Maj. Gen. Peter Fuller, deputy commander of NATO's training mission in Afghanistan, made the comments in an interview posted Thursday on the website Politico. A day later, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, released a statement saying Fuller had been relieved of his assignment.
"These unfortunate comments are neither indicative of our current solid relationship with the government of Afghanistan, its leadership or our joint commitment to prevail here in Afghanistan," Allen said in the statement.
Interviewed while he was in Washington for a conference, Fuller lashed out over recent comments by Karzai that Afghanistan would stand by Pakistan if it were ever attacked by the United States. Karzai's aides later claimed that the Afghan leader's remarks had been misinterpreted.
Politico quoted Fuller as calling Karzai's comments "erratic," and said, "Why don't you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You've got to be kidding me. I'm sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you're telling me, 'I really don't care?' ... When they are going to have a presidential election, you hope they get a guy that's more articulate in public."
Fuller also accused Afghan leaders of being oblivious to America's economic plight. He said he recently told a group of Afghan generals, "'You guys are isolated from reality.' The reality is, the world economy is having some significant hiccups. The U.S. is in this (too). If you're in a very poor country like Afghanistan, you think that America has roads paved in gold, everybody lives in Hollywood. They don't understand the sacrifices that America is making to provide for their security."
Criticizing what he said were at times unreasonable demands made by Afghan leaders for assistance, Fuller said, "You can teach a man how to fish, or you can give them a fish. We're giving them fish, while they're learning, and they want more fish! (They say,) 'I like swordfish, how come you're giving me cod?' Guess what? Cod's on the menu today."
In announcing Fuller's ouster, Allen said, "The Afghan people are an honorable people, and comments such as these will not keep us from accomplishing our most critical and shared mission: bringing about a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan."
Fuller has been in the U.S. military for more than 30 years. It was not known whether he would be reassigned.
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