Obama, you’re doin’ it wrong.
While in Afghanistan, the appropriate, respectful thing to do might have been to meet the Afghan president Hamid Karzai in person.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, the president flew to Afghanistan and visited the troops at Bagram Air Base.
Afghan President Karzai had offered to meet Obama at the palace in central Kabul.
U.S. officials said Obama offered to see the Afghan leader at the U.S. air base but decided not to go to his palace.
Karzai interpreted the situation as a snub. “The government of Afghanistan is prepared to warmly welcome the U.S. president in the presidential palace, but it does not intend to go to Bagram to meet Obama,” read an Afghan statement.
So the two had a conversation on the phone.
Obama was, of course, in Karzai’s country and not the other way around.
Relations between President Obama and Hamid Karzai have been strained, as Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA) that would offer legal protections to a residual force of US troops.
The issue was reminiscent of 2006, when the Bush administration asked for permission to make a refueling stop in Moscow on the way to an Asia-Pacific summit meeting. The U.S. made it clear that Bush was not looking to meet with Putin.
After Russian diplomats complained, Bush agreed to meet Putin at the Moscow airport. Putin decided to greet Bush at the airport as a “courtesy.” The two presidents met and agreed to begin work on a nonproliferation package in the future.
Thomas E. Graham, who served as Bush’s senior director for Russia on the National Security Council, said “When the Russian team came to Washington (later) in December 2006, in a fairly high-level … group, we didn’t have anything to offer,” Graham said. “We hadn’t had any time to think about it. We were still focused on Iraq.”
This did not help relations with Putin, and it shows that in diplomatic relations, perceived snubs matter.