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Asia-pacific

Kabul joins US review on 'war on terror'

©

Video by Carla WESTERHEIDE

Latest update : 2009-02-15

At a meeting with US envoy Richard Holbrooke, Afghan President Hamid Karzai praised US President Barack Obama's plan for combating terrorism, adding that he would send a delegation to Washington to discuss the matter.

AFP - Afghanistan will join a major US review into the conduct of the "war on terror," President Hamid Karzai announced Sunday amid tensions between the allies about the fight against growing Taliban-led unrest.
   
Karzai made the announcement after talks with US envoy Richard Holbrooke late Saturday as criticism from Afghanistan mounts over civilian casualties in US-led operations against Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives.
   
"I am very, very thankful that President (Barack) Obama has accepted my proposal of Afghanistan joining the strategic review of the war against terrorism in the United States," Karzai told reporters.
   
Kabul would send a delegation to Washington headed by Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta to take part in the reassessment, he said.
   
Obama ordered the review amid growing alarm about mounting Islamic extremism in the region seven years after the United States launched its "war on terror" with the ouster of Afghanistan's extremist Islamic Taliban regime.
   
Holbrooke arrived late Thursday as part of a regional tour to inform the review and met a wide range of Afghan officials and politicians, international military commanders and diplomats before holding talks with Karzai.
   
Karzai has meanwhile stepped up his criticism of international military tactics, including bombing raids that have killed and wounded hundreds of Afghan civilians and night-time house searches.
   
He said he welcomed a recent agreement by the US-led forces to take "specific measures" to reduce civilian casualties and stop night raids.
   
A deal announced last week will see Afghans more closely involved in the the planning and execution of military operations, a joint Afghan and US statement said.
   
Holbrooke and Karzai did not give details of their talks but the Afghan leader said they were "very detailed and fruitful discussions."
   
"We have come here to listen and to learn your points of view," the US envoy told reporters. The visit was "to reaffirm America's commitment to the effort in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda," he said.
   
The new US administration has been more critical of Karzai that the previous government of George W. Bush, casting doubt on Washington's support for him ahead of presidential elections due in August.
   
The United States has 37,000 troops in Afghanistan and is the main donor to efforts to rebuild a country ruined by war, including resistance to the 1980s Soviet occupation, to which the United States poured in arms and money.
   
More than 30 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan this year, including two on Saturday.
   
Thousands more US troops are expected this year, after 2008 was the deadliest in terms of Taliban violence, including suicide attacks, assassinations of government officials and ambushes on Afghan and international troops.
   
In an interview with Al-Jazeera late Thursday, Karzai admitted to a "crisis" between Washington and Kabul including over civilian casualties, which he has warned risk public support for his government and the foreign forces.
   
And he rejected US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's assertion that Afghanistan is a "narco-state," saying it did not benefit from the money generated by the huge illegal opium and heroin trade.
   
In an interview with CNN due to air on Sunday, Karzai conceded there was corruption in Afghanistan as in any developing country, exacerbated by a flood of aid money in a country devastated by years of war.
   
"Part of it is our problem, part of it is the problem of the international community and the way they make contracts," he said.
   
Holbrooke said this month a new approach was required to turn Afghanistan around.
   
"It is going to be a long, difficult struggle," he said at an international conference in Germany last week, adding that he believed Afghanistan was going to be "much tougher than Iraq."
 

Date created : 2009-02-15

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