In a trip that was supposed to be a simple Memorial Day visit to the troops, President Obama’s Afghanistan visit was marked by miscues and mistrust.
Afghan President Harmid Karzai refused to meet with President Barack Obama during Mr. Obama’s visit to the country, and the White House hinted they would simply wait for Karzai’s successor. In addition, White House press materials outed the CIA’s top spy in the country, and blamed the military for their mistake.
Since the White House didn’t trust Mr. Karzai with the information that Mr. Obama would be coming to Afghanistan, it forced the White House to deliver a last-minute invitation to meet. Karzai declined to meet with Obama, to return the diplomatic slight.
The failure was not that Karzai rebuffed Obama after the pro-forma invitation. The failure was in not securing an agreement with Karzai, so that a longer Afghanistan trip would have been arranged.
In an unforced own-goal, the White House blew the cover for the CIA’s station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan Saturday. The spy’s name was provided to news organizations on a list of U.S. officials participating in President Obama’s press availability with troops. As NewsMax reported,
The list was emailed on Saturday night to reporters accompanying the president on the trip, and was then included in a pool report written by Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson. That report was released to more than 6,000 news organizations before Wilson noticed what he believed to be an error.
The name listed the person as “Chief of Station” in Kabul. The term is used by the CIA for the highest ranking spy in country, the Post reported.
Wilson asked White House press officials in Afghanistan if the inclusion of the chief of station was intentional. Initially, they told him it was because military officials had provided the list.
After the error was pointed out, the White House issued a revised list that did not include the endangered officer’s name.
As with the American exit from Iraq, the Obama administration is attempting to negotiate a long-term agreement for troop levels. The Afghans know, just as the Iraqis did in 2009, that the US is motivated to leave. The host country is therefore in the driver’s seat again. As Pakistan Daily Times reported,
Karzai has irked Obama by refusing to sign a bilateral security agreement that Washington wants before it will agree to leave a contingent of US troops behind in Afghanistan for training Afghan forces and counter-terrorism operations, after the formal US troop drawdown.
The number of US troops in Afghanistan may drop well below 10,000 – the minimum demanded by the US military to train Afghan forces, Obama administration officials briefed on the matter say.
There are now about 33,000 US troops in Afghanistan, down from 100,000 in 2011, when troop numbers peaked a decade into a conflict in which more than 2,100 Americans have been killed.