Afghan President supports new US strategy in anti-terrorism war

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday he supported a new US strategy in the war against terror, which includes military operations inside Pakistan, and called for more international aid and training for his country's security forces, reported dpa.

"The new strategy is something that me and my colleagues in the Afghan government have talked about three and a half years ago," Karzai said at a press conference marking the seventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks for which the al-Qaeda terror network claimed responsibility.

"We believe that the change of strategy is important, meaning that we should go to places where are training centres, where are safe havens so that we jointly eliminate them [the terrorists]," the president said.

His comments came a day after US Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the US Congress he was not "convinced we're winning it in Afghanistan," and suggested a "new, more comprehensive strategy" to cover the entire region.

The US-led coalition forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, toppling the Taliban government after the Islamic regime refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks, and his associates.

Thousands of militants fled from the country and re-organized themselves in tribal areas along the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, sending hundreds of fighters to stage attacks against Afghan and international forces.

Allegations by the Afghan government of cross-border infiltration by militants based inside Pakistan have strained relations between the two Islamic countries, both main allies of the US in its war against terrorism.

Karzai had been at loggerheads over the issue with former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, who resigned late last month. Both presidents traded accusations that the other side was not doing enough to eliminate the menace of terrorism in the region.

Relations between Kabul and Islamabad, however, apparently improved after Karzai attended Tuesday's oath-taking ceremony of new President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the slain former premier Benazir Bhutto.

"We hope that the goodwill, which is between the two leaders and have always been between the peoples of the two countries, will turn into a practical struggle and effective fight against terrorism so that with the help of the international community we could bring an ideal peace for the people of this region," Karzai said.

Seven years after the ouster of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan is far from a stable and democratic country despite the flow of billions of dollars in aid and the deaths of several hundred international forces, who have been fighting the resurgent Taliban.

Mullah Omar, the elusive Taliban leader, and Osama bin Laden remain at large. Taliban militants have advanced this year from their main hotbeds in southern and eastern regions to areas close to the capital Kabul.

As part of the renewed focus on the country, US President George W Bush on Wednesday announced the deployment of 4,500 additional troops and vowed to boost the size of the Afghan army to more than 130,000 up from the initial planned 86,000.

There are more than 30,000 US forces in Afghanistan, more than half of them under the banner of NATO-led troops, which has some 53,000 forces from 40 nations stationed in the country.

Karzai welcomed the deployment of extra US forces. "These troops will add to the fight against terrorism, I hope they are deployed where they are the most needed in this war against terrorism," he said.

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