War on terror not in Afghanistan, Karzai tells US general

Afghan President Hamid Karzai reiterated calls on Washington Thursday to shift its military focus to “terror” hideouts outside his troubled country, saying there had been “no progress” in the war.

In comments made to General James Mattis, head of US Central Command visiting his fortified palace in Kabul, Karzai said the US-led war “will not be won unless terrorists’ havens are eliminated,” his office said in a statement.

Karzai was referring to neighbouring Pakistan, where Afghan officials and Western commanders say the Taliban, Al-Qaeda backers and other Islamist insurgents have strongholds from which they launch attacks on Afghanistan.

The US-backed Karzai said reducing the number of civilian casualties during military operations would also help “to win” the war.

Karzai was quoted as telling Mattis that strengthening Afghan security forces was vital if they are to take over eventually from tens of thousands of Western troops.

There are around 141,000 US-led foreign troops deployed in Afghanistan to fight an escalating Taliban insurgency, which began after US-led forces brought down their government for sheltering Al-Qaeda leaders in 2001.

Karzai has said that Afghan security forces, currently being trained under a US-led programme, will take over from Western troops at the end of 2014.

At a separate meeting with US congressmen, Karzai said that a July 2011 date announced by President Barack Obama to start withdrawing US troops from his war-shattered country has boosted Taliban morale “to some extent”.

“The lack of progress in the war on terror has two factors: one the terror sanctuaries have not been addressed and second because civilians were killed during this war,” his office quoted Karzai as telling the lawmakers.

Karzai, once a darling of the West, has suffered declining support at home and abroad due to rampant corruption and insecurity spreading to most parts of the country.