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Karzai rejects US criticism on drugs, slams abuse
date: 22-May-2005
editorial comment editorial comment
Where the "War on Terror" meets the "War on Drugs", it can only result in a mess......

By John Poirier

WASHINGTON, May 22 (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday rejected U.S. criticisms of his antidrug efforts, called international help in the fight "half-hearted," and demanded justice for prisoners abused by U.S. troops.

However, he said on the eve of a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush that the prisoner abuse detailed in a leaked U.S. Army report should not reflect on the United States as a whole.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Karzai and other top Afghan officials have been unwilling to take certain steps that would curtail Afghanistan's huge heroin trade, citing a May 13 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Karzai, in an interview on CNN's "Late Edition," said at least 30 percent of his country's poppies have been eradicated and called on the international community to step up its own efforts instead of blaming the Afghans.

"What international money and creation of forces for the destruction of poppies was concerned, it was ineffective and delayed and half-hearted," Karzai said.

"We have done our job. Now the international community must do its job, period," he said.

Karzai, a staunch ally in the U.S.-led war against terrorism, said he will repeat his concern and anger over the prison abuses to the U.S. government and wants those responsible to be held accountable in a public trial.

"I will do this again. This is simply, simply not acceptable. We are angry about this. We want justice, we want the people responsible for this sort of brutal behavior punished and tried and made public," Karzai said on CNN.

However, he added: "At the same time I must say that while we condemn this ... the behavior of one or two soldiers or interrogators must not reflect on the United States or on the U.S. people. There are bad people everywhere."

Karzai said on Saturday he was shocked by a U.S. Army report on abuse of detainees in Afghanistan, and that his government wanted custody of all Afghan prisoners and control over U.S. military operations.


Jean Arnault, special representative of U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan in Afghanistan, said on Sunday the reported abuse was unacceptable and an affront to everything the international community stood for.

"The gravity of these abuses calls for the punishment of all those involved in such inexcusable crimes, as demanded by President Karzai," Arnault said in a statement.

The abuse described in the report, including details of the deaths of two inmates at an Afghan detention center, happened in 2002 and emerged from a nearly 2,000-page file of U.S. Army investigators, The New York Times reported on Friday.

The United States commands a foreign force in Afghanistan of about 18,300, most of them Americans, fighting Taliban insurgents and hunting militant leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

Karzai's visit to Washington follows violent anti-American protests in Afghan cities prompted by a Newsweek report that U.S. interrogators in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had desecrated the Koran. Sixteen people were killed and many wounded in the violence.

Newsweek retracted the report, but the International Committee of the Red Cross subsequently said it had told the Pentagon of allegations U.S. personnel had mishandled the Muslim holy book.

The United States says it wants to prevent Afghanistan becoming a "breeding ground for terrorists." The country also has strategic significance given its border with Iran and its proximity to Central Asian energy sources and China.

Karzai's drive to forge close U.S. ties, in particular what many Afghans believe could result in the establishment of permanent bases, might cause him problems, analysts say.

In a commencement speech at Boston University on Sunday, Karzai did not mention the U.S.-Afghan tensions but praised the international effort to rebuild Afghanistan after the U.S.-led war to oust the country's Taliban rulers.

"There is a truly global effort to rebuild Afghanistan. It is a model of partnership in the world and a coming-together of civilizations," he said. (Additional reporting by Robert Birsel in Kabul and Randy Mikkelsen in Washington)

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