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Editorial: Ahead of schedule

It’s way past time for Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, to realize that the U.S. isn’t the enemy, tone down his rhetoric and quit playing to the crowd.

President Barack Obama is apparently thinking the same thing.

The New York Times and other news outlets reported this week that Obama is considering changes in the withdrawal timetable for U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, one of which is to speed it up — seeing the bulk of troops leave the country by 2014. The president also is said to be considering what’s called the “zero option” — pulling out all troops from Afghanistan next year.

What’s prompted Obama to rethink his plans, including the idea of keeping a smaller contingent of troops there, is his frustration with Karzai. Dealing with Afghanistan’s unpredictable leader has been anything but smooth for the U.S. At times Karzai has not been the partner one might expect given the circumstances. It’s the existence of our troops and the rest of NATO, after all, that has allowed him a certain amount of job security. The Taliban would like to kill him and plenty of his countrymen think he’s corrupt and should be replaced.

But Karzai doesn’t seem to get that. Instead he continues to cry foul no matter what the U.S. does in its efforts to keep some sort of lid on the country’s violence. The latest tantrum was over the U.S. trying to negotiate peace talks with the Taliban. Reacting to such a possibility, Karzai pulled his High Peace Council from such talks in Qatar. And while Karzai has legitimate reasons not to trust the Taliban, it’s the U.S. that he targets as the problem. “Until the peace process is completely Afghan, the High Peace Council will neither attend nor participate in the talks in Qatar,” Karzai’s office said in a statement.

This effectively put the brakes on this effort.

And what does Karzai think of the news about Obama’s rethinking of withdrawal plans?

“The complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan is an issue that has never been brought up in joint meetings between Kabul and Washington,” Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s spokesman said.

“The report in The New York Times is aimed at putting pressure on Afghanistan and on public opinion in the country. We have already put our conditions to the United States and have clearly told the United States that a final decision regarding the (U.S.-Afghan) security agreement will be made by the people of Afghanistan ...”

Well, no, they’re OUR troops.

For 12 years U.S. troops have been fighting and dying for the people of Afghanistan and for too many years Karzai has found fault with our mission there.

Let’s take the hint and bring the troops home sooner rather than later.

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