Afghanistan President Karzai, soon to step down, rages against US

KABUL (AFP) - President Hamid Karzai has expressed "extreme anger" towards the United States as it prepares to end its 13-year war in Afghanistan, intensifying his criticism in his final months in power.

Mr Karzai has taken an increasingly antagonistic view of the US role in Afghanistan, despite formerly being a close ally and accepting billions of dollars in aid since he took office after the fall of the Taleban regime in 2001.

The president, who will stand down after elections on April 5, lashed out at the US government and described Al-Qaeda, the Islamist militants behind the 9/11 attacks, as "more a myth than a reality".

"To the American people, give them my best wishes and my gratitude. To the US government, give them my anger, my extreme anger," Mr Karzai told the Washington Post in an interview published on Monday.

There was no immediate response from the US embassy in Kabul, but relations between the two countries have plunged to a new low as the final 55,000 US-led NATO troops prepare to head home and Mr Karzai enters his final months in office.

The president made a surprise decision late last year not to sign an agreed deal that would see 8,000-12,000 US troops stay in Afghanistan after this year on a training and counter-terrorism mission.

"It's good for them (the US) to sign it with my successor," he said.

In the interview, Mr Karzai vented his fury over civilian casualties caused during the war against the Taleban, who had sheltered Al-Qaeda while in power in Kabul from 1996-2001.

"There is no war to be fought in Afghanistan. I believe that much of the conflict is a creation in which the Afghans suffer," he said.

"Why is America here? I can't answer for America. The American president says they are here to fight extremism and terrorism and to secure America.

"If the way towards securing America is raiding Afghan homes, fighting in Afghan villages - well, that will not secure America."

Among the contenders in the election are Mr Karzai's former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah and former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.

The new president may not be chosen until after a second-round run-off due on May 28.