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Karzai portrays U.S. exit as gain

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday sought to reassure an anxious public that security will not be compromised when the bulk of U.S. forces leave next year, saying the country needs American aid — not troops — to take over the fight against the Taliban.

Karzai said he expects the United States to continue training, equipping and paying salaries for Afghan national security forces.

"Afghanistan will be more secure after the foreigners leave," he said at a news conference in Kabul, his first remarks since returning from Washington, where he met last week with President Barack Obama.

Karzai's comments did not convince critics who contend that he returned largely empty-handed.

"He cannot afford to tell the truth," said Daoud Sultanzoy, a Kabul-based political analyst. "The truth is that when … that many troops leave, the economy of this country will be affected, the security of this country will be affected."

Obama's announcement Friday that the time line for Afghan security forces to take lead responsibility for safeguarding the country has been moved forward to the spring has aggravated concerns in Afghanistan about whether the national army and police will be up to the job. Obama has pledged to bring home nearly all 66,000 U.S. troops by the end of 2014.

Karzai said the U.S. commitments include providing 500 vehicles, 20 helicopters, four C-130 transport aircraft and drones for intelligence gathering.

The two leaders have yet to agree on the terms of a U.S. role in Afghanistan after 2014, including the troop level and the tasks.

Karzai portrays U.S. exit as gain 01/14/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 14, 2013 9:56pm]
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