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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK
Taleban 'not a long-term threat'
Afghan civilians mourn relatives
Afghan civilians are suffering unnecessarily, Mr Karzai says
The Taleban do not pose a threat to long-term stability in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has said.

In an interview with the BBC, a defiant Mr Karzai dismissed threats from the militant group that it plans to step up attacks on the capital, Kabul.

Mr Karzai also said international forces in the country should do more to avoid civilian casualties.

Aid agencies say foreign and Afghan forces have killed at least 230 civilians this year.

Earlier, a Taleban spokesman, Zabiyullah Mujahed, told the BBC the militant group was changing its tactics to mount more attacks on Kabul.

But Mr Karzai said previous Taleban and al-Qaeda rulers had been thrown out and could not seriously challenge the Afghan government.

Every effort has to be made ... for civilians to stop being casualties
Hamid Karzai
Afghan president

"All that they can do is to blow bombs and not really have the guts to confront us," he said.

"So it is not a threat to the survival of Afghanistan, its government, its future objective."

'Different stories'

The president agreed with comments by a Taleban spokesman that the group was using the same tactics as insurgents in Iraq.

But Mr Karzai said Iraq and Afghanistan were "two very different stories", and that Afghans wanted other countries' help to bring stability.

AFGHANISTAN'S FUTURE
This week, BBC News is taking an in-depth look at the challenges facing Afghanistan's people and the peacekeepers.
Stories include: the state of the Taleban; corruption; the drugs problem; and attacks on schools.

"There is a comparison in the West, it simplifies things there, but it isn't the same."

However, the ongoing violence was devastating Afghan civilians, he said, pointing to both the Taleban offensive and the civilian deaths caused by international forces.

"Every effort has to be made for it to stop... every detail has to be worked out for it in order for civilians to stop being casualties," he said.

"This is a suffering that increasingly is becoming difficult for us to accept or understand."

Mr Karzai said relations with Pakistan held the key to Afghanistan's future because of the support the Taleban receive there.

"We all know where they have their sanctuaries... The recruitment of suicide bombers there is a serious issue, but an issue we would like to resolve, not confront."

Defections

Afghan officials have said that support in Afghanistan for the Taleban is diminishing.

President Karzai told the BBC that his government is in regular contact with members of the Taleban and that more moderate members of the group were defecting to the government side.

There are two international missions in Afghanistan: Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), with 37,000 troops from 37 countries including the US, which is helping the Afghan government bring security, development and better governance.

The US-led coalition - under the banner of Operation Enduring Freedom - is a counter-terrorism mission that involves mainly special forces.

The south of the country has this year seen the worst violence since the Taleban were ousted from power in 2001 by US-led troops.


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Hamid Karzai on continuing violence in Afghanistan



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