(HERAT, Afghanistan) -- The U.S. showed its growing impatience with Afghan President Hamid Karzai describing coalition forces as occupiers in remarks made Sunday by outgoing Ambassador Karl Einkenberry at Herat University.
Einkenberry, the former Army lieutenant general who's been top envoy to Afghanistan since April 2009, responded to Karzai's comments from the day before that American and NATO troops are "here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they’re using our soil for that."
The Afghan leader has long been critical of coalition forces over "friendly fire" incidents resulting in civilian deaths but his opinions have grown even more strident in recent weeks.
Speaking for the Obama administration, Eikenberry made it clear that Karzai's newest criticisms are unwarranted, declaring, "When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost -- in terms of life and treasure -- hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people, they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here."'
Karzai's statements are clearly not helpful to the coalition effort, especially with the White House set to announce what is expected to be the first of several troop drawdowns from Afghanistan. U.S. public opinion has also turned against the war effort as lawmakers from both parties have questioned the point of remaining involved in a conflict that seems endless.
Eikenberry went on to say in response to one student's question about the Afghan president, "should we lose our mutual confidence in each other, should we lose our mutual respect, those goals of transition could be compromised.”
At the same time he was blasting "nations of the world" for "using our country," Karzai claimed that the U.S. officials had joined in talks with the Taliban to find a peaceful end to the war, although Defense Secretary Robert Gates said these discussions are in their very early stages.
According to Gates, "I think that the Taliban have to feel themselves under military pressure, and begin to believe that they can’t win before they’re willing to have a serious conversation."
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio