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Karzai welcomes U.S. troop withdrawal

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Karzai discusses U.S. troop withdrawals
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Hamid Karzai says Afghanistan is ready to take over security
  • He says it is Afghan responsibility to protect the country
  • Karzai defends his criticisms of NATO operations
  • His interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria airs Sunday

Tune in to "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. ET for an exclusive and rare interview with the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

(CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama's plans for a U.S. troops drawdown and said it's a sign that Afghanistan is ready to take control of security in the war-torn nation.

"The number of troops that he has announced to be withdrawn is a sign that Afghanistan is taking over its own security and is trying to defend its territory by its own means," Karzai said. "So we are happy about the announcement."

As the United States pulls back, Karzai painted a picture of a more stable Afghanistan, despite the fact that May was the bloodiest month for Afghan civilians since 2007. He told CNN's Fareed Zakaria in an interview set to air Sunday that Afghans were ready to take the reins of their own country.

"It is the responsibility of the Afghan people to protect their country and to provide security for the citizens of the country," Karzai said. "If you fail in fulfilling our most important responsibility with regard to our country and our people, then somebody else should take over."

Obama announced Wednesday night that 10,000 U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan this year and all 33,000 forces sent as part of a 2009 surge would return home by the summer of 2012.

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Karzai also defended his public criticisms of NATO, which in recent weeks have taken on a more angry tone. Karzai blasted the alliance for civilian deaths and nighttime raids. He said his comment on NATO becoming an "occupying force" was taken out of context.

"No, I don't regret having made that comment," he said. "That comment was not seen in the full sentence that I spoke. It was after the incident of civilian casualties in Afghanistan where children were killed in an aerial bombing, where I said, 'No more of such aerial bombings on our residents.'

"The question was what if they continue?" Karzai said.

"When Afghanistan asks that these operations cease and even then, if they continue, this means we are not in charge of our country," he said. "And that, of course, becomes an occupation. It was in this context that I spoke, and I stand by that."

Karzai stressed regional cooperation between his homeland and neighboring Pakistan and India in the fight to bring an end to many years of conflict. He said the United States and Afghanistan's other allies could do a lot more in expediting talks with the Taliban to put an end to the violence.

"My statements are neither hostile nor inflammatory nor designed to get anything but an understanding from our partners that the Afghan people need to feel secure, they need to see this war take a direction in which they can see the end of the tunnel," Karzai said.

He said Afghanistan, dependent on U.S. dollars for security and development, was grateful to American taxpayers, but expressed dismay that U.S. humanitarian efforts have not always taken Afghan wishes into account.

He cited a Kandahar electricity project in which he said the United States spent $250 million to buy generators. Karzai said Afghanistan would have preferred the construction of a dam, which he called a more lasting solution.

Watch Fareed Zakaria GPS Sundays at 10am and 1pm ET. For the latest from Fareed Zakaria GPS click here.

 
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