Karzai Calls for Reassessing U.S. Strategy
Thursday, June 22, 2006; 12:48 PM
KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai called Thursday for a reassessment of the U.S.-led coalition's strategy for fighting terrorism, saying the current approach of hunting down militants does not focus on the root causes such as money, training, and motivation.
Karzai's comments came after a new video from Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri surfaced and urged Afghans to rise up against U.S.-led forces in their ountry.
Meanwhile, four U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday in combat in eastern Afghanistan, the military said.
A clearly frustrated Karzai complained that the coalition's hunt for Taliban militants was killing hundreds of Afghans, saying that "is not acceptable." More than 600 people, mostly militants, have been killed in recent weeks as insurgents have launched their deadliest campaign of violence in years.
"I strongly believe ... that we must engage strategically in disarming terrorism by stopping their sources of supply of money, training, equipment and motivation," Karzai said at a news conference.
"It is not acceptable for us that in all this fighting, Afghans are dying. In the last three to four weeks, 500 to 600 Afghans were killed. (Even) if they are Taliban, they are sons of this land," he added.
Afghan and coalition forces have been targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants along the Pakistan border since mid-April. They launched Operation Mountain Thrust in earnest last week with more than 10,000 Afghan, British, Canadian and U.S. troops deploying in the largest anti-Taliban offensive since the former regime's 2001 ouster.
Karzai has spoken out against coalition forces after several bombings mistakenly killed dozens of civilians earlier this year.
The Afghan president said he has repeatedly warned the international community in the past two years that a rise in militant activity in Afghanistan was expected.
Although there has been international funding in some areas of reconstruction, Karzai said he did not get help in strengthening the national police, the army and the government administration to prevent a resurgence of extremists.
"There has been help and assistance from the international community in some areas, but unfortunately, in some areas, there is no assistance or cooperation," he said. "This is one of the reasons for the unhappiness between us and the international community. We did not get the assistance and cooperation that is necessary for a strategy for counterterrorism."
The posting of al-Zawahri's video on an Islamic Web site followed a coalition warning Wednesday that "significant violence" lies ahead in southern Afghanistan where the joint offensive by coalition and Afghan forces is concentrated.
The message was al-Zawahri's sixth this year and was posted on a Web site known as a clearing house for al-Qaida and other militants' statements. Al-Zawahri and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden were hosted by the Taliban before their ouster. They both are believed to be hiding in the rugged border frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"I am calling upon the Muslims in Kabul in particular and in all Afghanistan in general and for the sake of God to stand up in an honest stand in the face of the infidel forces that are invading Muslim lands," said al-Zawahri, wearing a white turban and sitting in front of a black backdrop with an automatic rifle next to him.
The Egyptian-born fugitive also called on "the young men of Islam, in the universities and schools of Kabul, to carry out their duties in defense of their religion, honor, land and country."
The 3 1/2-minute video, titled "American Crimes in Kabul," appears to have been made the day after a May 29 accident in which a U.S. military truck crashed into traffic in Kabul, killing up to five people. The incident sparked anti-foreigner riots in Kabul that left about 20 people dead _ the worst unrest in the capital since the fall of the Taliban.
"I direct my speech today to my Muslim brothers in Kabul who lived the bitter events yesterday and saw by their own eyes a new proof of the criminal acts of the American forces against the Afghani people," al-Zawahri said on the video.
Unlike al-Zawahri's previous messages, which appeared aimed at Americans, the latest has no English subtitles. He spoke in Arabic, and Web sites carried translations in Pashtun and Farsi, two languages widely spoken in Afghanistan.
Asked about the new video, Karzai blamed al-Zawahri for Afghanistan's massive suffering before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"He is first the enemy of the Afghan people, and then the enemy of the rest of the world," Karzai said. "He killed Afghans for years _ thousands _ and then he went to America and destroyed the twin towers."
"We in Afghanistan want him arrested and put before justice."
In the latest violence, four U.S. soldiers were killed and another wounded Wednesday while trying to block the movement of insurgent forces in the eastern Nuristan province, the military said. Ground troops and attack planes were called in to keep up the assault through the night, but it was unclear whether there were any militant casualties.
Associated Press writer Lee Keath contributed to this report from Cairo, Egypt.