Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Friday that if he is re-elected next month he would negotiate a new agreement with foreign nations deploying troops in Afghanistan, to regulate their status and their behavior.
Speaking to 3,000 supporters at a rally in Kabul, Karzai also said that his top priority was to bring about peace and that he would push ahead with negotiations with the Taliban and other opposition groups, and would devote more effort to law and order and to governance.
Karzai’s comments were intended to appeal to voters by addressing Afghan complaints about civilian casualties, raids on private homes and the detention of people without charges.
They came as two US soldiers were killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan on Friday. Thousands of Marines have been deployed in the south in an attempt to curb the Taliban insurgency enough to allow elections on Aug. 20.
Visiting the central province of Ghazni on Friday, the US special envoy for the region, Richard Holbrooke, seemed to acknowledge worries that the country’s continuing lack of security would make the voting difficult, as well as complaints from Karzai’s challengers over the fairness of the campaign.
“Elections here will be imperfect,” Holbrooke said, according to The Associated Press. “But I am an American who lived through an imperfect election eight years ago. I am not going to hold Afghanistan to standards which even the United States does not achieve.”
“What we want is an election that reflects the legitimate will of the Afghan people, and whoever wins, the international community will support,” he said.
Karzai has done little campaigning so far and pulled out of a TV debate on Thursday, saying that he had not yet announced his platform.
But on Friday he addressed the country’s most pressing issues: the continuing fighting and the actions of foreign troops, which have affected his popularity.
“In this fight against terrorism we want our home to be safe, not to be insecure,” Karzai told the gathering. “Our law should be respected, our religion and our culture should be respected. It should be known who is the owner of the house and who is the guest. We want to legitimize their presence.”
Karzai said he had tried hard to reach agreements with foreign forces in Afghanistan. “We have seen some steps, but we want to go further,” he said.
He promised that any solution would be worked out with tribal and religious leaders in a loya jirga, or grand tribal council.
Karzai also said that he would bring members of the Taliban and Hesbe Islami, another opposition group, to peace negotiations and include them in a tribal council. The US and the rest of the international community has resisted such plans but were now more supportive of the idea, he said.