In a move signaling heightened tensions between Afghanistan and the United States, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai stopped Republican Congressman Dan Rohrabacher from entering the country as part of a U.S. delegation.
"I feel like the powers that be may think I am more important than I really am," Rohrabacher told Whispers from Qatar Monday. "Holy cow, if Mr. Karzai think his problems stem from what I am saying rather than what he is doing, he is giving me more credit than I deserve." [More Republicans Support Rapid Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan]
As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight, Rohrabacher's taken a tough stance on Afghanistan's leadership and has been vocal about his distrust of Karzai.
In March, Rohrabacher asked the Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office to investigate allegations that Karzai used U.S. taxpayer's money for personal expenses.
"What a waste of all the money and blood that we've put into this, to let it go simply because we are turning a blind eye to the corruption of the regime that is in power," Rohrabacher says.
After flying 13 hours to Dubai Friday, Rohrabacher and his team received word that the military would prohibit the congressman from entering Afghanistan by air. The delegations explored a commercial flight option, but decided against it after Sec. of State Hillary Clinton phoned him and asked him to forgo his trip.
"She was very considerate... and asked me not to go at this time," Rohrabacher says, adding he was sympathetic to Clinton's concerns that ignoring Karzai's request could result in another mini-crisis for the State Department.
Rohrabacher was part of a six-person delegation led by Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert. The group planned the trip to meet with the leaders from the Northern Alliance, a group that worked with U.S. forces to remove the Taliban from power after Sept. 11, and has since struggled for more power under Karzai.
While Rohrabacher visited with local officials in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the rest of the team—which included Texas Rep. Michael Burgess, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. John Carter and Guam Rep. Madeleine Bordallo—went ahead to Afghanistan to meet with the Northern Alliance.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a statement Monday distancing the Obama Administration from the meeting.
"We understand that Members of the U.S. Congress had a private meeting with former Northern Alliance political figures on April 22 in Kabul," the statement says. "U.S. Embassy Kabul neither arranged nor participated in these meetings. The Members of Congress do not represent the State Department or any other part of the Executive branch. Their presence and views at this privately arranged event do not reflect the view of the President or the Administration."
Rohrabacher says the incident reveals just how fragile relations are between the United States and Afghanistan.
"It concerns me that we have leaders of our government walking on eggshells with people like Karzai, instead of leveling with them [about] the challenges they face," he says.
Rohrabacher, who has worked on issues concerning Afghanistan since the 1980s, says he is ready for the United States to stop wasting money and resources in the country that is so unwilling to change the structure of its government.
"I don't think that we should waste the life of any more American troops in trying to solve the problems of Afghanistan," he says. "We are not going to restructure the country and we shouldn't try."
At the same time, Rohrabacher says under Karzai's leadership, Afghanistan risks a major Taliban takeover when U.S. troops withdrawal.
"They have a structure of government that leads to incompetence and corruption. When we leave, the Taliban will end up in power and will hunt down all the people that helped to defeat them after Sept. 11."
The Congressman views more support of the Northern Alliance, a restructuring of the government and a rewrite of Afghanistan's constitution as crucial steps in stabilizing the country.