Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan on Karzai tensions

General Joseph F. Dunford.
CBS News

(CBS News) KABUL -- Last month President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai accused the United States of secretly negotiating with the Taliban. He also claimed that militias working for the American military had tortured and killed a student.

It was just the latest in a string of anti-American remarks from the Afghan leader.

For U.S. Commanding General in Afghanistan, Joseph Dunford, Karzai's comments amounted to friendly fire.

General Joseph F. Dunford. CBS News

Asked what effect those type of comments have on the safety of US troops, Dunford said inflammatory comments can be a threat to the force.

"In fact, in recognition of that I made sure that during the time when the relationship was particularly difficult, a few weeks ago, that we were doing what we needed to do adjust our force protection posture," he said.

That's military-speak for ordering U.S. troops to step up security to protect themselves.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai. CBS News

Dunford said Karzai did not apologize for his comments.

"What he said was they were taken out of context -- and I accepted that," he said.

"I try to have an appreciation for what President Karzai is doing every day, which is communicating to both an internal and an external audience.

"And I think the track record over the past several weeks indicates that we've been able to work through some pretty difficult issues in a positive way."

Issues such as the deal to turn over to Afghan control a U.S. prison where Taliban terrorists are locked up.

But Dunford stopped short of saying Karzai was a reliable partner.

"I think, right now the Afghan people are reliable partners," he said.

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The Afghan people will have a chance to vote for a new president in 2014. A free and fair election would be a significant victory for Afghans and the US military.

(Watch first part of Elizabeth Palmer's interview with Gen. Dunford.)

Karzai is not running but he is key to setting successful conditions and right now -- he's a wild card.

Asked what happens if the elections go wrong, Dunford replied definitively: "The elections are not going to go wrong. You're not going to get me to say that."

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."