Karzai Blames British for Resurgent Taliban

by Jason Ditz, September 06, 2008

Updated 9/7 9:15 AM EST

Earlier in the week the British press was trumpeting the “triumph” of 100-plus British military vehicles managing to transport a turbine across a little over 100 miles of Helmand Province road from Kandahar to Kajaki in a five day trek they hailed as the most complex operation undertaken since World War 2. The Times reported from the scene, declaring the moment a “turning point” and said NATO commanders hoped the mission would prove a decisive victory over the Taliban.

But today Afghan President Hamid Karzai in a meeting with MPs slammed the British Administration’s “interference,” and blamed them for the recent surge of violence in Helmand Province. The condemnation comes just two weeks after a seemingly light-hearted visit by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the country, but at a time when the Afghan government’s ties with NATO are increasingly strained by incidents of civilian casualties.

At issue is the ouster of former Helmand Governor Sher Muhammad Akhundzada, who was removed from his post after a June 2005 raid by US DEA agents revealed his offices contained nearly 20,000 pounds of opium. After his removal, the drug trade in Helmand province skyrocketed, as did the Taliban’s presence. Akhundzada raised a militia, which has assisted in several anti-Taliban operations. Karzai sought to reappoint him as the situation worsened, but the British government objected. According to one Afghan MP “Gordon Brown told me, if you reinstate this person, we will take our forces out”. Britain however appeared no happier with Governor Akhundzada’s replacement.

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