Al Jazeera & Susan Decker and Angela Greiling Keane / Bloomberg – 2010-11-14 22:44:52
Karzai Calls for Fewer US Raids
KABUL (November 14, 2010) — Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has appealed to the United States to reduce the visibilty and intensity of its military operations in Afghanistan.
In an interview with The Washington Post newspaper on Saturday, Karzai said that the long-term presence of foreign troops on Afghan soil could only worsen the security situation in the country and hit out at an increase in night-time raids by special forces. “The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan … to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life,” he said.
Karzai said that US troops must cease the night raids, which violate Afghan homes and encourage more people to join the Taliban. “The raids are a problem always. They were a problem then, they are a problem now. They have to go away,” he said. “The Afghan people don’t like these raids, if there is any raid it has to be done by the Afghan government within the Afghan laws. This is a continuing disagreement between us.”
Karzai, who said during his inaugural speech last year that he would like to have full Afghan security control by 2014, said that the US military “should and could” draw down its forces next year.
The Afghan president made the remarks as suspected Taliban attacks killed at least one foreign soldier and two civilians. The civilians were killed when a homemade bomb, attached to a parked motorcycle, exploded in the main market area of Spin Boldak, in the province of Kandahar on Sunday. The NATO soldier, whose nationality was not released, was also killed by a blast in Spin Boldak. It was not immediately clear if the two incidents were related.
Meanwhile, at least 14 vehicles in a convoy of NATO fuel tankers were set on fire in eastern Afghanistan. Witnesses said armed men attacked the convoy in the Beshud district of Nangarhar and the drivers fled as the attack began. “There were 16 fuel tankers in the convoy, 14 of them have been burned and two others have escaped,” Fazel Hadi, a police officer, said.
Graham ‘Stunned’ at Karzai’s Objection to Night Raids
Susan Decker and Angela Greiling Keane / Bloomberg
WASHINGTON (November 14, 2010) — Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was “stunned” at a report that Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the US to scale back operations in his country.
Karzai, in an interview with the Washington Post published today, called for an end to night raids by US Special Operations units searching Afghan homes for insurgents, saying the missions anger citizens and may help the Taliban win more recruits.
Graham said today on ABC’s “This Week” that the issue never arose when he and Karzai met at a recent dinner also attended by General David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, and Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to the country. He didn’t say when the meeting took place.
“We talked about, quite frankly, looking long term with Afghanistan about having two air bases in a permanent fashion in Afghanistan to provide stability,” Graham said. “There was no discussion about a difference between Petraeus and Karzai in terms of strategy.”
Karzai has criticized US and NATO military operations in the past that resulted in civilian casualties.
“The raids are a problem always,” Karzai told the Post. “They were a problem then, they are a problem now. They have to go away. The Afghan people don’t like these raids, if there is any raid it has to be done by the Afghan government within the Afghan laws. This is a continuing disagreement between us.”
American military commanders contend the nighttime strikes are critical to capturing Taliban leaders and weakening the insurgency, the newspaper said. Graham said stopping them would be “a big loss in terms of gaining security.”
“The Petraeus strategy must be allowed to go forward for us to be successful,” the South Carolina Republican said. “The security gains are obvious. Weâ€™re not there yet, but we’re moving in the right direction, and to take the night raids off the table would be a disaster.”
Karzai’s statements are “a fundamental disconnect between his assessment of where the country’s going and the assessment of Gen. Petraeus,” said Stephanie Sanok, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Sanok said Karzai is asking for more than he expects to get to push for increased influence over US policy in the country.
“I don’t think he’ll get veto authority,” she said, predicting Karzai may become “better informed and part of the decision-making process.”
Sanok, a security analyst based in Washington, said she is “disturbed” by Karzai’s demand for an end to night raids that have been effective in the “past couple months.”
“If we ended or significantly cut back on the night raids, I’m not sure that the goodwill it buys counteracts” the loss of effectiveness, she said.
Karzai also said the US should stick to a plan to lower its troop levels beginning in July 2011, saying “the time has come to reduce military operations” and “the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life.”
Graham said some troop reduction will occur in 2011, though there will need to be “a substantial number of troops in Afghanistan” until 2014. He said it also “will be great to have a couple of air bases there in perpetuity to help the Afghans to send the right signal to the regions.”
He said the Afghan government needs to do more to reduce corruption.
Karzai told the Post that the corruption has been caused by the billions of American dollars being sent to independent contractors who aren’t answerable to the government’s ministries.
Editors: Fred Strasser, Kevin Costelloe
To contact the reporters on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at email@example.com.
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