WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the U.S. military to scale back the visibility and intensity of its operations in Afghanistan and end night raids that he said incited people to join the Taliban insurgency, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
“The time has come to reduce military operations,” Karzai told the Post in an interview. “The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan … to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life.”
The Post said his comments put him at odds with General David Petraeus, who has made “capture-and-kill” missions a central part of counterinsurgency strategy.
In the past three months, such night raids of Afghan homes by U.S. Special Operations forces had killed or captured 368 insurgency leaders, the Post said.
Karzai was quoted as saying his comments were not meant as criticism of Washington, adding that candor could improve what he termed a “grudging” relationship between the two countries.
A senior Afghan official was quoted by the newspaper as saying that Karzai had repeatedly criticized the night raids in meetings with Petraeus and was seeking veto power over the operations.
“The raids are a problem always. They were a problem then, they are a problem now. They have to go away,” Karzai said in the interview.
“The Afghan people don’t like these raids, if there is any raid it has to be done by the Afghan government within the Afghan laws. This is a continuing disagreement between us,” he said.
The comments came as the Obama administration has begun to play down President Barack Obama’s July 2011 deadline for beginning to hand over security to Afghan forces and withdraw U.S. troops as conditions merit.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week they viewed Karzai’s plan to assume full responsibility for the country’s security by 2014 as a realistic goal NATO should endorse at its summit this month.
An independent U.S. task force cautioned Obama on Friday about the high cost of the Afghanistan war and said he should consider a narrow military mission if his December review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan finds the current strategy is not working.
Karzai told the Post the United States “should and could” draw down its forces next year and that U.S. soldiers should confine themselves more to their bases and to necessary operations along the Afghan-Pakistani border.