Rumsfeld: U.S. Ties with Karzai 'Gone Downhill Like a Toboggan' Under Obama

Susan Jones | March 25, 2014 | 6:17am EDT
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Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai (left), shakes hands and greets U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, as he arrives at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 1, 2003. (DOD Photo by Helene C. Stikkel)

( - Donald Rumsfeld, who served as U.S. Defense Secretary under President George W. Bush, blames poor diplomacy by the Obama administration for the current strained relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"Our relationship with Karzai and with Afghanistan was absolutely first-rate in the Bush administration," Rumsfeld told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren on Monday. "It has gone down hill like a toboggan ever since the Obama administration came in."

Rumsfeld pointed to the fact that the Obama administration has failed to get Karzai to sign an agreement that would allow some U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014, when combat ends.

The U.S. has status of forces agreements with more than a hundred countries, Rumsfeld noted. "A trained ape can get a status of forces agreement," he said. "It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship."

On Monday, as reported, Karzai poked another stick at the Obama administration by saying he supports Russia's takeover of Crimea. That puts him 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.

Rumsfeld noted that Karzai was a weak tribal leader, without a militia, who was chosen to serve as president by Afghanistan's Loya Jirga (assembly) in a country that was unused to a strong central government.

"And what happened is, the United States government -- and I realize these are tough jobs, being president or secretary of state. But, by golly, they have trashed Karzai publicly over and over and over -- (Richard) Holbrooke, the special envoy did, Vice President Biden did, Secretary Hillary Clinton has. The president has been unpleasant to him.

"And it seems to me they pushed him in a political box where he really has very little choice. I think there is probably not a politician in the world who dealing with the United States, instead of having the United States deal with him privately through private diplomacy, came out repeatedly, publicly, in an abusive, unpleasant, manner. And I personally sympathize with him to some extent."

Rumsfeld said he thinks it's understandable that Karzai has sided with Russia -- "given the terrible, terrible diplomacy that the United States has conducted with Afghanistan over the last several years."

Rumsfeld said Karzai has complained that his concerns were not addressed when he spoke privately to the Obama administration. "And he was forced to yell," Rumsfeld said.

"He also said to the American people, give them my best wishes and my gratitude, but to the United States government, give them my anger, my extreme anger. I think the United States diplomacy has been so bad, so embarrassing may I add, that I'm not least surprised that he felt cornered and is feeling he has to defend himself in some way or he is not president of that country."

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