Afghan Leader Tries New Tack

Afghan President Hamid Karzai shows his inked- finger before voting in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 18, 2005. Afghans braved an outbreak of violence Sunday to vote. AP

President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday called for a new approach to battle militants in Afghanistan, saying airstrikes are no longer effective and that U.S.-led coalition forces should focus on terrorist bases and their support.

Karzai also demanded an immediate end to foreign troops searching people's homes without his government's authorization.

"I don't think there is a big need for military activity in Afghanistan anymore," he told reporters in Kabul. "The nature of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan has changed now.

"No coalition forces should go to Afghan homes without the authorization of the Afghan government. ... The use of air power is something that may not be very effective now."

As part of a new approach, Karzai said foreign governments should "concentrate on where terrorists are trained, on their bases, on the supply to them, on the money coming to them" — a veiled reference to alleged support that the militants get from neighboring Pakistan.

In related developments:

  • Suspected Taliban rebels ambushed a group of policemen Tuesday in southwestern Afghanistan, sparking a firefight that left four people dead and three seriously injured, officials said. A governor said Gizab district police chief Haji Syed Wali and six of his men were heading toward their home base when a group of about 20 militants opened fire on their pickup truck in a mountainous area, starting a two-hour firefight.

  • The shadow of al Qaeda fell across Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden's top deputy called the country's landmark elections a farce, and the U.S. military commander here warned of more Taliban rebel attacks.

  • Counting of nearly 6 million ballots began in all but two provinces Tuesday after the country's first parliamentary elections in more than 30 years. Afghan and international leaders have hailed Sunday's voting as a major step toward stability following the ouster of the hard-line Taliban rulers by a U.S.-led coalition for refusing to hand over bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks.

  • Polling stations reported nearly 20 small-arms attacks on Sunday, and a few stations had to close temporarily due to gunfire that wounded three voters. But no major attacks took place on election day, despite fears raised by a rejuvenated Taliban insurgency that has left more than 1,200 people dead in the last six months.

    • Scott Benjamin

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