US, NATO behind ‘insecurity’ in Afghanistan: Karzai

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai severely criticised the United States (US) in an exclusive interview with NBC News on Thursday, blaming US and NATO forces for some of the growing insecurity in his country.
“Part of the insecurity is coming to us from the structures that NATO and America created in Afghanistan,” Karzai said during a one-on-one interview at the presidential palace. However, he also acknowledged that much of the country’s violence was caused by insurgent groups.
The Taliban are regaining land and power they lost after they were toppled by US-backed forces in 2001. Meanwhile, Karzai has gone from being a favourite of Washington under the presidency of George W Bush, to a thorn in the White House’s side with his criticism of American night raids and mounting civilian casualties at the hands of NATO troops. Many in Washington have also grown weary of Karzai, viewing him as ineffective and presiding over a deeply corrupt government.
Karzai, who is serving his second five-year term, also said that he had sent a letter to President Barack Obama saying that Afghanistan would not sign any new security agreements with the US until hundreds of prisoners held in US custody were transferred to Afghan authorities. His criticism of the US, Afghanistan’s most important ally, has come after the start of complex bilateral talks on a security pact on the role the US would play after most of its troops are withdrawn by the end of 2014.
Karzai said the inmates in American detention in Afghanistan were being held in breach of an agreement he and Obama had signed in March and the inmates must be handed over immediately.
“We signed the strategic partnership agreement with the expectation and the hope that the nature of the United States’ activities in Afghanistan will change,” Karzai said. But American behavior had not changed, he said, adding that terrorism would not be defeated “by attacking Afghan villages and Afghan homes”.
The dispute between the two countries centers on Bagram Air Base and a nearby detention facility, which have long been seen as a symbol of American impunity and disrespect by many Afghans.
“I have written to President Obama that the Afghan people will not allow its government to enter into a security agreement, while the US continues to violate Afghan sovereignty and result in Afghan loss,” he said.
During the interview, Karzai also said that he did not think al Qaeda “has a presence in Afghanistan”. He added he was not sure if al Qaeda existed as an organisation in the manner it was being talked about.
The US led the invasion in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to topple the Taliban, which was harboring al Qaeda and its then-leader, Osama bin Laden. While weakened, especially after the death of bin Laden at the hands of US special forces in Pakistan in 2011, al Qaeda is still thought to have strong links with the Taliban and other Afghan insurgents.