General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has warned that Afghan President Hamid Karzai's criticism of U.S. strategy could undermine the war effort.
In an interview with The Washington Post Sunday, Karzai said that after 10 years of military operations, it's time to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the Afghan countryside.
"The time has come to reduce the presence of boots in Afghanistan, to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life," Karzi said. He also said Afghan police should begin taking on that responsibility.
According to NATO and diplomatic officials, Petraeus was frustrated by Karzai's remarks, which came just days before the NATO summit starts Friday in Lisbon, Portugal. He felt they threatened to undermine efforts to maintain international support for the war at this week's NATO summit.
Petraeus also said the Afghan leader's words could affect the U.S. ability to carry out special operations raids that have captured hundreds of Taliban commanders in recent months. Those operations are a key part in Petraeus' strategy to rout insurgents, improve security, and bolster governance and development.
Nevertheless, officials said NATO had received assurances that Karzai was on-board with the coalition's strategy and that international forces were working hard to address some of his concerns.
Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar said the president has been "very clear about his confidence in Gen. Petraeus" and that the situation had improved since the departure of retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
"The president says the situation has improved since McChrystal and further improved after the arrival of Petraeus," Omar said. "The president has once again made it clear that this is not a critique of the overall strategy."
He added that Karzai and Petraeus have a mature relationship and can freely express their views on how certain things can progress.