Pentagon: Karzai’s Support for Russia’s Takeover of Crimea ‘Not Helpful’

March 25, 2014 - 4:31 AM

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai listens as President Barack Obama delivers remarks during a meeting at the presidential palace in Kabul on May 1, 2012. (Whire House Photo/Pete Souza)

(CNSNews.com) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s declaration of support for Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region “is clearly not helpful,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Monday.

The latest back-hander from the soon-to-depart Afghan president came during a meeting with a congressional delegation over the weekend, and in a statement released by his office.

“We respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation,” it said. Afghanistan “respects the free will of the people of Crimea to decide about their own future.”

That stance puts Karzai at odds not just with the United States, but also with European and other nations that have contributed troops and tens of billions of dollars in aid to secure and rebuild Afghanistan – and keep Karzai in power – since 2001.

More than 2,300 Americans have been killed while doing so, along with another 1,100-plus troops from Britain and other countries supporting the NATO-led mission.

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Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby. (Photo: Department of Defense)

Kirby told a news briefing Karzai’s comments were “clearly not helpful, and while he’s certainly entitled to his opinion, it’s our opinion here in the United States – and I believe I can speak for us as a NATO partner that it’s the opinion of the alliance – that Russia is absolutely in violation of international obligations, violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and we continue to call for them to remove their troops from Crimea.”

Reaction in Afghanistan to Karzai’s statement – which aligns him with the position taken by such foes of the West as Syrian President Bashar Assad and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro – has been mixed.

Tolo TV quoted political analyst Mia Gul Waseeq as saying that Afghanistan “must pursue a proper policy and deal with the issue in a diplomatic manner,” adding that Karzai should focus on the needs of his country rather than involve it in political tensions with the U.S.

Another political analyst, Haji Sayed Daud, told Radio Azadi that Karzai’s stance would resonate in Europe as well as in the U.S.

“Not only the U.S., but also European countries and the European Union member countries condemned this act of Russia,” Daud said. “At the current situation and considering the U.S. and its people’s assistance to Afghanistan, this issue would bring no positive economic, political and military achievement for the country.”

The independent Pajhwok news agency cited political commentator Faiz Muhammad Zaland as saying Karzai’s stance on Crimea was not in the national interest and risked plunging the country into a deep crisis.

But Weesa Daily’s editor, Mohammad Zubair Shafiqi, was quoted as saying Karzai was correct to take an independent stance.

An editorial in the independent Afghanistan Times Daily called Karzai’s position “a powerful message to the U.S. and it allies that the world is no more their under their hegemony.”

“Karzai made it clear that Kabul respects free will of the people of Crimea and Sevastopol to decide their own fate, their own future,” it said. “Since Afghanistan has been bearing the brunt of decades long wars and violence and knows what free will means and how much hard [sic] it is to gain it therefore it supports free will across the world.”

The editorial predicted that if the U.S. withdraws all forces at the end of 2014 – as it has signaled it may do over Karzai’s refusal to sign a bilateral security agreement – Russia could play a key role in Afghanistan’s future.

“In such a case all eyes will turn to Moscow once again.”