President Hamid Karzai has appealed to hundreds of tribal leaders to support a major operation to stabilise Kandahar, a Taliban insurgency heartland. Many of the 30,000 US troops ordered to Afghanistan last year are to take part in the operation.
AFP - Afghan President Hamid Karzai Sunday appealed to hundreds of tribal and religious leaders to support a major operation in their southern province, the heartland of a Taliban insurgency.
Karzai, accompanied by top NATO commander US General Stanley McChrystal, held talks with representatives and residents in Kandahar about renewed efforts to bring stability to the war-weary province.
"Right now the life of Kandahar is a very bad life," Karzai said in a speech to the shura, a traditional council gathering, in a stuffy conference hall in Kandahar city.
"I need to start the operation to clean up the enemy. We need your help and support," he said.
Karzai's pleas were largely well received by the group, the majority of whom applauded and stood to raise their hands when he asked for their support.
Many of the 30,000 troops US President Barack Obama ordered to Afghanistan late last year are heading to Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement and a hotbed of bombings, assassinations and lawlessness.
The Kandahar operation promises to be a major test of foreign alliance efforts to bring a quick end to the nearly nine-year war against increasingly emboldened insurgents.
Karzai expressed condolences for the 50 people killed in the province in a Wednesday suicide bombing at a wedding, which was blamed on the Taliban, and called on the militants to renounce violence.
"Tell the people to be part of the solution... Let's cooperate, let's coordinate," he told the crowd.
Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omar said the president would use the Kandahar visit to stress to wary locals the campaign in the troubled area was a "process of stabilisation", rather than a major military offensive.
Although McChrystal accompanied Karzai's delegation, officials said a series of meetings would focus on local initiatives to bring improved development and governance to the area.
"Today is about Afghans taking leadership and ownership of the effort in Kandahar and not just security," said Lieutenant Colonel Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for McChrystal.
"Security is an important part of it but also the crucial governance piece and also some of the major development efforts."
The visit came amid a new report saying neighbouring Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency supports the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The report by the London School of Economics claims to have the most concrete evidence yet of direct links between the ISI and the militants, the BBC and Sky News reported.
It concludes that without a significant change in approach by Pakistan, both the Western-backed Afghan government and NATO-led forces will find it impossible to end the insurgency in Afghanistan.
Last week saw a surge in Taliban attacks as 30 NATO soldiers were killed and the alliance announced a two- to three-month delay in the peak of the Kandahar drive, the most ambitious counter-insurgency operation in the war to date.
A joint NATO-Afghan operation Friday killed 39 militants in Uruzgan province, which borders Kandahar, said the Afghan interior ministry.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates urged patience with the war as NATO's International Security Assistance Force estimated the 142,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan would increase to 150,000 by August as part of a troop surge.
US troops have been in Afghanistan since the invasion to topple the Taliban regime, which gave a safe haven to Al-Qaeda and refused to surrender Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Date created : 2010-06-13