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Afghanistan delivers a belated, muted criticism of Obama's war review

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 20, 2010; 7:38 PM

KABUL - Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government offered a lukewarm response Monday to President Obama's war strategy review, saying that it should have focused more on other issues, such as Afghan civilian casualties.

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Waheed Omar, Karzai's chief spokesman, added that the planned handover from U.S. and NATO troops to Afghan security forces by 2014 will not succeed without more foreign training and equipment.

"We welcome most of the report. It is mostly on the right track, but there are certain problems we want more attention paid to," Omar said at a news conference. He said U.S. plans should focus more not only on protecting Afghan civilians but also on removing "parallel structures," meaning private security forces, from embattled regions.

Omar did not address the ongoing tensions between Karzai and U.S. officials, but he rejected suggestions that the Kabul government had not been consulted on Obama's review. "Even the closest of partners," he said, can disagree on issues and point to areas where the other "could do better."

The politely critical response came after a weekend of official silence here since Obama's hard-hitting review was made public in summary form Friday. It described military progress in the nine-year-old war as both "fragile and reversible," with areas of Taliban influence and control still extensive.

Omar said the Karzai government was eager to see a successful transition from foreign to Afghan control of the nation's security, which the Obama administration plans to begin next year and complete by 2014. Following a substantial surge in the U.S. military presence last year, there are now about 150,000 U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

But the spokesman said several conditions would have to be met first.

"Our position is that the transition can be successful by the end of 2014 only if the Afghan security forces receive sufficient equipment and training and the proper enablers are provided," he said.

Omar also said that a "pre-condition for security" is to "eliminate parallel structures" from the war.

The Karzai administration issued a controversial decree earlier this year banning all foreign private security companies from Afghanistan by this month. The firms employ thousands of Americans and other foreign nationals to protect both international and government facilities in Afghanistan.

Washington strongly opposed the ban, and there have been reports of a possible compromise, but Omar said the government was determined to stick to its original demand.

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