KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai respects President Barack Obama’s decision to dismiss the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, but had hoped for another result, Karzai’s spokesman said on Wednesday.
Since McChrystal took over as chief of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in June last year, he has formed a strong relationship with Karzai, accompanying him on several tours of the country in a bid to show support for the government.
“We had hoped this would not have happened, but the decision has been made and we respect it,” said Karzai spokesman Waheed Omer, referring to the dismissal. “He looks forward to working with his replacement.”
McChrystal has also been credited with reducing civilian casualties caused by foreign troops, which had been a major source of conflict between Karzai and the West.
McChrystal’s strategy entails taking on the Taliban in their spiritual homeland by improving security, alongside a push to boost local governance and development, while training Afghan forces to take more control before the start of a gradual U.S. troop withdrawal beginning next year.
Karzai has simultaneously been making overtures to the Taliban, and had a modest peace plan endorsed by a national gathering of tribal leaders and other notables earlier this month.
This week 14 suspected Taliban prisoners were freed, including two would-be suicide bombers who had surrendered, and Karzai said the United Nations Security Council would soon remove some Taliban names from a sanctions blacklist.
Insurgent leaders have scoffed at the approach, however, and insist they will keep fighting until all foreign forces leave.
Editing by David Stamp