Mon, Aug 28, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Karzai defends government against media critics


Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that recent criticism of his leadership and his administration stemmed from disagreements that he had had with some partners of the US-led coalition in Afghani-stan over the conduct of military operations.

"For some time, some circles of the Western media have started special propaganda against me and the Afghan government," he told journalists at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands.

"We had some disagreements with some members of the international coalition against terrorism concerning counterterrorism, and maybe they did not like those arguments," he said. "And their media, because of that, started propaganda against us."

Karzai has come under sharp criticism at home and abroad for failing to protect the country from violence and manage the economy, and for allowing widespread corruption in his government.

In response, he has repeatedly blamed the worsening insurgency in southern Afghanistan on infiltration from Pakistan, and has called on the US and its coalition allies to direct their attention against training camps and financing and recruiting efforts for the insurgency in that country.

He has lamented that Afghans are dying in a war being fueled from outside the country's borders.

He has also said that for two years he had been warning members of the US-led coalition that the Taliban were a growing danger but that his warnings were not taken seriously.

"The Americans told him they would take care of the Taliban and cross-border infiltration, and two years later, it's gotten worse," a Western diplomat in Kabul said. "President Karzai feels let down."

Balkenende, whose country has deployed 1,400 soldiers in Uruzgan Province as part of a NATO force, agreed the insurgency was fueled by fighters from Pakistan. He called for stronger cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan to combat the insurgency.

"It is no use fighting against those forces who are jeopardizing the prospects of the population in Uruzgan," Balkenende said, "while at the same moment constantly new people are coming in."

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