KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned Thursday that attacks against local police and soldiers were increasing as they prepare to take responsibility for security when Nato combat troops leave in 2014.
Militants have staged three major suicide attacks on Afghan-Nato military posts this week alone, and Karzai’s remarks are likely to heighten doubts about the Afghans’ ability to take over when the bulk of 130,000 US-led combat troops withdraw.
The president told a special session of parliament a day after a Taliban bombing on a patrol killed 21 people that Afghanistan would do whatever it took to boost its security forces, even if it meant “eating grass” to afford it.
“I have noticed that these days, in the past one, two or three months, attacks on our soldiers, police and intelligence officers have increased,” Karzai said.
“Every day we have at least 20 to 25 casualties, every day at least 20 to 25 of our youths are making the sacrifice for this country and are being killed.”
Taliban-led insurgents have typically deployed suicide bombers and roadside bombs in their 10-year insurgency since being toppled from power by the 2001 US-led invasion.
Karzai admitted his government and its Western allies had failed to bring peace to Afghanistan, which has suffered almost continuous conflict for the past three decades, saying “our land has not been secured, our homes, our people are not safe”.
“Neither the Afghan government nor the international forces fighting terrorism here could bring security,” he said.
The president, who is due to step down from power in 2014, said Afghanistan would receive $4.1 billion every year from the international community for security forces until 2024 and expected a further $4 billion in pledges of civilian assistance at next month’s Tokyo conference on the country’s economic future.
But he vowed to strengthen Afghan defences come what may, even without help from overseas.
“Afghanistan will eat grass but will build its security forces, with or without foreign money,” he said.
Analyst Abdul Waheed Wafa, the head of the Afghanistan Centre at the Kabul University, said Karzai was preparing the public for further bloodshed with his gloomy assessment of the security situation.
There was a marked increase in violence in Afghanistan in the late 1980s as occupying Soviet forces withdrew, Wafa said, and Karzai realises this pattern is likely to be repeated when Nato pulls out its troops.
“We’ll obviously have more casualties and people will ask why. Karzai’s speech is an attempt to prepare the public for more sacrifices, more dead. He’s preparing the public,” he told AFP.
Since the Taliban were overthrown, Afghanistan has been flooded with billions of dollars in Western aid, but the country is awash with graft, and Karzai admitted the problem was worse than ever.
“Corruption has reached a peak in this land, property grabs, government land grabs, intimidation. The lack of safety for people’s homes are all pains the Afghan people are suffering,” he said.
Karzai urged Washington to hand over the fugitive former central bank governor Abdul Qadir Fitrat to face justice over one of Afghanistan’s most notorious graft cases — the near-collapse of the country’s biggest private lender Kabul Bank in 2010.
Fitrat quit as head of the central bank and fled the country, saying his decision to speak out about the $900 million scandal had put his life in danger.
But Karzai demanded he return to Afghanistan, accusing the banker of misleading him over the situation at the bank.