Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened over the weekend to quit the political process and join the Taliban if he continued to come under outside pressure to reform, according to several members of parliament.
They said that Karzai made the unusual statement at a closed-door meeting with selected lawmakers - just days after kicking up diplomatic controversy with remarks alleging foreigners were behind fraud in last year's disputed elections.
Lawmakers dismissed the latest comment as hyperbole, but it will add to the impression that the president - who relies on tens of thousands of US and Nato forces to fight the insurgency and prop up his government - is growing increasingly erratic and unable to exert authority without attacking his foreign backers.
"He said that 'if I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban'," said Farooq Marenai, who represents the eastern province of Nangarhar.
"He said rebelling would change to resistance," Marenai said - apparently suggesting that the militant movement would then be redefined as one of resistance against a foreign occupation rather than a rebellion against an elected government.
Marenai said Karzai appeared nervous and repeatedly demanded to know why parliament last week had rejected legal reforms that would have strengthened the president's authority over the country's electoral institutions.
Two other lawmakers said Karzai twice raised the threat to join the insurgency.
The lawmakers said Karzai also dismissed concerns over possible damage his comments last week had caused to relations with the US. He told them he had already explained himself in a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that reports that Karzai threatened to abandon the political process and join the Taliban insurgency if he continued to receive pressure from Western backers to reform his government were troubling.
"On behalf of the American people, we're frustrated with the remarks," Gibbs told reporters.