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Karzai's defiant stance concerns U.S., other Afghans

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But the next day, Karzai told a gathering of lawmakers that foreign interference fuels the insurgency. One lawmaker said Karzai made the point that if he is compelled to obey foreigners, "I'll join the Taliban."

"I know he's cooperating with the U.S., but he just wants to give us a wrong perception. He's trying to prove himself as a hero, a nationalist," the lawmaker said.

Some of the presidents' supporters said that people overreacted to the statements, and that Karzai is well aware of how reliant he is on the United States and other countries fighting in Afghanistan. The United States pours billions of dollars monthly into Afghanistan, and 30,000 new troops are arriving to fight the Taliban.

Speaking at a meeting of about 1,200 tribal leaders and local officials in the southern city of Kandahar on Sunday, Karzai again suggested that U.S. pressure is counterproductive.

"Afghanistan will be fixed when its people trust that their president is independent and not a puppet," he said. "We have to demonstrate our sovereignty. We have to demonstrate that we are standing up for our values."

Despite his displeasure with the U.S. government, Karzai made the trip to Kandahar to build public support for a top U.S. and NATO goal of combating the insurgency with a major military push this summer into the districts around Kandahar.

He asked attendees whether they are happy about the upcoming operation. A loud murmur echoed across the vast meeting room.

"Listen to me carefully: Until you're happy and satisfied, we will not conduct this operation," he said to loud applause.

Staff writer Rajiv Chandrasekaran in Kandahar contributed to this report.


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