- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan | Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday that he would bring down U.S. planes bombing villages if he could, in a sign of growing tension between Afghanistan and its Western backers as the Taliban insurgency grows in strength.

As Western dissatisfaction with Mr. Karzai has grown over his failure to crack down on corruption and govern effectively, the Afghan president, facing elections next year, has hit back over the killing of dozens of civilians in foreign air strikes.

In recent weeks, Mr. Karzai has repeatedly blamed the West for the worsening security in Afghanistan, saying NATO failed to target Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan and calling for the war to be taken out of Afghan villages.

“We have no other choice, we have no power to stop the planes, if we could, if I could … we would stop them and bring them down,” Mr. Karzai told a news conference.

He said that if he had something like the rock attached to a piece of string, known as a chelak in Dari, used to bring down kites in Afghanistan, he would use it.

“If we had a chelak, we would throw it and stop the American aircraft. We have no radar to stop them in the sky, we have no planes,” he said. “I wish I could intercept the planes that are going to bomb Afghan villages, but that’s not in my hands.”

Afghanistan has suffered its worst violence this year since U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001, with at least 4,000 people killed, about a third of them civilians.

Despite the presence of 65,000 foreign troops backing 130,000 Afghan security forces, Taliban insurgents have grown increasingly confident.

Mr. Karzai said it was Afghanistan’s misfortune that it was unable to stop the wars that have raged on its soil for nearly three decades, since Soviet troops invaded the country in 1979.

“That is our sadness in the past 30 years of conflicts and miseries, we did not have a practical choice to save ourselves from evil, therefore we are doing our best to seek for a solution through peace talks,” he said.

Mr. Karzai repeated an offer to personally guarantee the security of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar if he were to give himself up and agree to abide by the Afghan Constitution.

Afghan officials have begun tentative talks with former Taliban leaders sponsored by Saudi Arabia as a way of reaching out to the militants, but analysts say the Taliban leadership is unlikely to engage in serious dialogue while they sense disarray among their enemies and feel the war is going their way.

Visiting NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said international troops were doing their best to reduce civilian casualties and said reconciliation talks with the Taliban were a matter for the Afghan government to decide.

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