On his way to Kabul in March, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) suddenly found himself stranded in Dubai, banned from entering Afghanistan by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. While in Chicago for the NATO summit on Monday, Karzai told CNN that the ban would "definitely not" be ending any time soon.
In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Karzai blamed the ban on Rohrabacher's provocative comments about his leadership and the future of Afghanistan. "A democratically elected congressman of the United States of America should not be talking of an ethnic divide in Afghanistan, should not be interfering in Afghanistan's internal affairs," he said, adding, "If an Afghan did that from Afghanistan, how would you react to him in America?"
Rohrabacher has been a frequent critic of Karzai, accusing his regime of corruption and attempting to launch an investigation into his family finances. He has also repeatedly called for the United States to give a larger political role to groups like the National Front, formerly known as the Northern Alliance, with which he has long-standing ties.
While Rohrabacher has said he simply wants all of Afghanistan's ethnic groups represented, Karzai believes that his calls are disrespectful attempts to break up his country.
"No foreigner has a place asking another people, another country, to change their constitution," Karzai told Blitzer, asking, "If an Afghan member of parliament stood up and said the United States should be divided in five different regions, would you accept that?"
Karzai did leave open the possibility that Rohrabacher could be allowed back into Afghanistan in the future, but he demanded that the California Republican first change his tone. The ban will not be lifted, he said, "until he changes his tongue, until he shows respect to the Afghan people, to our way of life and to our constitution.
UPDATE: Rohrabacher fired back at Karzai in comments made on Tuesday, saying that "Karzai represents corrupt and incompetent leadership and a top down structure of government that is totally inconsistent with Afghan tradition and culture. He’s also totally misrepresented my position. I’ve never advocated splitting the country."
“Right now, I’m more concerned with getting American troops out of that country so they won’t continue to needlessly die than I am getting myself into Afghanistan to meet with officials like Karzai," he said.