanitarian aid workers praised Karzai.
“To the extent that it [the ban] helps to de-militarize the environment and to the extent that it reinforces the government’s monopoly on the use of force, I think ultimately it would be a positive thing,” Nic Lee, director of ANSO, a non-profit humanitarian project, said.
In October, Karzai finally relented and eased the ban after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in.
It’s not the first time Karzai had threatened to choose the Taliban over the US. In March, he told a group of parliament members that Afghanistan might join the Taliban if foreign interference in his government continued.
On Sunday, the Afghan government unveiled a $100 million plan to provide all citizens with electronic identification cards.