Afghanistan's new interim leader says American forces can stay in his country as long as necessary to eliminate terrorism. Hamid Karzai made the comments in an interview on U.S. television one day after taking the oath of office in Kabul.
Hamid Karzai says U.S. forces are welcome to remain in Afghanistan until their mission is done. "As long as we think there are remnants of terrorists in Afghanistan, those forces can stay and fight terrorism," he said. "We have a commitment to free our country and the rest of the world from this scourge of terrorism. We will see to it that that is completed."
During an appearance on CNN's Late Edition, the new Afghan leader said the Taleban is completely gone, and only a few terrorist holdouts may remain. "There will be individuals hiding in Afghanistan. We are looking for them," he said. "And in recent days some have been arrested and we are looking for more."
He said he had no concrete information on the exact whereabouts of Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, or Osama bin Laden - the prime U.S. suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks on America. Mr. Karzai was asked if his government would be willing to hand Osama bin Laden over to the United States if he is captured on Afghan soil.
"We strongly condemn those attacks against the United States," he said. "They killed very innocent people. I saw on television the way people jumped off the 80th floor of the twin towers. It is a criminal thing that they did. We will deliver him to the United States."
Mr. Karzai said if Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is captured he, too, will face international justice. But he went on to say that both Mullah Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden will also face charges in Afghanistan.
"The two of them together committed murder and the destruction of the Afghan land and people," he said. Hamid Karzai did not say if he would seek action in Afghan courts first. He said he had information a few days ago indicating that Mullah Mohammed Omar is still alive. As for Osama bin Laden, the Afghan leader said only "if he is dead, it is good news."