Afghan leader: Death a blow to terror
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s president lauded Osama bin Laden’s death as a serious blow to terrorism on Monday and argued that the strike in Pakistan proves the real fight against terrorists is outside his country’s borders.
“This is a very important day. Maybe you have already heard on the television or on the radio that American forces have killed Osama bin Laden, delivering him his due punishment,” President Hamid Karzai told an assembly of district government officials in Kabul, as the hall erupted in applause.
Karzai also used the opportunity to again chastise international forces for concentrating so much of their military effort in Afghanistan. Karzai has repeatedly said that more of the focus should be across the border in Pakistan where al-Qaida and Taliban leaders reportedly live.
“For years we have said that the fight against terrorism is not in Afghan villages and houses,” said Karzai. “It is in safe havens, and today that was shown to be true.”
He offered his appreciation to international and Afghan forces who have lost their lives in the nearly 10-year war in Afghanistan and expressed hope that bin Laden’s death could mean the end of terrorism. But he said now is the time to stop assaults that endanger or harass Afghan civilians.
“Stop bombarding Afghan villages and searching Afghan people,” Karzai said.
Karzai pledged, however, that Afghanistan stands ready to do its part to help fight terrorists and extremists.
“We are with you and we are your allies,” he said, noting that many Afghans had died because of bin Laden’s terror network.
“Osama bin Laden was someone whose hands were dipped in the blood of thousands and thousands of Afghanistan’s children, youth and elders,” Karzai told reporters outside the building where he gave his speech.
Some Afghans said they hoped bin Laden’s death would make it easier for the Taliban — which has long had its fate tied to that of the al-Qaida leader — to reconcile with the Afghan government.
“I think that now the Taliban will be free to make their own decision, and maybe these peace negotiations will finally have some success. They are also Afghan and we can’t fight with them forever,” said Agha Lalai, a member of the government council for southern Kandahar province.
An elderly man in Kandahar city who said he remembered when bin Laden arrived there under the protection of the Taliban said that bin Laden had manipulated the Taliban and hoped that they would now be able to sever ties with al-Qaida.
“All the power belonged to bin Laden and Mullah Omar was just a front,” said Ahmad Sarhadi from his home in Kandahar. He was referring to Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive one-eyed leader of the Taliban.
Karzai’s former presidential challenger — Abdullah Abdullah — said those who were celebrating bin Laden’s demise as the end of Afghanistan’s conflict were speaking very prematurely.
“Now there are multiple terror networks and the Taliban will not give up. They don’t believe in participating in a democratic system, but rather they are hoping to bring it down, so it will not have an impact on reconciliation as such,” Abdullah said. He did add that he hoped that bin Laden’s death would weaken the Taliban, and therefore improve the prospects for peace by defeating the insurgent group.
In a sign of the complicated struggle in Afghanistan, there were Afghans who said they had revered bin Laden as a defender of Islam. One man, a rickshaw driver in the eastern city of Jalalabad, said that many people there are happy that a major terrorist has been eliminated but also upset about the death of a man that they saw as a holy warrior.
“He was like a hero in the Muslim world,” said Sayed Jalal. “His struggle was always against non-Muslims and infidels, and against superpowers.”
Associated Press writers Solomon Moore and Amir Shah in Kabul and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.
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