White House press secretary Jay Carney could not say when President Obama last had a substantive discussion with Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the proposed status of forces agreement Tuesday in the White House press conference.
Fox News reporter Ed Henry prefaced his question by noting both Sen. McCain (R., Ariz) and Sen. Graham (R., S.C.) recently returned from Afghanistan. The senators met with Karzai and were informed President Obama has not had a serious discussion with the Afghan president since "June or July."
Henry asked Carney how President Obama could allow such a lapse in dialogue about the status of forces agreement if he was truly committed to the mission in Afghanistan. Revelations in former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates's memoir have called into question President Obama's resolve in executing his Afghan strategy.
Carney sidestepped the question, replying the leaders exchanged pleasantries last December in South Africa at Nelson Mandela's funeral and the United States maintains "robust" dialogue with Afghanistan through other means.
Henry followed up by asking when President Obama last spoke with his commanding general in Afghanistan. "I'll have to take the question," Carney said. Henry, visibly perturbed, shot back "we're on a war footing and you don't know the last time he spoke to the commanding general?"
ED HENRY: OK, two other quick things. On — you've stressed the president's commitment to the mission in Afghanistan, given the book. Senators Graham and McCain just came back from Afghanistan. They spoke to President Karzai. And they claim that President Obama has not spoken to President Karzai since June or July. How is it that the two leaders — if he's committed to the mission, how could the two leaders — as you're negotiating a status of forces agreement, how could the two leaders not talk in months?
JAY CARNEY: When did we go to South Africa? Well, I was physically in the presence of both presidents when President Karzai and President Obama exchanged greetings, so I think that's —
HENRY: (Inaudible) — they had a substantive discussion about the status of —
CARNEY: Look, the president and President Karzai have had discussions in the past. There's not a lot of mystery about our views on this document that was negotiated in good faith and the need to sign it on the part of the Afghan government.
So we have a robust and constant communication with the Afghan government, both from Washington and from our embassy in Kabul, as well as through our military commanders —
HENRY: When was the last time the president spoke to the lead U.S. commander in Afghanistan?
CARNEY: I'll have to take the question. I don't —
HENRY: We're in a war footing right now —
CARNEY: — (inaudible) — answer to that.
HENRY: — and you don't know the last time he spoke to the commanding general?
CARNEY: I'll have to take the question, Ed.