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Karzai Welcomes New U.S. Strategy For Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the new U.S. strategy has the full support and backing of the Afghan people.
(RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he is in "full agreement" with the thrust of Washington's new strategy to deal with rising violence and the spread of extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"It is exactly what the Afghan people were hoping for and were seeking," Karzai told reporters in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on March 28. "Therefore, it has our full support and backing."

He was speaking a day after U.S. President Obama unveiled his administration's new strategy for defeating extremists in the face of rising violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including efforts to strengthen Afghanistan's civilian and security institutions.

Obama made clear that denying extremists "safe havens" in South Asia remains a key goal of U.S. efforts. He promised additional troop deployments but also more financial aid, societal development, and regional cooperation.

Karzai said the details of the strategy are better than expected and provide the right solutions for the problems afflicting the region. He said Washington can count on Kabul's full cooperation.

"We'll be working very, very closely with the U.S. government to prepare for and to work on implementing all that was laid out in this strategy," he said.

Obama announced plans to send 4,000 more U.S. troops to the country -- this on top of an earlier announced "surge" of 17,000 new troops.

He also pledged to train a 134,000-strong Afghan Army and 82,000-strong police force by 2011, in keeping with a civilian surge that will focus on societal and infrastructure development.

'Not Acting Concretely'

On Pakistan, the U.S. president indicated that the new policy will focus on supporting the country's fragile democratic institutions.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Afghan analyst Nasrullah Stanekzai of Kabul University welcomed the new strategy's focus on Pakistan.

"The new strategy, the new U.S. administration, and its foreign policy, particularly in our region, considers Pakistan as a zone of terrorist activities, while the previous [Bush] administration was doubtful or was not acting concretely in this issue," Stanekzai said. "It is very certain that the main bases of terrorist activities in our region are in Pakistan, which not only threatens Afghanistan but the whole region."

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also welcomed Obama's initiatives, saying the U.S. president's speech would further "cement" bilateral relations.

Karzai welcomed the U.S. proposal to include Iran in a regional role, saying he hopes to use "this opportunity in a positive way for the good of Afghanistan."

The new strategy comes as violence in Afghanistan is increasing. The insurgents, often operating from safe havens in the border regions of Pakistan, have escalated their attacks, with violence spreading from the south and east to the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The U.S. moves were widely praised by allies and the United Nations ahead of an international conference on Afghanistan due to take place in The Hague on March 31.

With agency reports

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