Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly criticized the way the American-led coalition is conducting the war against terrorists in his country during an interview with the New York Times on Friday.
A Saturday story in the Times said Karzai wants American forces to stop arresting suspected Taliban members and sympathizers. Fear of these arrests, and past mistreatment, is only discouraging Taliban from voluntarily surrendering their arms, he said.
Karzai also blamed American forces, together with some Afghan warlords, for driving the Taliban out of the country and into the inaccessible tribal areas of Pakistan, where they have been able to regroup and rearm.
“That should not have happened,” he said.
The real terrorist threat is in those Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries in Pakistan, which must be closed off, Karzai said.
“If you want to live, and live in peace, and work for prosperity, that has to happen,” Karzai said, according to the Times. “The sanctuaries must go, period.”
But instead, American forces continue to focus their searches for terrorists in Afghan villages, causing needless civilian casualties, Karzai said.
Even though NATO says civilian casualties have dropped substantially since last year, they must cease completely, the president said.
The number of civilian casualties “seriously undermines our efforts to have an effective campaign against terrorism,” he said.
Karzai is facing re-election next year, after spending six years in office. His criticisms may be a way of showing his countrymen that he is an independent leader, unafraid to challenge the coalition and NATO forces involved in Afghanistan.