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US general: Afghan President Karzai is putting American lives at risk

S. Sabawoon/EPA

Afghan security officials inspect the scene of a suicide bomb attack outside the Afghan Defense Ministry Saturday. Hamid Karzai suggested the Taliban and U.S. colluded over the attack in order to persuade people that foreign forces had to stay in the country.

KABUL — The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has warned that President Hamid Karzai is putting the lives of Western troops in danger with his anti-American rhetoric.

A leaked, confidential memo sent by General Joseph Dunford to officers in Afghanistan said recent comments by Karzai could be "a catalyst for some to lash out against our forces."

Dunford said Karzai’s "inflammatory speech" about the controversial Bagram Prison could prompt members of Afghan government forces to stage insider attacks on American troops and other Western allies.

And he warned that the Afghan president himself "may also issue orders that put our forces at risk."

The New York Times, which first reported the emailed memo, said it was sent Wednesday after Karzai warned on Tuesday that his forces might seize control of Bagram from the U.S.

The facility was supposed to have been transferred on Saturday, but the deal collapsed at the last minute after Karzai objected to a clause allowing the U.S. to have final say over who were considered “high-value” prisoners and whether they would have to stay in prison.

Dunford admitted that Afghanistan and the U.S. were "at a rough point in the relationship."

And he warned that the Taliban and other insurgent groups would be "watching and will look for a way to exploit the situation — they have already ramped up for the spring."

Col. Thomas Collins, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, confirmed that Dunford’s memo was not intended for public consumption and had been leaked.

Rahmat Gul / AP

More than ten years after the beginning of the war, Afghanistan faces external pressure to reform as well as ongoing internal conflicts.

He said the memo was an informal email sent "to his subordinate commanders to outline his view of what is going on in the country, in light of recent attacks."

"ISAF routinely conducts assessments and adapts its protection posture to ensure our forces are prepared to meet potential threats and that they have a common understanding of the situation here in Afghanistan," Collins said in an email. "This advisory was prudent given increased Coalition casualties in recent days. General Dunford's email is simply an example of this vigilance."

Two U.S. service members were killed and at least eight others injured on Monday in what officials described as a possible insider attack at a Special Forces operations outpost in Wardak province, eastern Afghanistan. Three Afghans also died.

Last month, Karzai ordered all U.S. special forces to leave Wardak province. A spokesman for the Afghan president said in a statement that "armed individuals named as U.S. special forces stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people."

On Sunday, Karzai accused the United States and the Taliban of colluding to convince Afghans that foreign forces needed to stay in the country after 2014, when NATO is due to withdraw most of its troops.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel responds to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's statements in which Karzai accused the U.S. and Taliban with working together.

"Those bombs that went off in Kabul and Khost [on Saturday] were not a show of force to America. They were in service of America. It was in the service of the 2014 slogan to warn us if they (Americans) are not here then Taliban will come," Karzai said in a speech reported by Reuters. "In fact those bombs, set off yesterday in the name of the Taliban, were in the service of Americans to keep foreigners longer in Afghanistan."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the two bomb attacks, which killed 17 people.

Karzai’s comments marred a visit by newly appointed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s trip to Afghanistan.

Hagel dismissed the remarks, telling reporters it “wouldn’t make a lot of sense” for the United States and Taliban to conspire together.

And Dunford told reporters traveling with Hagel that "we have shed too much blood over the past 12 years … to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage."

Reuters contributed to this report.


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