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Afghans Welcome Obama Focus on Security, Exit Strategy

Afghanistan's foreign ministry has welcomed recent statements from President Obama indicating the United States is working on a comprehensive plan for dealing with surging violence in Afghanistan as well as boosting the country's weak central government.

The plan, expected to be announced this week, is widely reported to include more diplomacy, more development and more U.S. troops to try to counter the growing lawlessness.

On Sunday, in an interview with the U.S. television news program 60 Minutes, Mr. Obama said there also must be an exit strategy for international forces.

Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen said the government found the remarks "very positive."

"He has a comprehensive strategy, which includes war against terror, development of Afghanistan, and also good governance," said Baheen.

Afghanistan's government has been heavily reliant on international security forces and foreign donor nations to help provide funding, resources and security forces. But foreign troop raids and air strikes that kill civilians have strained relations. President Karzai calls the issue the biggest source of tension with foreign troops.

The latest disputed killings occurred Sunday, when U.S.-led forces killed five suspected militants in a raid in northern Afghanistan. Local officials and the interior ministry insisted the victims were civilians.

Sultan Ahmad Baheen said Afghan officials are eager to train enough Afghan security forces so that foreign troops can leave without worrying about the security situation.

"We are thinking that if Afghanistan stands on its feet, then there is no need for international forces in Afghanistan," Baheen said.

The Obama administration has not announced new manpower targets for Afghan security forces, but the president is expected to call for increases.

The special U.S. representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said Saturday that the Afghan police force is inadequate and "riddled with corruption." There are currently 78,000 police officers, and Mr. Holbrooke called them the "weak link" among security forces.

Also on Monday, NATO forces said troops killed a senior militant leader and nine others in a raid in southern Helmand province.

A NATO statement said Maulawi Hassan was killed Saturday in a raid on his compound. The statement said he answered to senior Taliban leader Mullah Rahmatullah who directs insurgent activity from outside Afghanistan.