By Darius Dixon
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Monday he was denied entry into Afghanistan because of his critical views of that country's government.
"Apparently, [Afghanistan President Hamid] Karzai just goes bananas every time he hears that I might be, in some way, coming into his country," Rohrabacher said in a phone interview with POLITICO on Monday while he waited in Qatar for a flight back to the U.S.
Rohrabacher also suspected that Karzai was picking on him because he had opened a House investigation into corruption not only within the Afghan government but also Karzai himself.
The California Republican, who chairs the committee's oversight panel, was stopped in Dubai Friday as part of congressional delegation on its way to Kabul. "Absolutely he believes his denial is based on his vocal opposition to [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai and Dana's relationship with the former Northern Alliance leaders," Rohrabacher spokesperson Tara Olivia Setmayer said.
Rohrabacher was a last minute addition to the trip led by Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) when another member dropped out a few days earlier. "When Karzai found out Dana was a part of the [congressional delegation], he told the State Dept the entire CODEL would be denied if Rohrabacher was included," Setmayer said.
The story was initially reported by BBC News on Monday.
Rohrabacher said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally relayed Karzai's message urging him not to join the delegation given how sensitive the relations between the two governments have been, particularly in light of alleged massacre of Afghan civilians by U. S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales and the accidental burning of the Koran.
"She has some things she's trying to accomplish and this might really jeopardize some of the efforts that she's been making and would I consider not going," he said of his conversation with Clinton. "I was not in any way trying to hinder job and I went out of my way to make sure that that was evident."
Rohrabacher described his conversation with Clinton was "amicable" and "reasonable" and the two agreed to meet "at length" to discuss Afghanistan.
Still, Rohrabacher said the U.S. government needs to stand up the Karzai.
"Our leaders just do not do justice to the responsibilities they have by walking on eggshells around - and not being upfront -- with guys like Karzai as to what the issues really are," he said, insisting that both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama are at fault.
Nonetheless, Rohrabacher said that he made the most of the truncated trip, including a visit with United Arab Emirates President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan and military leaders there.