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Karzai backs US plan to attack Fata militants

September 12, 2008

KABUL, Sept 11: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday welcomed a new US “war on terror” focus on Pakistan’s border areas as further deadly violence underscored rampant militancy seven years after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Mr Karzai also called for a complete end to civilian casualties in the anti-extremism fight after a US strike last month which Afghan and US officials say left 90 villagers dead.

He welcomed comments from the US military chief and said he had long called for a shift in operations to target extremists launching attacks from Pakistan’s rugged border regions to Afghanistan’s east.

“Our words have been clear in this regard: a change in strategy is needed, meaning that we must go to places where there is training and hideout facilities (for terrorists) and jointly we must go there and destroy that,” Mr Karzai said.

He spoke after US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Michael Mullen said he had commissioned “a new, more comprehensive military strategy for the region that covers both sides of that border”. The United States says the area is a safe haven for militants who are a threat to Afghanistan and the world.

Mr Karzai has often said Afghanistan should not be the sole battleground for the “war on terror” with much of the violence plotted and equipped across the border in militant bases.

He paid tribute to the international soldiers in his country to help tackle violence and expand the Afghan security forces, destroyed in a civil war that preceded the Taliban’s 1996-2001 government.

But he also said there had been mistakes, notably the number of civilians being killed in military operations.

“We want civilian casualties in Afghanistan not only to reduce but to stop totally,” Mr Karzai said.

The country’s campaign against extremist militants would only succeed if it had public support, he said, referring to disaffection caused by the killing of ordinary Afghans.—AFP