By Emily Heil
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (left) had to cool his heels in Dubai. (Matthew Cavanaugh - AP) Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and his colleagues considered protesting the decision by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ground a military jet in Dubai transporting a group of lawmakers, after Afghan President Hamid Karzai objected to the California Republican's presence in the country.
In an interview, Rohrabacher--a critic of Karzai's administration--said he ultimately decided to stay behind quietly after talking personally with Clinton, who explained that it would cause "a mini crisis."
"She was making a reasonable request," he says, though he said he would have preferred it if Clinton had spoken to him before ordering the military jet not to take off with him onboard.
With his travel plans abruptly changed, Rohrabacher said he nevertheless spent a productive weekend in Dubai. While the rest of the CODEL, led by Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Tex.) went on to Afghanistan, he met with the emir of Abu Dhabi, the military commander in the area, and economic experts.
The flap began when Karzai learned that Rohrabacher--who took the seat of a colleague who couldn't make the trip at the last minute-- would be part of the CODEL, which left the United States on Friday. "He went berserk," Rohrabacher says, and told the State Department that the entire CODEL would be denied if Rohrabacher was included.
The California Republican, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs oversight subcommittee, is a longtime critic of Karzai's administration and the country's system of government, which he contends is too centralized. Earlier this year Rohrabacher and other lawmakers angered Karzai and caused a diplomatic kerfuffle when they met with members of the Northern Alliance, an opposition group, in Berlin.
"It's a case of shoot the messenger," Rohrabacher said. "The fact that I'm ...talking about alternative power structures is a great threat to him. But I am not Hamid Karzai's problem."
The delegation continued on with their visit to Afghanistan, where they met with former Northern Alliance leaders on Sunday.