Always-Candid Corker Takes White House, Karzai to the Woodshed

(Photo: Jeppe Wikstrom via Getty Images)

Sen. Bob Corker stands out on Capitol Hill. Not just because, when he’s a few weeks between haircuts, the Tennessean takes on a rather Colonial Era look. It’s mostly his candor that sets him apart from other pols.

That signature candor was on full display Thursday morning. Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Republican, took both the Obama administration and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to the rhetorical woodshed.

During a panel hearing about the transfer of security from US forces to Afghan troops, Corker blasted the Obama administration for spending too much time “looking at its navel.” Minutes later, Corker labeled Karzai a “strange person” and a “monster.”

Corker, candidly, called on the White House to settle internal differences and publicly announce its plans for US troop levels in Afghanistan beyond the end of 2014, when most American and Western combat troops are slated to leave.

“This administration though has tremendous difficulty making decisions. This administration has multiple voices within it that keep it from having clarity.”

He was just getting started:

“And I have to tell you, I think the administration has got to quit looking at its navel and make a decision on what the force structure is going to be in Afghanistan.”

He wasn’t finished:

“We’ve got to go ahead and tell our allies, tell the people in Afghanistan what we’re gonna do generally speaking as it relates to force structure. And I’m telling you, this continued looking at our navel, trying to make a decision, having competing forces at the White House is hurting us, it’s hurting our efforts in Afghanistan, it’s hurting our military and it’s hurting our allies.”

Having delivered those swipes to the Obama administration’s hide, Corker pivoted, saying succinctly, “Now, Karzai.”

Oh, “Now, Karzai,” indeed:

“Karzai is [the] most frustrating world leader we’ve probably dealt with in a long time. He is irrational. It’s hard to believe that he believes the things that he believes. But, he truly believes today that we are in cahoots with Pakistan, and trying to destabilize the country. As crazy as that is, the fact that we’ve spent hundreds of billions of dollars there, we’ve lost American lives and limbs and the fact that he today believes that somehow or another we’re … coordinating with … Pakistan to destabilize [Afghanistan] is almost beyond belief.

“I don’t believe this by the way, and I want to make this clear to — to anybody listening. I don’t believe this. I think he believes there are some people within the administration that because of previous political issues almost want Afghanistan to fail. I don’t. He’s a strange person.

“I will say — and this is a minor detail — I think we’ve helped create the kind of relationship we have with him. … But I think we’ve helped create a monster here.”

Corker has a theory about this. A candid one, of course:

“No one at the [Obama] administration will talk with me about some of the questions I’ve asked about our support of [Karzai] personally. I wouldn’t be surprised if we were supporting him personally prior to him even being president of Afghanistan.”

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett