Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:11 am (KSA) 21:11 pm (GMT)

Karzai says Afghanistan needs Russia's support

Afghan President Hamid Karzai shakes hands with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's (File)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai shakes hands with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's (File)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai sought President Dmitry Medvedev's help for his nation on Wednesday, two decades after Moscow ended a disastrous conflict there that cost the lives of about 15,000 Soviet troops.

Russia, which analysts say is seeking to increase its influence in Afghanistan and the surrounding region, hosted Karzai and Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari for talks on security and drugs.

"Let me once again thank you for your concern for Afghanistan," Karzai told Medvedev as they sat down for talks at the Russian president's summer residence near the Black Sea.

Afghanistan will need the support of friends and from great countries like Russia," Karzai said.

Medvedev held separate talks with Zardari and Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmon as well as a four-way meeting with the visiting leaders.

Zardari urged the nations "to stand together and make the region come together and fight against this war of ideology ... We should support the Afghani people." He also invited Medvedev to Pakistan.

Russia traditionally has had far warmer ties with India than with Pakistan, but the Kremlin has been broadening its contacts across Asia and the Middle East as it seeks more clout. A similar four-way meeting was held last year in Tajikistan.

Medvedev said Russia has sent aid to help Pakistan cope with devastating flooding and is prepared to do more Pakistan will come out of this a stronger nation," said Zardari, who has faced criticism at home for traveling abroad during the disaster.

Karzai conveyed the "sorrow" of the Afghan people over Russia's deadly summer wildfires and said he hoped Medvedev would visit Afghanistan soon.
Medvedev assured Karzai that Russia supports Afghanistan's efforts to establish peace and stability.

Russia "naturally supports the Afghan government's fight against terrorism, and is ready to help in any way," he said.

Moscow's drug concern

Medvedev said trafficking in Afghan drugs, which are feeding a devastating drug abuse problem in Russia, "is an issue for all the countries in the region ... our actions should be synchronized."

Russia has sharply criticized the U.S. and NATO strategy for fighting Afghan drug production.

NATO earlier this year rejected Russian calls for the eradication of Afghan opium poppy fields, saying the best way for Moscow to help control the drug would be to give more assistance against the insurgency.

Russia has said it will not send soldiers to Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union fought a nearly decade-long war, but it has held out the prospect of supplying transport helicopters to aid the fight against insurgents.

Medvedev said the four leaders would discuss economic and energy cooperation. But there was no sign the summit produced any economic deal or significant new initiatives on security or drug trafficking.

Russia has called for a greater role in Afghanistan for two regional groups in which it holds sway -- the Collective Security Treaty Organization of ex-Soviet states (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes China. But analysts were skeptical.

Central Asia expert Alexei Malashenko told the Russian daily Kommersant on Wednesday that the CSTO's pallid response to recent ethnic bloodshed in Kyrgyzstan suggested "its usefulness in Afghanistan will be nil."

Sen Kerry: Karzai must fight graft or lose support

U.S. Sen. John Kerry told the president of Afghanistan that his efforts to battle corruption were crucial if he wants to retain the support of U.S. taxpayers at a time when more American troops are dying in the war.

Kerry's two meetings with President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday came at a time when U.S. lawmakers are increasingly doubtful that the military effort can succeed without a serious campaign against bribery and graft that have eroded the Afghan people's trust in their government.

"I think that in the next days, the government of Afghanistan's response to anti-corruption efforts are a key test of its ability to regain the confidence of the people and provide the kind of governance that the American people are prepared to support with hard-earned tax dollars and with most importantly, with the treasure of our country - the lives of young American men and women," Kerry told reporters.

"If we have knowledge of things that we know are happening and the (Afghan) government doesn't respond to it, it's going to be very, very difficult for us to look American families in the eye and say, 'Hey, that's something worth dying for.'"

Last October when Kerry was in Kabul, he played an instrumental role in persuading Karzai to accept a run-off vote after a fraud-plagued presidential election.

Kerry said he believes Karzai knows the American public is tiring of the nearly 9-year-old war that has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 U.S. service men and women. He knows that Republicans and Democrats alike are anxious about what is happening and not happening in Afghanistan, Kerry said.

Taliban prison said found in Afghanistan, 27 freed

NATO-led forces in Afghanistan said on Wednesday they had uncovered a makeshift Taliban prison holding 27 Afghans in chains.

The men were found on Tuesday in a compound at Musa Qaleh in Helmand province during an operation by Afghan and coalition forces that killed 13 insurgents, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

"During the search of the compound, the combined forces discovered 27 men who were shackled and appeared to have been tortured," it said.

Dawood Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand's governor, confirmed that 27 men were released, but said five additional prisoners were killed in the operation.

He told Reuters that two of the 27 freed prisoners worked for an Afghan aid agency.

ISAF accuse the Taliban of carrying out acts of indiscriminate violence and repression against ordinary Afghans, but civilian casualties from aerial attacks have also made the NATO-led force unpopular among Afghans.

The Taliban are leading a resurgent campaign against the government of President Hamid Karzai and around 150,000 mainly U.S. foreign troops backed by 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police.

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