February 16, 2009 / 7:44 AM / 11 years ago

Afghanistan's Karzai hits out at U.S. critics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai lashed out at mounting U.S. criticism on Sunday, saying he expected “better judgment” from the Obama administration.

In the latest show of strain between the allies in a seven-year war against Islamist militants, Karzai told CNN President Barack Obama’s description of the Kabul government as “very detached” from its people reflected the new U.S. government’s immaturity.

“Perhaps it’s because the administration has not yet put itself together,” he told CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program.

“I hope as they settle down, and as they learn more, we’ll see better judgment.”

U.S. policy on Afghanistan is under review as Obama contemplates almost doubling the number of U.S. troops there to around 60,000.

At the same time, U.S. criticism of Karzai has grown as the Taliban insurgency steadily gains ground more than seven years after U.S.-led forces toppled the hardline Islamist Afghan government.

Despite Obama’s comments, Karzai said he admired the U.S. leader. “I can certainly engage with him very, very very positively,” he said.

Karzai repeated his criticism that the U.S.-led military campaign against Taliban and al Qaeda militants had brought civilian casualties, arrests and home searches that were undermining confidence of Afghans.

Whenever he criticized U.S. practices in Afghanistan — for example, of aerial spraying of poppy fields or torture allegations — this was followed by reports of high-level corruption in his government, including an accusation that his brother was involved in the narcotics trade, Karzai said.

“Whenever there was a disagreement, this kept repeating,” he said, without directly addressing the accusations.

“My conclusion is that, yes, this was part of a political pressure tactic, unfortunately.”

Recent U.S. newspaper articles highlighting a growing rift between Washington and Karzai showed “there’s a lot of misinformation and, indeed, at times disinformation from parts of the Western press against me,” Karzai said.

Reporting by Paul Eckert, editing by Alan Elsner

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