Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a shura, or meeting, in Kandahar city April 4, 2010.
The United States has rejected President Hamid Karzaiâ€™s anti-foreigner outburst as â€œtroublingâ€ and â€œpreposterousâ€, prompting a hurried effort by the Afghan leader to make amends, Agence France-Presse reported.
Officials said Karzai did not specifically apologise during a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday, but expressed â€œsurpriseâ€ at the furor over his claim that foreigners orchestrated election fraud.
The row came just a few days after President Barack Obama made an unannounced trip to Kabul to press Karzai on tackling corruption and to demand progress on good governance, as Washingtonâ€™s troop surge strategy unfolds against the Taliban.
The new confrontation will only raise doubts about the fragile relationship between the Obama administration and Karzai, whom Washington is forced to consider a partner despite distaste for his political record.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs called Karzaiâ€™s comments â€œtroublingâ€ and â€œcause for real and genuine concernâ€. Gibbs noted the huge US military and political resources – and sacrifices – committed to Afghanistan.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, meanwhile, described Karzaiâ€™s intervention as â€œpreposterousâ€. US Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry also met with Karzai in person to seek clarification on his comments on Thursday.
The Afghan leader then initiated the call to Clinton and expressed â€œsurprise that his comments had created what he called a stir,â€ a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
â€œGenerally we were happy with the call and weâ€™re moving on,â€ the official added.
Crowley called the conversation a â€œconstructiveâ€ one as Washington and Kabul seek to defuse tense relations.
â€œPresident Karzai reaffirmed his commitment to the partnership between our two countries, and expressed his appreciation for the contributions and sacrifices of the international community,â€ he said, adding that Karzai and Clinton â€œpledged to continue working together in a spirit of partnershipâ€. But the Obama administration scrapped a planned Karzai visit to Washington last month after he gave himself full control over the electoral commission. In another snub to the United States, he then invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Afghanistan.
The Afghan leader drew fierce global condemnation for his speech on Thursday.
â€œThere was fraud in presidential and provincial council elections – no doubt that there was a very widespread fraud, very widespread,â€ Karzai told Afghan election commission workers in Kabul.
â€œBut Afghans did not do this fraud. The foreigners did this fraud,â€ he added, accusing other countries of interfering in his countryâ€™s domestic affairs.
He also claimed that such moves risked the 126,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan being seen as â€œinvadersâ€ – terminology used by the Taliban – and the nine-year insurgency as â€œa national resistanceâ€. Afghan analysts suggested Karzai had lost control after being criticised by Obama and angered by the Afghan parliament, and noted the statements could signal a shift in foreign policy.
Afghan soldiers killed
German troops based in north Afghanistan mistakenly killed at least five Afghan soldiers, NATO forces said on Saturday, hours after the Germans lost three of their own soldiers in a gunfight with insurgents, Reuters reported.
A statement from NATO said that on Friday evening a unit of German soldiers was approached by two unmarked civilian vehicles which failed to stop when troops signalled them â€œusing a variety of methodsâ€ in the northern province of Kunduz.
â€œThe force eventually fired on the vehicles killing at least five Afghan soldiers … Initial reports indicate that the two civilian cars were part of an Afghan national army patrol en route to Kunduz,â€ NATO-led forces said in a statement.
A NATO spokesman later said it was unclear if the vehicles were civilian and the alliance was investigating the matter.
Hours before the incident, three German soldiers were killed in a gunfight with insurgents. The unit of German troops that killed the Afghan soldiers were on their way to the scene of that gunfight, when they came across the Afghan soldiers, NATO said.
Earlier, the governor of Kunduz province, Mohammad Omar, said he had been to a hospital in the province and saw the bodies of six Afghan soldiers who had been killed in the incident, which happened near Char Dara district.
Opinion polls show most Germans oppose Berlinâ€™s involvement in the Afghan war.
Opposition spiked after a German-ordered US air strike in a village in Kunduz in September killed scores of people, at least 30 of them civilians according to the Afghan government, the deadliest incident involving German troops since World War II.
Germany is the third-largest NATO contributor to the war with some 4,300 troops in Afghanistan, most in northern Kunduz where Taliban attacks and strength have increased over the past year. Germanyâ€™s parliament has agreed to send a further 850 soldiers.