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Karzai Says Taleban Does Not Pose Threat to Afghan Government


Afghan President Hamid Karzai says remnants of the ousted Taleban are not a threat to the Afghan government, despite a recent surge in violence.

There has been a sharp rise in insurgent activity in Afghanistan. Coalition forces have killed more than 100 militants in the past two days in scattered clashes.

In an interview on CNN's Late Edition program, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he recognizes the challenges presented by the insurgents, but said he believes they do not threaten Afghanistan's long-term stability.

"They exist in the form of attacking schools, attacking children, killing innocent people, killing clergy, harassing road workers, engineers," said Hamid Karzai. "They are no match for our power. They are no match for our fighting ability."

President Karzai also rejected suggestions that former Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and the Taleban are behind the recent wave of insurgent violence in Afghanistan.

Both Mullah Omar and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden are believed to be hiding out in the mountainous region along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

An audio recording broadcast on a Pakistani television station purported to be of Mullah Omar claimed that militants held large parts of Afghanistan. A source claiming to be a Taleban spokesman said the tape was not authentic.

President Karzai did not comment directly on the authenticity of the recording, but said he doubts Mullah Omar is running the insurgents.

"If he [Mullah Omar] is really in charge, and he is doing all of this, then he should show himself up, and face the danger that he is causing to hundreds of young people in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, and not hide, the way he is hiding right now," he said. "It needs guts to do what he is talking about, and he does not have that."

Meanwhile, the Afghan leader denied that there are simmering tensions between his country and neighboring Pakistan. He said he and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf have talked about ways the two neighbors can work together to fight terrorism.

"He [Musharraf] understands," continued Afghanistan's president. "We have discussions with him. We only need to coordinate better and more effectively, for the good of all of us. There is no tension, and there will be no tension between us."

President Karzai also rejected a recent Newsweek article that depicted Afghanistan as a poor country, rife with corruption. He acknowledged that the country is still poor and that corruption still exists. But he also pointed to a host of improvements in the past four years, including significantly higher foreign exchange reserves, more women in business, more Afghan children in schools and thousands of kilometers more paved road.

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