Security is top Afghanistan campaign issue, Karzai says


Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he would call for an increase in the number of Afghan troops and for reconciliation with the Taliban if re-elected Aug. 20.

Afghanistan holds elections for president and provincial councils Aug. 20. Karzai faces a mounting challenge from his former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. More than 3,000 candidates are competing for provincial council seats.

Karzai told a crowd of supporters that his “first priority” if elected to a second term would be to boost national security, the Pajhwok Afghan News agency reports.

“I will increase the number of army troops from the current 85,000 to 260,000 and the police from 80,000 to 160,000,” Karzai said.

U.S. military planners for Afghanistan are basing their counterinsurgency campaign in part on the lessons learned from Iraq, where domestic forces served a supporting role as the country approached the brink of civil war in 2007.

Apart from a reliance on domestic forces, military strategists say reconciling with so-called moderates within the Taliban insurgency may increase the effectiveness of the counterinsurgency campaign.

If elected to a second term, Karzai announced he would convene an emergency meeting of the Loya Jirga, a group of tribal elders, to hold talks with members of the Taliban movement and the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan, a militant organization led by rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

UPI.om

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