Nightly News   |  April 06, 2010

Questions swirl around Karzai's comments

The White House attempted Tuesday to explain recent provocative comments from critical wartime ally Afghan leader Hamid Karzai Tuesday. NBC's Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell reports.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: The leader of Afghanistan , Hamid Karzai , has angered and puzzled American leaders lately from President Obama on down. This morning on live television , on MSNBC , a well-known American diplomat and former UN official floated out a theory about why Karzai has been acting so strange lately. It attracted a lot of attention instantly. Our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell has more.

ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Hamid Karzai has done it again, promising tribal leaders they can veto a planned US military operation in Kandahar . A day earlier he had threatened, "I swear that I'm going to join the Taliban " if the US didn't stop pressuring him over election complaints. Last Friday Hillary Clinton had what aides called a forceful telephone conversation with Karzai about other harsh comments he'd made about the US. This after President Obama flew all the way to Kabul to chastise Karzai last week. Today on MSNBC 's "Daily Rundown," former Ambassador Peter Galbraith , a longtime Karzai critic, suggested the Afghan leader could be using illegal drugs .

Mr. PETER GALBRAITH (Former United Nations Envoy to Afghanistan): Some of the palace insiders say that he has a certain fondness for some of Afghanistan 's most profitable exports.

MITCHELL: That set off a diplomatic storm . White House officials say they see no evidence of drug use . But there's no question Karzai has been behaving strangely, says NBC 's Richard Engel .

RICHARD ENGEL reporting: Afghan officials and analysts have told me that over the last several weeks, not just months, he's been acting very erratic, very emotional, very unstable, that he's been having outbursts in private Cabinet sessions.

MITCHELL: Karzai even hosted Iran 's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Kabul last month and paid a return visit to Tehran , widely viewed as payback after the White House canceled an invitation for him to visit Washington . Today the White House didn't rule out canceling another visit next month.

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary): We certainly would evaluate whatever continued or further remarks President Karzai makes as to whether that's constructive to have such a meeting, sure.

MITCHELL: And with US troops surging into Afghanistan , experts say President Obama has no option other than Hamid Karzai . Andrea Mitchell , NBC News , Washington .