- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2005

Afghanistan’s president yesterday rejected reported U.S. claims that he had not worked hard enough to curtail production of opium, the raw material for heroin.

“We are going to have probably all over the country at least 30 percent poppies reduced,” Hamid Karzai said. “So, we have done our job. The Afghan people have done our job.

“Now the international community must come and provide alternative livelihood to the Afghan people, which they have not done so far. Let us stop this blame,” he said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Ahead of his White House meeting today with President Bush, Mr. Karzai said he wants greater control over American military operations in his country and punishment for any U.S. troops who mistreat prisoners. He cited reports of prisoner abuse by American forces at the main military prison north of Kabul, the capital.

The United Nations also called for Afghan human rights investigators to be allowed into Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, after the New York Times reported that poorly trained U.S. soldiers there repeatedly had abused prisoners.

Production of opium in Afghanistan has soared since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, leading to warnings that the former al Qaeda haven is fast turning into a “narcostate” despite the presence of more than 20,000 foreign troops.

Last year, cultivation reached a record 323,700 acres and yielded nearly 90 percent of the world’s supply.

A diplomatic cable sent May 13 from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a U.S.-sponsored crackdown on the world’s largest narcotics industry had not been very effective, partly because Mr. Karzai “has been unwilling to assert strong leadership,” according to a New York Times report yesterday.

Taking issue with that report, Mr. Karzai said, “Instead of blaming Afghanistan, the international community must now come and fulfill its own objective to the Afghan people, and they must not spend money on projects that they cannot deliver properly in Afghanistan and on creation of forces that are not effective.”

He added: “Where the Afghan government worked, it was effective. … Where international money and creation of forces for destruction of poppies was concerned, it was ineffective and delayed and halfhearted.”

Mr. Karzai also spoke of the successful partnership with the United States that helped drive the Taliban from Afghanistan.

“Now, we are in a different phase of this struggle. The Afghan people have gone to elections, they have a constitution, they have elected a government. … The Afghan people now feel that they own that country,” Mr. Karzai said.

As a result, he said, he wants some restrictions on how the U.S. military operates in his country.

“Operations that involve going to people’s homes, that involves knocking on people’s doors, must stop, must not be done without the permission of the Afghan government,” Mr. Karzai said.

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