Afghan leader still a reliable ally despite comments, Salazar says

REP. JOHN SALAZAR



Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who last week boiled over with frustration and said he might join the Taliban, remains a reliable U.S. ally, said U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo.

Karzai “is totally committed, in my opinion, to actually working with America to reduce the number of the Taliban or to eliminate the Taliban,” Salazar said Tuesday in a conference call with Colorado reporters after a tour of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Karzai’s comment, which appeared aimed at the United States, reflected the difficulty he faces in maintaining political control of Afghanistan, Salazar said.

It appeared to be “more of a political move than a comment about the U.S.,” Salazar said.

Salazar toured the area with U.S. Rep. Betsey Markey, D-Colo.

American soldiers are making progress in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan, Salazar said, by adopting counterinsurgency measures aimed at winning the “hearts and minds” of the populace to encourage them to cooperate and resist the threats and blandishments of extremists such as the Taliban and al-Qaida, Salazar said.

Pakistani officials, including President Asif Ali Zardari, also appear committed to help the United States in its battle with the Taliban, Salazar said.

“We are all allies in the war on terror,” Salazar said.

Salazar’s tour of the war-torn area also took him to southern Afghanistan, where tribal elders hold sway.

“They trust American troops and the USA to the fullest extent,” he said. “They distrust their own government.”

Many of the people affiliated with the Taliban or other extremist organizations are not so much ideologically committed to the cause, but are being paid or threatened by the organizations, Salazar said.

That makes them especially amenable to efforts by the United States to offer safety and economic opportunities, he said, both key components of the counterinsurgency strategy being used in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The struggle in Iraq was the struggle that taught us how to win that type of war,” Salazar said. “Gen. (David) Petraeus developed it, and Gen. (Stanley) McChrystal perfected it” in Afghanistan, Salazar said. “This thing is going in a positive direction.”

American troops appeared unfazed by Karzai’s comments and are focused on meeting the goals and benchmarks set out by President Obama, he said.


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