Gates says Karzai took high road on WikiLeaks

U.S. expresses gratitude for the Afghan leader's statesmanlike response to the criticism

Topics: WikiLeaks, Afghanistan,

Afghan president Hamid Karzai took the high road after being criticized in the deluge of sensitive State Department documents released by WikiLeaks, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.

And for that, Gates said, he is very grateful.

Standing next to Karzai during a press conference, Gates said that Karzai and other allies, “have responded to this, in my view, in an extraordinarily statesmanlike way. I’m deeply grateful, and frankly I think the American government will not forget this kind of statesman-like response.”

One American diplomatic memo divulged by WikiLeaks quotes the U.S. ambassador to Kabul describing Karzai as a “paranoid and weak individual.” Another memo said that Karzai had freed dangerous detainees and drug dealers from prison because of their connections to influential Afghan figures.

Questions about the document dump dogged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her recent foreign trip. Before the release, U.S. officials were forced to make calls to foreign leaders to warn them and then apologized.

While Gates has said the leak of more than a quarter million documents was embarrassing, he has insisted that they will not have a lasting effect on U.S. diplomacy.

“At the end of the day,” he said, nations and leaders make decisions based on their interests.”

For his part, Karzai joked about the matter. Asked about his country’s need for military equipment, he started to answer then turned to Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, to query whether what he was about to reveal was a secret.

“Not any more,” joked Gates, with a laugh.

To which Karzai quipped, “You shouldn’t share things like that with presidents, you know we are WikiLeaks.”

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