KABUL, (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai projected a rosier future for his country on Tuesday and sought to quell “propaganda” of a possible descent into chaos once most international troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
In a conference convened to promote Afghanistan’s industry beyond 2014, Karzai hailed the achievements his country had made in the decade since the Taliban government was toppled and accused foreign media of alarming the Afghan people.
“Afghanistan has become more stable and progressive than in the past,” Karzai told the gathering of influential Afghan figures at a Loya Jirga tent in the capital, Kabul.
“Our country, from what we had 10 years ago and what we see today, thanks to God, has moved forward very fast.”
He added: “The year 2014 is only in our minds because Western media are focusing on this … Brothers and sisters, remove (this negative view) of Afghanistan’s future from your mind.”
Karzai’s second term in office will expire in the first half of 2014, before the scheduled withdrawal of most troops from the NATO-led coalition. Foreign military are currently training the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces, who will be responsible for security once they leave.
Karzai’s government is currently engaged in thorny bilateral talks on a security pact detailing the role the United States would play in Afghanistan after the pullout.
The negotiations are complicated by a number of contentious issues, such as how many of the 66,000 U.S. troops would remain on Afghan soil and whether they would have immunity from prosecution under local laws.
Karzai has recently taken a tough line over what he calls illegal detentions by U.S. forces and has demanded the transfer of all convicted prisoners to Afghan control and the release of dozens of inmates held without charge.
Alluding to the talks, he took a swipe at the United States and accused it of using the media to weaken the Afghan government’s position in the negotiations.
“They look for their own benefits and we look for ours. They have powerful media and want to put pressure on us.”