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Afghan President Says He's Powerless to Stop US Airstrikes


Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he is powerless to halt U.S. airstrikes in his country and he would stop American warplanes if he could. The president has sharply criticized international rebuilding and military operations in Afghanistan in recent meetings with U.N. officials. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Kabul.

President Karzai has repeatedly denounced airstrikes that have killed dozens of civilians this year. But in a news conference on Wednesday Mr. Karzai went a step further when he was asked by a reporter if he merely complains about the strikes or if he has actually tried to do anything to stop them.

He says that whatever power my government has, we have used it and continue to use it. But he says he does not have a net to stop the planes.

Mr. Karzai's has issued several high-profile criticisms of international forces in recent days, accusing reconstruction teams of undermining the government and asking why foreign troops have not been able to defeat the Taliban yet.

He asked members of the United Nations Security Council who visited Afghanistan this week for an estimate of when the fighting will end, because he said he does not want his nation to be born into what he called "endless war."

President Karzai says he asked the U.N. officials to fix the date for when the country will succeed against terrorism. He said he did not ask for a date for the withdrawal of troops.

While Mr. Karzai has said there remains widespread support for foreign troops in Afghanistan, he has said the issue of civilian casualties has undermined public support.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who appeared with Mr. Karzai during Wednesday's news conference, said international forces are doing everything they can to avoid civilian casualties.

"Every innocent loss of Afghan life is one too many. And I apologize if we make civilian casualties," he said. "Let's on the other hand also not forget that most Afghan civilians are not killed by us, but are killed by our opponents, who use them as human shields."

Mr. Karzai Wednesday also defended his proposal for talks with fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar. The president said his offer is based on Afghan customs and he will honor it even if the international community opposes the idea. The Afghan president said he would guarantee the safety of Mullah Omar if he recognized the Afghan constitution and negotiated peace.

The NATO secretary general said the peace talks are an Afghan issue, but he would support reconciliation.

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