Karzai: US Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan ‘Good for Both Countries’

Posted June 23rd, 2011 at 3:55 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement to start a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan next month, calling it the “right decision for the interest of both countries.”

Mr. Karzai said it is time for the “youth” of Afghanistan to take responsibility for security in the country. But he also said Afghan security forces “must be strengthened” as international troops begin to leave.

A Taliban statement released Thursday dismissed Mr. Obama's decision as merely “symbolic” and called for the “immediate” and “full” withdrawal of all NATO forces from Afghanistan. The militant group also vowed to intensify its “armed struggle” until that happens.

In neighboring Pakistan, government officials said that what happens in Afghanistan will have a significant impact on Pakistan. They said that ending the war next door “will go a long way towards reducing instability in the region and perhaps help repair the damaged relations between Islamabad and Washington.”

Former Pakistani ambassador to Kabul, Rustan Shah, said both sides need to be more flexible. He said the Taliban needs to accept that foreign troops are not going to leave unilaterally, while Mr. Obama's precondition that the Taliban accepts the Afghan constitution is also a stumbling block.

President Obama said Wednesday 10,000 American troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of this year, with that figure rising to 33,000 troops by the end of 2012.

The United States currently has about 100,000 military personnel in the country, fighting a near decade-long war against Taliban insurgents that has become increasingly unpopular with the American public.

Afghan citizens had mixed feelings about the U.S. move. Some hoped it will reduce violence that they blame on the presence of foreign troops in the country. Others worried it could plunge Afghanistan into chaos if Afghan security forces are unable to fill the vacuum created by the departure of international force.

Many Pakistanis were most encouraged by Mr. Obama's plan for a political solution that includes negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.