Karzai seeks greater Afghan role amid civilian casualties


New York : Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said his country’s security forces should take on more responsibilities to prevent mounting civilian casualties that have undermined local support for the US and NATO-led battle against Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants in Afghanistan.

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Karzai, in an address before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, warned that terrorist attacks were spreading “like wildfire” throughout the region. He urged international help to dismantle terrorist strongholds and build up the Afghan economy and military.

Civilian casualties at the hands of foreign troops have increased over the summer amid an uptick in attacks by Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the country, and led to strained relations between the Afghan government and NATO-led forces.

More than 90 civilians were killed last month in a US military airstrike in a western province, according to Afghan government and UN investigative teams.

“‘Afghanisation’ of the military operations is vital if the problem of civilian casualties is to be addressed effectively,” Karzai said.

Civilian deaths during the operations of international forces “can seriously undermine the legitimacy of fighting terrorism and the credibility of the Afghan people’s partnership with the international community,” he said.

The UN Security Council on Monday extended the international mission in Afghanistan for one year and called for more troops to combat the growing insurgency. The radical Islamic Taliban regime was ousted from power during a US invasion in 2001.

Karzai also suggested Pakistan should do more to shut down terrorist sanctuaries along its border with Afghanistan, a sparse region where the core of al-Qaeda remnants have been holed up for years.

“Afghanistan stands ready to take several steps for each single step that our brothers in Pakistan will take to address the challenge of radicalism and terrorism,” Karzai said.

The Afghan president also called for more development aid to help raise his country out of poverty. He called for industrial nations to keep their pledges to make money available during a donor conference in Paris in June.