At first, Obama appeared to sympathize, saying Karzai is “eager to reassert full sovereignty.” But then he pointed out that the United States won’t allow Al Qaeda to return to Afghanistan, that the US is spending billions to develop the country, and that more NATO troops would be killed without the use of forceful tactics like night raids. (The latter have been successful against the Taliban.)
“We have to listen and learn,” Obama said. “But he’s got to listen to us as well.”
Breaking a nation’s sovereignty isn’t always easy for the US, but it has become more common.
After 9/11, President Bush had little trouble leading an invasion of Taliban-run Afghanistan but was strongly criticized for the Iraq invasion. Before him, Bill Clinton led NATO to liberate Bosnia and Kosovo from Serbian atrocities. George H.W. Bush sent US troops into Somalia. Ronald Reagan invaded Panama and Grenada, and bombed Libya.
For Obama, the next possible dispute with Karzai could be over the terms of any negotiated deals with the various Taliban groups. Will they be allowed to keep their arms and be given positions of authority? Will the rights of Afghan women be honored? Such questions will test the seesaw of wills between Obama and Karzai over sovereignty.