Preparing for eventual exit of NATO troops, Karzai pushes Afghan security forces to develop

By Rahim Faiez, AP
Saturday, October 2, 2010

Karzai gives pep speech to Afghan security forces

KABUL, Afghanistan — Preparing for the eventual exit of international forces, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Saturday on his own police and army to get ready to take charge of protecting and defending the nation.

Karzai’s speech — upbeat with nationalistic themes — was an apparent move to bolster Afghanistan’s image as a sovereign nation that must plan for its future despite its heavy reliance on international troops and aid. Karzai said U.S. and NATO forces will leave Afghanistan once they no longer feel the need to stay for their own national security interests.

When that happens, Afghans must be ready to protect the borders, the people and have good governance, Karzai said.

“Unfortunately today we do not have this capacity and capability,” he said at the presidential palace where he promoted 28 members of the Afghan police, army and intelligence service.

Karzai cautioned the 100 members of the security forces in the audience not to rely on a longtime presence of international forces — that they should use the current time to bolster their capacity.

“It is possible that one day this international community, which is with us today, will not see a benefit in Afghanistan any more and leave us — like they left us in the past,” Karzai said. “What then is the task of the Afghan people, the Afghan government and the Afghan armed forces? Maintaining and developing the national interests of our country.”

Karzai’s speech recounted three decades of history in Afghanistan, including U.S. efforts to arm the mujahedeen in the 1980s, which helped speed the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan. Afterward, however, Afghanistan’s international allies did not continue to help.

“The U.S., Britain, France and many other countries closed their embassies in Afghanistan because they didn’t see any more benefit to being here after the jihad victory over the Soviets,” he said.

The country then slipped into a civil war and turmoil that created an opening eventually filled by the Taliban, which provided a safe haven for al-Qaida. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States — carried out by al-Qaida terrorists trained in Afghanistan — the U.S. invaded the country it had once helped liberate.

Separately on Saturday, officials announced nine drug traffickers have been sentenced to up to 17 years and given stiff fines by the Primary Court of the Criminal Justice Task Force for trafficking 41 pounds (19 kilograms) of heroin, 968 pounds (440 kilograms) of opium and 24 pounds (11 kilograms) of hashish.

Khalilu Rahman Motawakel, a spokesman for the task force, said the longest sentence was handed down to three traffickers from Helmand province in the south. The announcement was seen as part of Afghanistan’s effort to demonstrate it is cracking down on the illegal drug trade, which is a major source of revenue for the country’s insurgency.

Also in the restive south, coalition forces said they found more than 1,000 pounds (460 kilograms) of ammonium nitrate in a village in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province on Friday. They said more than 20 homemade bombs could have been made with the amount of material discovered.

It was the second significant find of bomb-making material in Arghandab in two days. On Thursday, forces found more than 2,400 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of the same material.

NATO forces last week began an operation called “Dragon Strike” in areas around Kandahar to flush out militants and destroy their strongholds.

Six insurgents were killed by coalition troops Friday in Kandahar’s Zhari district. Security forces also defused two rockets and found explosive materials and gunpowder, according to the office of the Kandahar governor.

NATO said four insurgents were captured in a rural area in Helmand in a two-day effort there to pressure local insurgent groups and limit their freedom of movement.

It said the militants fought back strongly, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. It did not say if there were any casualties among coalition forces and said the number of militants killed was still being determined.

Associated Press Writer Eric Talmadge in Kabul contributed to this report.

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