26 Nov 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — President Hamid Karzai criticized the U.S. and other foreign countries for creating a "parallel government" in Afghanistan's countryside during a blunt overview of the country's problems before a U.N. Security Council delegation.
Karzai called Tuesday for the international community to set a timeline to end the war in Afghanistan and asked why — given the number of countries involved and the amount of money spent — the Taliban remains so powerful.
"This war has gone on for seven years, the Afghans don't understand anymore, how come a little force like the Taliban can continue to exist, can continue to flourish, can continue to launch attacks," he asked.
With an entire NATO force in Afghanistan and the entire international community behind them, "still we are not able to defeat the Taliban," Karzai told the gathering at his presidential palace.
Karzai, who is facing re-election next year and making increasing overtures to conservative Afghan tribes most likely to vote for him, has been criticized for being ineffective and weak, while his government was accused of deep-seated corruption.
The president's Tuesday comments appear to be a response to that criticism and lay the blame for the deteriorating security situation and other woes on the international community.
Karzai's office sent a lengthy English transcript of his remarks to journalists, making it clear he wanted the comments publicized internationally.
The critique also comes as the international community, and the United States in particular, is ramping up military and aid efforts in Afghanistan. The U.S. now has some 32,000 troops in the country, but U.S. military leaders say up to 20,000 more American forces could be sent to Afghanistan next year.
Incoming President-elect Barack Obama has said he would increase America's focus on Afghanistan. Despite that, Karzai for the first time said a timeline for the end of the war needs to be set.
"If there is no deadline, we have the right to find another solution for peace and security, which is negotiations," Karzai said.
International forces have set up a countryside system of military-civilian reconstruction teams whose primary task is not combat but reconstruction and development. But Karzai said the presence of the so-called provincial reconstruction teams, or PRTs, has undermined provincial governments.
"The problem here is, in a diverting play, the presence of the international community has created a parallel government to those such as of the Afghan government that are functioning. The PRTs in certain parts of the country have become a parallel structure to the governor of the province," he told the U.N. team.
Karzai did not elaborate how the PRTs had created parallel governments, but the significant amount of international aid would wield substantial influence in impoverished regions.
Security in Afghanistan has deteriorated ever since the country held presidential elections in 2004, because the international community lost focus and allowed the Taliban to regroup and create sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan, which were not addressed until last year, Karzai said.
"Rather than conducting the war against terrorism, and the sanctuaries, we began to conduct this war in the villages of Afghanistan where there were no terrorists," Karzai said. He said that bombings and operations in the villages must stop, a demand he has made repeatedly in the face of civilian deaths from U.S. and NATO bombings.
Despite billions of dollars in aid and major construction and reconstruction finished since the Taliban were ousted in the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, Karzai said Afghan people have not seen security. He called for more investment to develop the Afghan army and police force, and said the expansion of those forces must be sped up.