KABUL, July 26: Al Qaeda no longer poses a military threat in Afghanistan but it retains the capacity to launch terrorist attacks, President Hamid Karzai told AFP on Friday, while pledging to bring warlords to heel through dialogue.

But despite claiming Osama bin Laden’s network was finished as a military force in Afghanistan, Mr Karzai gave his continued backing to the presence of thousands of US troops who are now also providing him close protection.

“They (Al Qaeda) are not a major threat. They are not a military threat. They may be assassins, they may be terrorists but they are not a military threat,” he said.

Mr Karzai expressed confidence in the security situation in Afghanistan despite the recent assassination of Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir.

He said his request this week for US military bodyguards was in response to a long-standing offer and not a result of specific threats.

“The security situation in Afghanistan is quite alright. The overall situation in the country is quite secure,” said Karzai.

“The Afghan people have been asking for me to have such help (from the Americans) for a long, long time.

“This is technical expertise. They have already brought a lot of improvement already... It’s a very good thing, I think I should have done this a long, long time back.”

The US-led coalition launched military strikes against Afghanistan’s former Taliban regime last October after it refused to hand over Osama, who Washington blamed for the Sept 11 terror attacks.

Thousands of American troops are still stationed in the country as they continue searching for diehard opposition fighters, although they have had little contact with them in recent months.—AFP

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