The image is disturbing enough for the United States, as its arch-foe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is warmly greeted by Washington’s ally, Hamid Karzai.
But it is comments from Iran’s President on his visit to Afghanistan that could cause most consternation in the Obama administration.
Any fears Ahmadinejad may have that the US military presence there could be used against him were swept aside by his host. The Afghan President said: “We assured our brothers in Iran that we do not want our soil to be used against our neighbours.”
Karzai’s guest used the news conference in the capital Kabul to declare that Western troops would never defeat terrorism by waging war in the country. And he slammed US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’s visit there.
Appearing to address him directly Ahmadinejad said: “What are you even doing in this area? You are from 12,000 kilometres over there. Your country is on the other side of the world. What are you doing here? This is a serious question.”
Wrapping up his three day trip to Afghanistan as Ahmadinejad arrived, Gates had called the Iranian President’s visit there “bothersome”. But, whether the US likes it or not, Iran has wide and growing influence in the country.