By Associated Press
The Afghani president says the focus must shift from air strikes to rooting out terror bases.
KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday challenged the need for major foreign military operations in Afghanistan, saying air strikes are no longer effective and that U.S.-led coalition forces should focus on rooting out terror bases and support networks.
His call for a new approach to tackling militants came despite the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces invaded in late 2001, with more than 1,200 people killed in the six months leading up to Sunday's historic legislative elections.
Karzai demanded an immediate end to foreign troops searching people's homes without his government's authorization. He also said foreign governments should "concentrate on where terrorists are trained, on their bases, on the supply to them, on the money coming to them" - a veiled reference to support that militants allegedly get from neighboring Pakistan.
"I don't think there is a big need for military activity in Afghanistan anymore," Karzai told reporters. "The nature of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan has changed now.
"No coalition forces should go to Afghan homes without the authorization of the Afghan government. ... The use of air power is something that may not be very effective now. ... That's what I mean by a change in strategy."
It was the second time Karzai has publicly challenged the U.S.-led coalition. In May, before a trip to Washington, he demanded more authority over the 20,000-member U.S.-led coalition here, but President Bush said they would remain under American control.
Karzai's comments coincided with the start of the count from Sunday's parliamentary elections - the first in more than 30 years. Trucks, helicopters and even donkeys were ferrying an estimated 6-million ballots to 34 counting centers around the country.
At a news conference in Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld appeared to agree that air strikes in Afghanistan might not be as useful as they once were. "When you don't have a massed army on the ground or large puddles of enemies, then air strikes are less effective than when you do have that type of a situation," he said.
Overall, however, Rumsfeld emphasized the country's ability to hold parliamentary elections without major violence, saying it marked a significant step toward stability.