Karzai condemns US bombing after child is killed

Hamid Karzai at the loya jirga in Kabul on its last day on Sunday. Picture: AP

Hamid Karzai at the loya jirga in Kabul on its last day on Sunday. Picture: AP

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Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai yesterday said US forces had bombed a home in Helmand province killing a child and wounding two women.

Mr Karzai condemned the attack as another sign of disregard for civilian life.

The strike came as the president is engaged in a stand-off with the American government over a bilateral security agreement that will help shape the presence of US troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

“It shows that US forces have no respect for the decisions of the loya jirga [grand assembly] and life of civilians in Afghanistan,” said Mr Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi.

Mr Karzai last week over-ruled a meeting of the loya jirga and refused to sign a deal to keep thousands of American troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

Diplomats have warned the move could backfire.

The gathering in Kabul, attended by almost 3,000 delegates, called on Mr Karzai to back a deal if new conditions are met.

“What was the point of calling the jirga if he wants to continue haggling with the United States?” said delegate Haji Mursaleen, a prominent elder from the eastern province of Kunar.

Even Qayum Karzai, who is running in next April’s election to succeed his younger brother has said that it was in Afghanistan’s “vital interest” to get the pact signed.

Mr Karzai has repeatedly crossed swords with the US since he became president in 2001, and may want to show he is no pushover before the elections bring his second and final term to an end. Underlining his distrust, Mr Faizi yesterday said Mr Karzai “has a very suspicious mind because of all the past wrongdoings of the US and Nato”.

Diplomats and politicians say Mr Karzai is likely to hold out as long as he can because, once the deal is signed, he will lose bargaining power and limp to the end of his term a lame duck.

“He is a very cunning person and he is in love with his power,” said one senior Afghan politician. “He has been going against the will of the people all this time … He does not want to give away his power.”

Mr Karzai’s surprise change of mind has triggered a storm of speculation in Kabul over whether it was a reflection of his unpredictable character, or part of a longer-term strategy to retain power beyond next year.

Mr Karzai, constitutionally ineligible to run again for the presidency, said this week he would not sign the pact until after the election, suggesting he might try to declare it void and retain power.

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