- Afghanistan - USA - war
The government of President Hamid Karzai favours dialogue with Taliban insurgents who are willing to give up their arms, Afghan Foreign Affairs Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said in an interview with FRANCE 24.
“Afghanistan is ready to talk to all those elements. If they are ready to put down arms and accept Afghanistan’s democratic constitution,” said Spanta, adding that “this is our responsibility, for the peace and the prosperity of Afghan people.”
The statements from the foreign affairs minister came at the same time as a surprise visit to Afghanistan by George W. Bush. The US president made a joint appearance with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and reaffirmed Washington's pledge for a prolonged presence in the country.
President Hamid Karzai acknowledged the need for a lasting presence of foreign troops in his country. He added that it was not yet the time to talk about creating a timetable for a withdrawal of US troops.
"Afghanistan will not allow the international community to leave before the country is fully on its feet, before we are strong enough to defend ourselves, before we are powerful enough to have a good economy."
Speaking to FRANCE 24, Spanta echoed this sentiment, saying his country continues to be “very thankful to the United States and President George W. Bush for his generosity, support and collaboration.”
Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, Afghan Foreign Affairs Minister, speaking to FRANCE 24
The Afghan minister also said he welcomed President-elect Barack Obama’s call for increased US engagement in Afghanistan, but added that a surge in troops had to complement the previous security strategy and existing forces.
Foreign forces must be deployed “in dangerous places, he added, for example along the southern border, to stop cross-border terrorist activities.”
Minister Spanta also highlighted his country’s reduction of poppy seed production by 19 percent. “The security issue and drug production and trafficking are interlinked with each other,” Spanta insisted.
70,000 foreign troops are fighting an insurgency that has grown increasingly violent since a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.
This year has been the bloodiest for foreign forces since the Taliban fell. General David McKiernan, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has asked for more than 20,000 extra US soldiers to counter rising violence.