Mehr News Agency, June 19, 2011

Karzai accuses U.S. of using DU weapons in Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accused the U.S.-led foreign forces of using depleted uranium ammunition in Afghanistan and damaging the environment of the country

The president launched an attack against the U.S.-NATO forces occupying his country on Saturday, saying the motives behind their presence were suspect and complained that their weaponry was polluting his country, The New York Times reported.

“Every time when their planes fly it makes smoke, when they drop bombs they have chemical materials in them, our people get killed but also our environment is damaged,” Karzai said. Some weapons used by the foreign forces have nuclear components, he said, adding that the issue was under investigation. He was apparently referring to certain types of ammunition and armor that use depleted uranium or other radioactive materials.

“There are 140 countries here in our country, they’re using different explosive materials, chemical materials and all these things,” he said. “We will talk to them and ask them about all these things because this has a negative impact on our environment, our animals, our people, so we will ask them about this. They should not think we are uneducated and do not know anything.”

Karzai also complained about the damage done by NATO trucks to Afghan roads, many of which have been improved with NATO aid. “They have not built the roads for us but for themselves, with their big trucks, with big heavy tires and chains, so as much as they help our country, they get it back more than a hundred times.”

Effect of DU weapons on an Iraqi child
Effect of DU weapons on an Iraqi child. (Photo:

He went on to say that the heavy pollution of Kabul, too, was a consequence of the foreign presence in Afghanistan.

The president’s address was broadcast live on RTA, the state television network.

In March, in an emotional speech in the eastern city of Asadabad, Karzai called for NATO and the United States to stop military operations in Afghanistan -- although officials later issued a clarification, saying he was referring only to operations that caused civilian casualties. And in late May, at a news conference, he threatened to denounce NATO as occupiers if they did not stop air attacks that brought civilian casualties. That was in response to an airstrike in Helmand Province that was aimed at Taliban fighters but killed 14 civilians, mostly women and children.

The departing NATO commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, apologized to Karzai at a subsequent meeting of his national security council, on June 5, according to Waheed Omer, the president’s spokesman. “General Petraeus did apologize and he also explained to all of us what had happened and the president was satisfied,” Mr. Omer said.

Karzai also denied earlier reports that his government was negotiating with Taliban leaders, but he said that the Americans were doing so.

In late May, American officials were reported to have met with a senior aide to the fugitive Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, at least three times in recent months in the first direct exploratory peace talks.

“You remember a few years ago I was saying thank you to the foreigners for their help, every minute we were thanking them. Now I have stopped saying that, except when Spanta forced me to say thank you,” he said, referring in a jocular way to his national security adviser, Rangin Spanta, who was present. Karzai made the remarks as part of an address to the Afghanistan Youth International Conference, an audience of young to middle-age adults, and in response to questions from the audience. “They’re here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they’re using our soil for that.”

While officials at the U.S. embassy in Kabul could not be immediately reached for comment, Karzai's remarks were the first official confirmation of U.S. involvement in the negotiations.

“Peace talks have started with (the Taliban) already and it is going well,” Karzai said.

“Foreign militaries, especially the United States of America, are going ahead with these negotiations.”

Diplomats have already said there have been months of preliminary talks between the two sides, and Karzai, who is a strong advocate of peace talks, has long said Afghans are in contact with anti-government groups.

Karzai's disclosure came a day after the UN Security Council split the UN sanctions list for Taliban and Al-Qaeda figures into two, which envoys said could help induce the Taliban into talks on a peace deal in Afghanistan.

Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, earlier this year called on Taliban members to break ranks with Al-Qaeda, renounce violence and accept the constitution so they can be reconciled to society.

Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, in Afghanistan's Helmand province, said Barack Obama was already on record saying that to effect a political solution it was necessary to talk to the Taliban.

“It's recognition that after ten years of war they (the U.S.) haven't succeeded in getting rid of the Taliban, in fact they are still very influential in many parts of the country,” he said.

“They are agreeing to have talks with an organization that has just claimed responsibility for yet another suicide attack in Kabul, it's a very difficult choice that had to be made.”

Karzai’s comments came on the day when a delegation from the United States was scheduled to arrive in Kabul to discuss a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan, which both countries seek. The agreement would provide for long-term American financial and military involvement in the country.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force had no immediate comment on Karzai’s latest remarks. In the past, Western diplomats have refrained from responding to Karzai’s attacks, saying they see them as intended for a domestic audience and not indicative of his true views.

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