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US has done a ‘lousy job’ of listening to Karzai’s concerns: Gates

US has done a ‘lousy job’ of listening to Karzai’s concerns: Gates

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Mar 03, 2011 - 11:16

WASHINGTON (PANinfo-icon): The United States has done a “lousy job” in listening to concerns of the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told US lawmakers.

“I think we have done a lousy job of listening to President Karzai because every issue that has become a public explosion from President Karzai has been an issue that he has talked to American officials about repeatedly in private,” Gates said during a Congressional hearing.

It is the first time a top Obama administration official has conceded that the concerns expressed by Karzai – mostly over civilian casualties and private security companies - were not being given the attention they warranted.

“He (Karzai), like the Iraqis before him, complained for a long time about the private security companies and how they were out of control and nobody had oversight over them, and he told us that repeatedly, and he didn't go public with it and didn't make it a dramatic issue until he'd finally reached the end of his tether,” Gates said in a frank admission before a Congressional committee.

 “It wasn't until General McKiernan and then General McChrystal got there that we actually started taking the issue of civilian casualties really seriously, but it was something he raised every single time.  So these issues that have ended up in him having these explosions, these critical comments that he has, in my view, in most instances there is a basis for that,” he said.

His franks statement gained added gravitas after Gen. David Petraeus, commander of international forces in Afghanistaninfo-icon, apologised to the Afghan people for the deaths of nine children in a coalition airstrike on Tuesday.

Gates said that the US needed to rethink its purpose in Afghanistan.

“We are not there to build a 21st century Afghanistan.  What do we need to do in terms of development, both in terms of governance and also in terms of their capabilities and so on, that frankly gives us a path out, having accomplished our objectives?” he said.

However, he said that the Obama administration seemed to have done the best job since the beginning of the Afghan war in balancing objectives with realities on the ground.

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