Page last updated at 20:52 GMT, Sunday, 4 April 2010 21:52 UK

Afghan leader Karzai under fire from Kandahar elders

Mr Karzai was told few dared join the army for fear of being killed by the militants

Tribal elders in the Afghan city of Kandahar have sharply criticised President Hamid Karzai over issues of security and corruption.

On a rare visit to the area, the birthplace of the Taliban, he was told few dared join the army for fear of being killed by the militants.

Others accused the president of failing to deal with bribery and nepotism.

Mr Karzai is in Kandahar with top US commander Gen McChrystal to win support for an anti-Taliban offensive there.

Unlike the last offensive in neighbouring Helmand province which began with a military push, the campaign in Kandahar is being led by a major emphasis on politics, says the BBC's Lyse Doucet in Kandahar.

At the first tribal gathering which is known as a shura, one tribal elder after another stood up, speaking loudly, angrily, some shouting at the president, complaining of police corruption, official bribes and insecurity, our correspondent says.

"Tell me what is in your heart," urged the president in the local Pashto language.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks to locals during a shura in Kandahar
Tribal elders took Mr Karzai to task over issues of security and corruption

"I can't, I will be killed by the terrorists," retorted one tribal elder - a reference to the growing strength of the Taliban in the region.

But the message from this gathering of some 1,500 tribesmen is that they are not ready for any major military operation by Afghan and Nato led forces any time soon, our correspondent says.

The president assured them that no operation would be started without their support, and recognised there was a lot for him to fix first.

Indeed the message that came loud and clear is that his government is as much a problem as the Taliban, our correspondent adds.

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