Karzai says US should reduce operations’ intensity

WASHINGTON (AP) — Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai said the United States must reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations in Afghanistan.

Karzai also said in an interview Saturday with The Washington Post the U.S. should end the increased Special Operations forces night raids that aggravate Afghans and could strengthen the Taliban insurgency.

He said he wants American troops off the roads and out of Afghan homes and that the long-term presence of so many foreign soldiers would only make the war worse. U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus claims the 30,000 new troops have made substantial progress in beating back the insurgency.

“The time has come to reduce military operations,” Karzai said. “The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan . . . to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life.”

President Barack Obama has set July 2011 as a target to begin drawing down U.S. troops but American officials expect troops to be in Afghanistan for some time after that. Karzai said his forces are ready to take more responsibility for their own security.

Karzai said in the interview that he was speaking out not to criticize the United States but in the belief that candor could improve what he called a “grudging” relationship between the countries. Karzai has repeatedly criticized civilian casualties caused by raids involving U.S. and NATO troops.

White House officials had no immediate comment early Sunday.

Insurgents wearing suicide vests on Saturday stormed a major NATO base in eastern Afghanistan, with six of them dying in a hail of gunfire before they could penetrate the defenses. Ten people died in a separate bombing in the north.

The attacks — in Jalalabad in the east and Kunduz province in the north — show the insurgents’ fighting spirit has not been broken despite a surge of U.S. troops and firepower.

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