Angry Karzai asks foreign troops to respect Afghan laws, culture

Hamid KarzaiKabul - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday that unnecessary detentions and house-searches of Afghan people would damage the legitimacy of his government and asked NATO-led international forces to respect the laws and culture of Afghanistan.

"Entering by force to our people's houses is against the government of Afghanistan," Karzai told a gathering of Afghan government officials and foreign diplomats in Kabul.

The president said his repeated demands to the nearly 70,000 NATO and US-led troops stationed in the country to put an end to house searches and detentions did not yield any result.

"The unilateral action of them (foreign forces) is an obstacle for applying the rule of law in Afghanistan," Karzai said. "This way the Afghan government will be destroyed and it will never be strengthened when in my country, the foreign soldiers go and arrest people, hit them and even kill them."

The international forces, who were deployed to Afghanistan following the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001, pre-emptively target Afghan villagers' houses in the country's southern and eastern provinces in search of suspected insurgents and those who supply them with weapons.

In the latest incident, the US-led coalition said that they killed three militants and arrested five others in an operation in the south-eastern province of Khost on Tuesday. But Afghan officials said that those killed were civilians.

Talking about this incident, Karzai said: "The foreign forces went to a house in Khost province and martyred the man, his wife, and his son and arrested several others."

Karzai was talking to officials in a ceremony marking the International Anti-Corruption Day.

"How the people of Afghanistan trust their government if their government cannot protect them?" he asked.

Karzai is under fire from the international community for being unable to root out the rampant corruption in his administration, which they say has disillusioned the Afghan public.

"It is true that there is administrative corruption in Afghanistan in its government, in its economy, in its politics, and in its media. It is a very troubling reality," the president said.

But he assured that his government became more determined recently to eliminate the endemic corruption, adding that in the past two months he sacked four senior officials, including a cabinet minister and a provincial governor, for their involvement in corruption.

He did not identify the sacked officials, nor did he give details on the accusations. Recently the minister for transportation and the governor of the southern province Kandahar were sacked for unknown reasons.

Western diplomats and UN officials criticize Karzai's inability attacking corruption and say that it has undermined the international community's efforts to bring peace and develop governance in Afghanistan.

In return, Karzai lays the blame on international troops' actions in his country. "How can this government eliminate corruption when it cannot protect its citizens, or stop unilateral detention of people by foreign forces?"

Unless foreign forces respect Afghanistan's laws, culture and the lives of the Afghan people, governing will remain difficult, Karzai said. "No matter if billions of dollars are spent, if they don't stop these actions, this government would not be strengthened, there is no way." (dpa)