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Karzai: Iraq Should Not Distract from Fight Against Terror Groups - 2002-10-06


Afghan President Hamid Karzai says international attention on Iraq should not distract from the job of removing terrorist groups from Afghanistan.

President Karzai says that at this point in Afghan history it would be "very unwise" to leave the country alone as the world community focuses on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"I am not concerned that the U.S. will shift its attention from Afghanistan and entirely focus it on Iraq," said President Karzai, "but I would like to remind our friends in the United States and in the international community that we have to really finish the job in Afghanistan completely."

In an interview on the CNN television program Late Edition, President Karzai said finishing the job in Afghanistan means making sure that terrorist groups in and around the country are broken up.

President Karzai came to power following a U.S.-led military campaign to remove the former Taleban government, which supported al-Qaida terrorists blamed for the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and at the Pentagon near Washington.

American troops are helping train a new Afghan army and are part of President Karzai's security detail. He said foreign troops should stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to make the country secure.

"I believe the presence of the international forces here - the U.S., the allies, and the ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force - should be here for as long as the Afghan people need them so that we can stand on our own feet," he said. "I can not say the time frame, probably a year, probably less or more than that. But the essential thing here is to help Afghanistan stand back on its own feet to defend itself and defend against terrorism and radicalism, and then the rest of the world can go and we will be able to manage on our own."

The Bush Administration says its call for action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will not distract from the fight against terrorism. President George W. Bush says his campaign against Iraq is part of that fight as he says Iraq could help terrorists acquire chemical or biological weapons.

Iraq says it has no weapons of mass destruction and has agreed to the return of U.N. inspectors to prove it.

President Bush will make a nationwide address Monday to make his case for action against Iraq. He says Saddam Hussein presents a "grave and growing danger" to the United States.

Mr. Bush wants Congress to give him the authority to use force if he concludes that diplomacy alone is not enough to remove Iraqi threats.

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