Afghan leader urges rethink of ‘ineffective’ anti-terror strategy, criticizes civilian deaths

By Amir Shah, AP
Monday, August 30, 2010

Afghan president criticizes anti-terror strategy

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai renewed his criticism of coalition strategy in fighting Afghanistan’s stubborn insurgency, saying it has thus far produced nothing but civilian deaths.

Meanwhile, a district chief from eastern Afghanistan was killed Monday by a bomb placed in his car that exploded as he was entering a government compound to attend a meeting of provincial security and political leaders.

Insurgents had apparently planned for the bomb that killed Syad Mohammad Palawan to explode inside the governor’s compound in Nangarhar province’s capital of Jalalabad, said provincial police spokesman Ghafor Khan. Officials were meeting at the compound Monday to discuss strategies for battling the insurgency and improving governance in the volatile province.

Khan said three of Palawan’s bodyguards were wounded in the attack.

Palawan’s district of Lal Pur lies on the mountainous border with Pakistan overlooking infiltration routes for Arab and other foreign fighters linked to al-Qaida and aided by Pakistani militants.

Karzai’s sharp comments delivered Sunday fit a pattern of greater outspokenness by the Afghan leader as he appeals for support among the beleaguered Afghan public.

In a meeting with visiting German Parliament speaker Norbert Lammert, Karzai said there was a “serious need” to alter strategy against the Taliban and other groups linked to al-Qaida, the presidential office said.

“There should be a review of the strategy in the fight against terrorism, because the experience of the last eight years showed that the fight in the villages of Afghanistan has been ineffective apart from causing civilian casualties,” Karzai was quoted as saying.

Karzai’s statements come at a time when the Obama administration is ratcheting up pressure on the Afghan leader to do more to stamp out corruption. The Afghan government maintains that the U.S. should instead focus more on other fronts, including pressuring Pakistan to shut down insurgent sanctuaries.

Last week, Karzai also criticized the U.S. plan to begin withdrawing troops starting next July and said the war on terror cannot succeed as long as the Taliban and their allies maintain safe havens in Pakistan.

In other comments, Karzai thanked Lammert for German assistance in rebuilding Afghanistan’s battered infrastructure and asked him to encourage German companies to invest in the country, especially in its promising mining sector, the presidential office said.

Germany maintains more than 4,500 troops in Afghanistan, based in the northern provinces of Kunduz and Badakhshan where the Taliban has stepped up attacks as part of an apparent strategy of spreading the fight from its strongholds in the country’s southern and eastern regions.

Karzai’s comments contradict statements from coalition commanders that a boost in foreign forces in Afghanistan to more than 140,000 has stopped the momentum of recent Taliban advances. They come amid a surge in fighting that has so far left 62 coalition troops dead this month, including 42 Americans.

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