February 16, 2008 / 1:58 PM / 12 years ago

Karzai under foreigners' influence: Afghan paper

KABUL (Reuters) - President Hamid Karzai is under the influence of foreign powers and troops led by NATO and the U.S. must set a firm date for their departure from Afghanistan, a government-run daily newspaper said on Saturday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai applauds at the start of a two-day education development forum in Kabul February 12, 2008. REUTERS/ Omar Sobhani

The remarks are the first of their kind in an Afghan paper about Karzai and foreign troops in Afghanistan, where there is frustration over growing insecurity and rampant corruption.

“...It should be said that the Afghan nation reacts seriously, despite its difficulties, when the national interests of their country are exposed to foreign danger and have never accepted and nor will accept a protege government,” Anis said.

“If the world does not pay attention to this matter, soon the fire of Afghanistan will burn the region and a situation will emerge that will be unimaginable for anyone.”

Karzai has been running Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces and allied Afghan factions overthrew the Taliban government in 2001. The 51-year-old won the presidential election in 2004 but is under pressure because of a steady increase in violence and the weakness of his government.

Anis said Karzai’s government was a protectorate and the nation must discuss the issue of national sovereignty with “the foreigners” before next year’s presidential election.

“For the appointment of each high-ranking employee, Mr. Karzai has to propose individuals and then (announce their appointment) after the approval of foreigners,” Anis said.

The paper did not elaborate further and did not identify the foreigners. Britain and the United States are the key players in Afghanistan which has been ravaged by decades of foreign intervention and civil war.

Karzai’s press office said the president was on an official trip to the Gulf and it could not comment on the Anis report.

AUTHORITY UNDERMINED

The government expelled two British nationals who worked as senior employees for the U.N. and EU in December because it said their activities were undermining its authority. Last month Karzai rejected the appointment of British politician Paddy Ashdown as the U.N.’s special envoy to Afghanistan.

The Afghan defense ministry said recently it wanted to take over from the U.S. military and NATO as the leading force in the war against Taliban insurgents.

Afghanistan’s army relies on Western powers for arms and funding. More than 50,000 foreign troops under the command of NATO and the U.S. military are stationed in Afghanistan.

Karzai has repeatedly urged Western allies to provide more funds and resources to the Afghan security forces, rather than send more troops.

Anis said the training and equipping of Afghan forces had been very slow since the Taliban’s removal and this should not be used as an excuse for foreign troops to remain.

“...The long-term presence of foreign military troops in Afghanistan with the justification ‘that the Afghan government’s military forces are not able to defend the government’s authority’, is in no way defensible,” it said.

“These forces should come up with a precise projection about the continuation of their presence in Afghanistan so that society and the government know when to complete the priorities of government-building.”

Editing by Robert Woodward

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