Thursday, March 19, 2009

'Afghanistan not puppet state': Karzai

Updated at: 0530 PST, Thursday, March 19, 2009

KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned the international community Wednesday to avoid meddling in governing Afghanistan as the country prepares to go to the polls to elect a new president later this year.Speaking alongside NATO's secretary-general, Karzai told a news conference in Kabul that his government's foreign partners should respect and honor his country's independence."Afghanistan ... will never be a puppet state," Karzai said.Karzai faces re-election in August, at a time when the country is embroiled in a vicious Taliban-led insurgency, and the performance of his government has been criticized by the incoming President Barack Obama's administration and other Western capitals as inefficient and corrupt.As the new U.S. administration shifts the focus from the Iraq war to Afghanistan, Obama has also ordered a review of America's strategy in the region. The results of the review are expected later this month.In response to a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, Obama has also ordered thousands of new troops to the country's south — the Taliban's heartland — this year and his administration has urged other NATO allies to do more.Karzai said that he appreciates the work that the U.S. and other members of the international community have done so far in the fight against terrorism and the reconstruction of the country.Karzai said that some in the international community are proposing that the power of the central government should be weakened, without explaining who are those behind such an idea."That is not their job," Karzai said."The issue of governance and the creation of (a mechanism for) good governance is the work of the Afghan people," Karzai said.

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