Cables released by WikiLeaks reveal US concerns over President Karzai’s character and rampant corruption in his country.
|Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, was described in the leaked US cables as ‘a weak individual’ [AFP]|
Afghanistan’s finance minister has warned that the release of leaked US diplomatic cables will damage the country’s relations with the United States.
Omar Zakhilwal said on Saturday that it would no longer be “business as usual” between key Afghan ministers and Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador, after the leaked dispatches portrayed Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, and his government in a deeply unflattering light.
Zakhilwal also denied a report in a US embassy cable dated 26 February 2010, that he called Karzai an “extremely weak man who did not listen to facts but was instead easily swayed by anyone who came to report even the most bizarre stories or plots against him”.
The report is “absolutely, categorically wrong and false,” the minister said.
The rift could jeopardise Eikenberry’s effectiveness as the US’s senior diplomat in Kabul, the Afghan capital, at a time when US-Afghan relations are already strained.
|Eikenberry has been engaged in pre-emptive
damage limitation after ‘cablegate’ [AFP]
“This leaves no trust between me and the ambassador – extremely little trust,” Zakhilwal said.
He accused Eikenberry of misquoting him in the cable to further empasise Eikenberry’s own opinion of the president.
“The ambassador has used my name to support his views of the president,” Zakhilwal said.
Eikenberry who has described Karzai in the classified cables as “a weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of nation-building”, has for the last week been engaged damage limitation.
“The US is absolutely committed to building and strengthening a long-term partnership with the Afghan people and the Afghan government.” he said in a statement on Monday.
“Our shared goals do not change based on the release of purported diplomatic reporting from the past.”
Eikenberry, a retired lieutenant general who once commanded troops in Afghanistan, warned last year against sending substantial numbers of troops because Karzai was not a reliable partner.
He did not immediately comment on Zakhilwal’s remarks.
Details from a vast array of cables released by the WikiLeaks website portray Afghanistan as rife with corruption to the highest levels of government.
The leaks could further erode support for the nine-year war and bolster the concerns of US legislators who have threatened to hold back aid until they are convinced the money will not end up lining the pockets of the political elite.
Waheed Omar, Karzai’s spokesman, has said that the presidential office was reviewing the documents, but that he did not believe they would strain US-Afghan relations.