NATO will become 'occupying force' if airstrikes don't end: Afghan president
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said NATO risked becoming an "occupying force" if ISAF refuses to adhere to his demand that airstrikes on Afghan homes end. From AFP:
His outspoken remarks came days after he issued a "last warning" to foreign forces over civilian casualties following Saturday's killing of what he said was 14 civilians including women and children in an air strike.
"If after the Afghan government said the aerial bombing of Afghan houses is banned and if it continues, then their presence will change from a war against terrorism to an occupying force," he told a press conference in Kabul.
"And in that case, Afghan history is witness to how the Afghans deal with occupying forces."
In the last statement, Karzai is clearly referring to the mujahedeen opposition to the Russian occupation from 1979-1989.
Yesterday, ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Josef Blotz rejected another request by President Karzai to end the controversial night raids that are conducted by combined ISAF and Afghan special operations forces. From Pajhwok Afghan News:
"In order to achieve our goals, we should continue with nighttime raids" ISAF spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz said at a joint press conference with NATO senior civilian representative's spokesman, Dominic Medley.
In 85 percent of the operations, not a single shot was fired, he said, adding the raids were conducted jointly with Afghan soldiers. "We respect Karzai's demand for a stop to ISAF operations, but the nighttime raids should continue to achieve our goals."
Karzai has made similar threatening statements in the past, while at the same time referring to the Taliban as his "brothers." In April 2010, he told parliament that he would join the Taliban if the West continued to threaten him over election fraud and the endemic corruption in his regime. From NBC News:
"He said that 'if I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban'," said Farooq Marenai, who represents the eastern province of Nangarhar.
"He said rebelling would change to resistance," Marenai said -- apparently suggesting that the militant movement would then be redefined as one of resistance against a foreign occupation rather than a rebellion against an elected government.
While Karzai's remarks may be dismissed as an attempt to strong-arm NATO while playing local politics, he is providing ample propaganda fodder for the Taliban, while signaling to the Afghan public that the Taliban are a legitimate resistance movement opposing an "occupying force."