Naharnet

Karzai Says Goodbye with a Final Gibe at U.S.

Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai used his farewell speech on Tuesday to take a parting shot at the United States, accusing Washington of waging a war against Taliban insurgents for its own ends.

Karzai rose to power with American support in 2001 after the ousting of the Taliban regime, but he has often criticized the U.S. military campaign that has struggled to defeat the Islamist insurgency that engulfed the country.

He will step down next week after a 13-year reign that has seen only limited improvements in infrastructure, health, education and women's rights despite billions of dollars of aid.

"This is not our war, it is a foreigners' war -- it is based on their goals," Karzai told government officials as he bid them goodbye at the presidential palace in Kabul.

"America didn't want peace... America should be honest with Afghanistan. What they say and what they do should be the same."

Karzai has a long record of anti-American rhetoric, and has previously accused the U.S. of colluding with the Taliban -- sparking outrage from the U.S., which has suffered 2,350 military deaths in Afghanistan since 2001.

"My advice to the next government is to be very careful with America and the West. We can be friends with them, but we want equal benefits," he said.

Karzai's relationship with Washington plunged to a new low last year when he decided not to sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA) to allow some U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond this year on a training and support mission.

His successor Ashraf Ghani is likely to sign the deal shortly, after vowing on the campaign trail to do so.

Under the deal, about 12,000 U.S.-led NATO troops will remain in Afghanistan into 2015 after combat operations finish this year.

Ghani and his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah struck an agreement Sunday to form a "unity government", ending months of disputes over who was the rightful winner of the fraud-tainted June 14 presidential election.

Ghani will officially become president at an inauguration ceremony on Monday, officials confirmed, with dignitaries invited from around the world to attend Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power.

The Afghan capital has been the target of regular suicide attacks launched by Taliban insurgents, and it is uncertain how many world leaders will fly in for the event.

In the last major attack, a week ago, three NATO soldiers were killed when a suicide car bomber hit a military convoy traveling on the main road from Kabul airport to the U.S. embassy.

The Taliban dismissed the election process and the power-sharing deal as a U.S. plot to control Afghanistan.

"Just as the election was shameful and fake, so was the result, and Afghans have always rejected puppet governments," the insurgent group said in a statement.

The United Nations, U.S. and other countries broadly welcomed the unity government, despite the failure of election authorities to release any details on the number of votes, the turnout or the margin of victory.

The U.N., which oversaw an audit inspecting every ballot paper, said many hundreds of thousands of ballots papers had been invalidated due to "significant fraud".

Karzai, 56, has said he will live as an ordinary citizen in Kabul with his family when he retires, and will offer advice to the government only if asked.

Under the constitution, he was banned from running for a third term in office.

Source: Agence France Presse


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