OTTAWA — The RCMP is investigating the leak of a confidential memo written by Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan in which he offers to resign because of his earlier criticism of the Karzai government.
The contents of the diplomatic cable, sent by the Kabul-based envoy to Foreign Affairs headquarters in Ottawa, were published Thursday by two Canadian newspapers.
The published reports said Ambassador William Crosbie feared his earlier, unvarnished comments about Afghan President Hamid Karzai could damage Canada’s relations with the leader.
He warned that his criticisms of Karzai were contained in a U.S. diplomatic message, which was itself leaked to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The ambassador reportedly offered to quit if that would help ease the situation.
A spokesperson at the Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa confirmed Thursday the RCMP are investigating the source of the leak. An RCMP spokesman had no immediate comment.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended Crosbie.
Asked whether the ambassador went too far in his criticism of Karzai, Harper said: “Crosbie doesn’t represent the government of Afghanistan; he represents the government of Canada in Afghanistan.”
Harper, speaking in Mississauga, Ont., said it’s well known that his government has been “outspoken in its concerns about some aspects of governance in Afghanistan.”
The prime minister said Ottawa will continue to express those concerns “emphatically to our counterparts in Afghanistan.”
The published reports quote Crosbie as being very critical of misuse of power by Karzai and his family.
Last month in Portugal, Harper said the Afghan government doesn’t deserve a “dime” of direct foreign aid money until it deals with its widespread corruption.
Karzai asked NATO leaders and coalition partners to step up the flow of aid dollars directly to his government instead of filtering it through international organizations operating in the country.
The Afghan government receives 20 per cent of the billions of aid dollars directly, but Karzai wants to see that increased to 50 per cent.
Harper and fellow NATO leaders made it clear to Karzai during crucial talks on the future of Afghanistan that they want him to do more to weed out corruption, sources had told The Canadian Press.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said there are “real tensions” in the relationship with Karzai.