President Hamid Karzai, under fire for anti-Western remarks, distanced himself from his foreign backers in a speech on Sunday, telling tribal elders Afghans need to see their leaders are not puppets.
Speaking in front of some 1,500 elders at a shura or traditional council meeting in the southern city of Kandahar, Karzai said he would block an upcoming major NATO offensive in the area if it did not have the support of local people.
The commander of US and NATO forces General Stanley McChrystal, who flew down to Kandahar with Karzai, sat on the stage behind the Afghan President but did not speak.
“Afghanistan will be fixed when its people trust their President is independent … when the people trust the government is independent and not a puppet,” Karzai said, adding that government officials should not let foreigners meddle in their work.
“The other day, I told (Barack) Obama: ‘I can’t fix this nation through war,’” he said. “It has been eight years since this situation is going on, we want peace and security… I’m engaged with all my force to bring peace in this country.”
In his speech, Karzai promised to consult tribes before the operation and block it if they do not support it.
US Major General William Mayville, in charge of operations for NATO troops, played down those comments, saying the President was on board for the operation and was only trying to win support for it from the community.