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Karzai: Obama's 2011 Pullout Timetable 'Boosting Enemy Morale'

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized a plan by U.S. President Barack Obama to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next July.

Mr. Karzai told a visiting U.S. congressional delegation Thursday that Mr. Obama's July 2011 deadline for the start of a troop pullout has given insurgents a "morale boost."

The chief of the U.S. Marine Corps, General James Conway, made a similar comment earlier this week, telling a news conference Mr. Obama's pullout date "is probably giving our enemy sustenance," as he put it. But, Conway also said Taliban militants in Afghanistan will be in for a surprise when they realize American troops will continue fighting them.

President Karzai also told the U.S. lawmakers that NATO and Afghan forces are faltering in their battle against terrorism. He blamed the lack of progress on civilian casualties in NATO operations and the continued existence of militant sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.

The U.S. congressional delegation that met with President Karzai in Kabul included Republican House members Bill Shuster and Bob Inglis and Democratic House members Brian Baird and Rick Larsen.

Meanwhile, violence in Afghanistan Friday killed three U.S. soldiers. NATO says two of its soldiers were killed Friday in a roadside bomb in the east, and another in the south.

Afghan officials said a separate bombing killed at least two police officers and two civilians in the northern province of Kunduz late Thursday. And in the eastern province of Kunar, NATO said it is investigating allegations Afghan civilians were killed Thursday during a NATO air strike on insurgents attacking a NATO military post.

Afghan provincial police chief Khalilullah Ziayee told the French news agency that six children were killed by NATO fire as they collected scrap metal on a mountain in the area. NATO reported the death of four insurgents. It said an insurgent mortar landed short of its target during the battle, apparently killing an Afghan civilian.

Also Friday NATO said Afghan, U.S. and French troops have concluded a five-day offensive against insurgents in the Uzbeen valley, northeast of Kabul. The alliance says around 40 Taliban fighters were killed and several others captured.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.