Does the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul really favor additional American troops build-up in Afghanistan as Gen. Stanley McChrystal has sought in his "Commander's Initial Assessment"?
CNN's Christiane Amanpour was the first to get President Karzai on record on the subject when she interviewed him on Sunday and asked him specifically if he supported the general's call for more American troops in Afghanistan.
The Afghan president parsed his answer very carefully saying he supported some aspects of the general's recommendations. "I found some very important elements in the report that I fully back ... where General McChrystal is asking for more resources in all aspects to boost the effort against terrorism he has our support there, too, full," he told Amanpour.
But one can see that he clinically avoided specific mention of more American troops, although Amanpour, with the impatience typical of a television journalist, jumped the gun to conclude that he supports additional troops build up as well. She failed to ask him if there are some other elements that he didn't support in the general's plan.
There is, however, another source that betrays the fact that the Afghan president's views on deepening American military involvement in his country are a lot more nuanced than what are apparent.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, India's Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said there is no military solution to the Afghan crisis and the United States would be better off seeking a political solution to the conflict.
Of course, Mr. Krishna was not speaking for the Afghan government, but it is safe to assume he wouldn't have commented on such a sensitive issue involving the U.S., without authentic knowledge of the Afghan government's perspective on the matter. India is a very close ally of
the Karzai government, next only to what the Bush administration has been.
"If there are internal differences within Afghanistan I think the people of Afghanistan, the leaders of Afghanistan, will sort it out by themselves," Mr. Krishna told the Journal.
That is a very authoritative statement coming from a representative of a third country, which is a stickler for not commenting on internal affairs of other countries. It is unlikely that the Indian foreign minister would have said so unless he has at the least an inkling of the Karzai government's intent and capability to negotiate deals with forces that are fighting the government and international forces in Afghanistan.
Mr. Krishna reiterated similar points in an interview with this blogger on Friday when I approached him about Gen. McChrystal's contention that increased Indian influence in Afghanistan may be exacerbating the situation and might provoke Pakistan to take countermeasures in Afghanistan.
He played down Gen. McChrystal's concerns. When asked if India would be willing to scale back its activities in Afghanistan to assuage Pakistan, he said, India has no designs beyond "nation building" efforts in that country, and underscored the fact that India was out there at the invitation of the Afghan government. He however added that India would be willing to cooperate with any country including the United States to stabilize the situation there.