KABUL, Afghanistan — Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, delivered extraordinarily harsh criticism on Thursday of the Western governments fighting in his country, the United Nations, and the British and American news media, accusing them of perpetrating the fraud that denied him an outright victory in last summer’s presidential elections.
Afghan President Rebukes West and U.N.
Just days after meeting with President Obama, Mr. Karzai, who has increasingly tried to distance himself from his American backers, said the coalition troops risked being seen as invaders rather than saviors of the country.
The speech, later broadcast on local television, seemed a measure of Mr. Karzai’s mood in the wake of Mr. Obama’s visit, in which Mr. Obama rebuked the Afghan president for his failure to reform election rules and crack down on corruption. At points in the speech, Mr. Karzai used inflammatory language about the West.
“There is no doubt that the fraud was very widespread, but this fraud was not committed by Afghans, it was committed by foreigners,” Mr. Karzai said. “This fraud was committed by Galbraith, this fraud was committed by Morillon and this fraud was committed by embassies.” Mr. Karzai was referring to Peter W. Galbraith, the deputy United Nations special representative to Afghanistan at the time of the election and the person who helped reveal the fraud, and Philippe Morillon, the chief election observer for the European Union.
Later in the speech he accused the Western coalition fighting against the Taliban of being on the verge of becoming invaders — a term usually used by insurgents to refer to American, British and other NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan.
“In this situation there is a thin curtain between invasion and cooperation-assistance,” said Mr. Karzai, adding that if the perception spread that Western forces were invaders and the Afghan government their mercenaries, the insurgency “could become a national resistance.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Karzai suffered a political defeat when the lower house of Parliament rejected a revision of the election law that would have allowed him to appoint all the members of the agency that investigates election irregularities. Currently the United Nations appoints three of the five members.
The American Embassy and the United Nations mission in Kabul had no comment on Mr. Karzai’s speech. Both, along with other Western governments, are trying to persuade Mr. Karzai to make election reforms that better safeguard against a repeat of the fraud, since without changes Western countries are unlikely to want to help pay for the parliamentary elections scheduled for September.
Mr. Galbraith, who was dismissed by the United Nations after the disputed election, called Mr. Karzai’s speech “so absurd that I considered it an April Fools’ Day joke.” He also said Mr. Karzai’s speech “underscores how totally unreliable this guy is as an ally.”
Mr. Morillon could not immediately be reached.
Mr. Karzai also sharply criticized The New York Times, the BBC, The Times of London and CNN, all of whom he accused of spreading the accusations of fraud. “They know the election was right, but on a daily basis they are call me a fraudulent president in order to pressure me,” he said.
He further singled out The Times for criticism. “Every day my dignity as a president of this country is being attacked. The New York Times and their papers, though, they know the election was right, but on a daily basis they call me a fraudulent president in order to pressure me and put mental pressure on me,” he said.
At times Mr. Karzai almost seemed to be having a conversation with himself, saying that he needed to let go of his anger over the election, but then was unable to do so. “We have our national interest, and by confronting the foreigners our national interest will be damaged,” he said.
“We should put the reality and the interests of our people before us and go forward towards the future. But we have a knot in our heart; our dignity and bravery has been damaged and stepped on,” he said.
One motive for the angry speech might be an attempt to protect himself politically, since it is probable that he will have to accede to Western demands that he remove the officials on the election commission who were seen as most complicit in the fraud. For months the United States, other Western countries and the United Nations have quietly urged him both to change the leadership of the commission and the system of appointing the commission’s members. Mr. Karzai currently appoints the commission’s chairman, which heightens suspicions about its independence.
“These foreigners came to me several times asking me to bring reform. When I asked what reform means, it means to sack Mr. Ludin and Mr. Najafi,” said Mr. Karzai, referring to Azizullah Ludin, the commission’s chairman, and Daoud Ali Najafi, the head of the commission’s secretariat, who were present at the speech and whom he lionized several times over, lauding their patriotism and courage.
He went on to say that he might be forced to comply with the demand, but he promised that the two men “will go to other major national posts.”
Mr. Karzai appeared about to agree to the West’s demands to change the election process because, he said, if he did not, Western donors would withhold the money Afghanistan needs to hold the parliamentary elections.
“He wants to portray himself as a national figure who stands against the foreigners,” said Ahmed Wali Massoud, a strong supporter of Abdullah Abdullah, the candidate who ran closest to Mr. Karzai in last summer’s election.
Diplomats quietly worried about another problem: that the anger toward the West would be used by antiwar advocates in countries with troops here to bolster their arguments for withdrawal. “People will hear this and say ‘Why are we helping this man?’ ” said a Western diplomat in Kabul.
Karzai has since called Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to clarify what he considers a misunderstanding. A rather angrily jingoistic NYT editorial sees this as the start of a power struggle between Washington and Karzai.