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Afghan President Karzai Demands Confinement Of U.S. Troops

Catherine Green |
March 15, 2012 | 9:33 a.m. PDT

Executive Producer

President Hamid Karzai, pictured here in 2008 with (L-R) U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill, German army Gen. Egon Ramms and U.S. Army Gen. David D. McKiernan. (U.S. Army/Flickr)
President Hamid Karzai, pictured here in 2008 with (L-R) U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill, German army Gen. Egon Ramms and U.S. Army Gen. David D. McKiernan. (U.S. Army/Flickr)
The aftermath of Sunday's shooting rampage by a United States staff sergeant intensified Thursday when Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded a withdrawal of U.S. troops from villages, confining them to bases.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the move "dramatically changes the outlook for the war," cutting off the U.S.'s combat capabilities just as the Taliban begins its annual spring offensive.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Within minutes of Mr. Karzai's statement, the Taliban also declared they are suspending their negotiations with the U.S. because the U.S. "turned back on its promises," such as the release of Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Karzai's surprise demand was greeted with shock by some Afghan politicians. "We totally don't understand Karzai's decision. He doesn't have any strategy. He is committing treason," said Abdulrahim Aybi, a lawmaker from the southern Kandahar province where Sunday's massacre occurred. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Badura, said the coalition was aware of Mr. Karzai's request, and that it would be dealt with through diplomatic channels.

While the Taliban left the door open to resuming the dialogue, Mr. Karzai's move had potentially more far-reaching ramifications. "Not a single foreign soldier should enter Afghan homes, and the entire attention should switch to the country's reconstruction and economic assistance," the Afghan president's statement said.

Current plans outline a gradual withdrawal by the end of 2014. Some 90,000 U.S. troops are stationed in the country, and efforts have been made to begin transferring security responsibilities to Afghan law enforcement and military bodies.

Karzai said Thursday that the transition of power was taking too long, and that his country was already prepared to take control. "We demand a speedy transition and the hand-over of responsibility to the Afghans," he said.

According to The Journal, Karzai may have been trying to shift the power dynamics in negotiations with the U.S., though analysts say that he "overestimated his hand." His demand comes just one day after the U.S. removed from Afghanistan the Army staff sergeant suspected of killing 16 civilians, a decision that has been denounced by Afghan parliament.

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