April 25th, 2012
10:48 PM ET
11 years ago

Congressman calls Afghan president ‘corrupt prima donna’

(CNN) – A U.S. congressman barred from visiting Afghanistan over the weekend minced no words when characterizing the incident.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is a "corrupt prima donna," House Foreign Affairs Committee member Dana Rohrabacher of California said in an interview Wednesday on CNN's "The Situation Room."

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Rohrabacher was en route to Kabul with five other members of Congress to meet with representatives of the Northern Alliance when the U.S. secretaries of Defense and State intervened.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called to say "that she'd been through a lot of mini-crises there in Afghanistan with the burning of the Qurans and the soldiers urinating on these dead bodies and one of them going crazy and killing civilians," Rohrabacher told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"She just felt that another mini-crisis which might erupt," he continued, "because Karzai hated me so much that he would create a crisis and she just thought it would be disruptive to our ability to get her job done."

But Clinton is charged with executing diplomacy, and Rohrabacher is not.

"I thought she was asking me in a respectful way, but she was having to deal with this corrupt prima donna who heads that country," he said.

As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs' Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, Rohrabacher said he suspects his examination of how U.S. funds have been spent in the war-torn country was a factor in Karzai's discomfort.

More than 1,800 U.S. service members have died in the country, according to the Department of Defense and the U.S. Central Command. The United States has nearly 90,000 troops serving in the country and spends more than $2 billion on efforts there every week.

Rohrabacher's scrutiny of the country's government was the reason for his visit.

"Members of Congress should be over there to see if the dynamics are such that we're not just wasting people's lives and money, and there are changes that need to happen for us to be able to succeed," he said.

The U.S. State Department confirmed that Clinton and Rohrabacher spoke, and that both Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requested Rohrabacher not continue with the delegation.

"We were advised, as Congressman Rohrabacher made clear, that the sovereign government didn't think this visit was timely. So it was in that context that he made his decision after our advice," Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, told reporters.

The congressman said he encouraged his colleagues to continue on the trip, as "we had leaders of the northern alliance, opposition members and political leaders in that country who wanted to talk to American congressmen to make sure that we were not going to leave the Taliban in charge of Afghanistan."

Republic Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas, who led the delegation to Afghanistan, invited Rohrabacher after another lawmaker dropped out of the trip.

It is not the first time Rohrabacher has earned the ire of a leader.

In June 2011, Rohrabacher led a congressional delegation to Baghdad that was ordered out of the country by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki after the California congressman said Iraq should consider repaying the United States for what it spent since 2003.

– CNN’s Adam Levine contributed to this report

Filed under: Afghanistan • Congress • Hamid Karzai • Republicans
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. mk1

    I guess Rohrbacher looked in a mirror and didn't like what he saw and is projecting.

    April 26, 2012 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  2. Richard "BONEHEAD" Cheney

    A right-wing lunatic. Rohrabacher or Karzai – you figure it out.

    April 26, 2012 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  3. Pedro

    Spending $2 billion per week helping a corrupt Guy and 30% of our population living below poverty. I don't think this is the way we should run our Country.

    April 26, 2012 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  4. Stu Steinberg

    The people in Afghanistan that this congressional delegation met with are a bigger problem than Karzai. It is not surprising that right-wing extremists like Rohrabacher, Michelle Bachmann and Louis Gohmert would meet with criminals like those from the Northern Alliance. It is well known that Dostum and other members of the Northern Alliance are heavily involved in narcotics trafficking, smuggling of weapons and that they are nothing more than a criminal enterprise. Dostum is also a war criminal despite his denials that his men murdered some 2000 Taliban fighters after the US invasion by suffocating them in container trucks. According to classified files stolen from a US army base in Afghanistan and sold in a local market, some senior officials in the Afghan government are also believed to be drug lords. Described as “Tier One Warlords” in a document, they include Abdul Rashid Dostum. I did counter-narcotics work in Afghanistan in 2009-10 and Dostum's was one of the first names I heard about from my Afghan colleagues. It may well be that Karzai is no better, in many ways, but it should be embarrassing to all Americans that members of our Congress would meet with criminals, like this, purportedly because they might be better in come perverted way than the current regime. Since these members of Congress have not lifted a finger to do anything about the narcotics problem in Afghanistan, I can only surmise that they do not care that this poison is killing people around the world. They make me sick.

    April 26, 2012 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  5. joe smith

    yes he is, and on the backs of our US service men, and women who serve there for no earthly reason, other than the oil cartels, no young man or woman serving in the US military needs to protect this buffoon any longer..too bad the marine learned the hard way, shooting his mouth off..Mr. Rohrabacher is taking up the mantel young man..

    April 26, 2012 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  6. joe smith

    panetta requested he not continue his trip..why..because the money used to fly Rohrabacher to afganastan, could be better spent flying panetta to his california home..what a joke these people are..

    April 26, 2012 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  7. sick of republican phonies

    You would think one corrupt prima donna would welcome another one...

    April 26, 2012 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  8. S. B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The problem is that Afghanistan like a lot of countries in that region don't understand good governance. They seem to think that bribery is the norm to get things done. There needs to be some way to teach the Arab & Muslim world that bribery shouldn't be necessay to get the job done.

    April 26, 2012 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  9. Marlee

    Rare earth Afghanistan. Not enough blood to buy the resources.

    April 26, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |