Sunday Feb 17, 201301:18 AM GMT
Karzai: Afghans don't need foreign troops
Sun Feb 17, 2013 1:17AM
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his people don't need foreign troops to protect the country, urging U.S.-led forces to withdraw quickly.

 

'We are the owners of this soil, Americans aren't,' Karzai said in a speech to young Afghan military officers in Kabul on Saturday.

 

'Fortunately they are leaving soon,' he said about the foreign troops deployed against al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks of 2001.

 

Karzai also instructed the Afghan military forces taking over from NATO-led troops not to request strikes from aircraft operated by foreign forces.

 

The president was addressing hundreds of Afghan military officials and officers in an event held under tight security in a newly constructed military academy.

 

'To defend our soil, we don't need foreign troops,' Karzai insisted to applause from the audience. 'My soil will be defended by these young officers.'

 

Ties between Karzai and Washington have soured during the more than decade-long military campaign, with Afghanistan angered by civilian casualties in the war and the U.S. complaining of widespread corruption under Karzai's rule.

 

On Wednesday, 10 Afghan civilians including women and children were killed in a NATO airstrike in eastern Kunar province, according to local officials, while Karzai put the death toll at 14 civilians.

 

Karzai said he had called the new U.S. troop commander, General Joseph Dunford, for clarification on the casualties, and said that Afghan forces had requested the airstrike.

 

'I make the announcement today that no Afghan military and security force can request foreigners' warplanes to bomb our own villages and houses,' Karzai said. AAP

 

FACTS & FIGURES

 

Civilian casualties caused by NATO forces are a highly sensitive issue in Afghanistan and are regularly condemned by President Hamid Karzai. AFP

 

According to the U.N., 13,431 civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict between 2007, when the U.N. began keeping statistics, and the end of August, 2012. Going back to the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, most estimates put the number of Afghan civilian deaths in the war at more than 20,000. USA Today

 

Attacks by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, including air strikes, have reportedly killed hundreds of children over the last four years, according to the U.N. body monitoring the rights of children. AP

 

The Geneva-based Committee on the Rights of the Child told the United States this week that it is "alarmed at reports of the death of hundreds of children as a result of attacks and air strikes by the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan." AP

 

AHT/ARA

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