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Karzai says US help saved Afghanistan

January 27, 2008

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WASHINGTON, Jan 26 The US-installed Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that he knew people called him “a puppet of America” and he was willing to accept this image because without US help Afghanistan would have been occupied by its neighbours and Al Qaeda.

“The US administration has helped Afghanistan and if we are called puppets, or if I am called a puppet because we are grateful to America, then let that be my nickname,” Mr Karzai told CNN.

“Me a puppet? My God,” exclaimed Mr Karzai, when asked to comment on his perceived image as an impotent leader in thrall to the US administration.

But he quickly added that he was willing to shoulder insults in return for US assistance. “Anyway, Americans have helped Afghanistan tremendously. The American people have a feeling for Afghanistan a very, very great feeling,” he said.

“The truth is that without the United States in Afghanistan, Afghanistan would be a very poor, miserable country, occupied by neighbours and Al Qaeda and terrorists.”

In the same interview, Mr Karzai urged the international community to help defeat terrorism in Pakistan, insisting that unless it's done Afghanistan could fall into terrorist hands as well.

In a veiled reference to the theory that Pakistan needs Afghanistan for a strategic depth in its fight against India, Mr Karzai said that “misguided policy objectives” of some countries continued to fuel violence in Afghanistan, which could have disastrous consequences for the entire region.

“The fight against terrorism is not in Afghanistan, a very small part of it may be in Afghanistan, the bigger part is in the sanctuaries where they get trained where they get motivated that is where we should go and unless we do that this vicious circle will keep going.”

He said the Taliban were being funded partly by opium poppy crops, thriving due to the failure of efforts to eradicate them, from religious extremists and a “combination of criminals, misguided policy objectives and folly”.

He, however, rejected claims that Al Qaeda or the Taliban received funds from Saudi Arabia but expressed concerns over growing terrorism in Pakistan.

“The problem is growing, the problem has grown, unfortunately, of terrorism in Pakistan,” he said.

“I was concerned, I remain concerned but I had a very fruitful talk with President Musharraf last time. From that respect I hope there is more recognition of dangers there and of the dangers of the future of both countries and the region.

“Based on that I hope there will be a stronger effort in Pakistan and the region, and help from the rest of the world.”