Karzai To Seek Re-Election In Afghanistan

** FILE ** In this Aug. 10, 2008 file photo, Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he would like to run for re-election next year. Karzai tells The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that he has a job to complete and that "in that sense, yes, I would like to run." Karzai has hinted in the past that he plans to run for the presidency in 2009, but his Tuesday, Aug. 19,2008 announcement to AP is the first time he has stated so outright. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
AP Photo/Rahmat Gul
President Hamid Karzai has said he would seek re-election next year in hopes of finishing a job he said he hasn't yet completed.

In a candid admission of some of his failures after four years in office, Karzai said Afghanistan does not yet have a functioning government, corruption remains rampant and the Afghan people "still suffer massively" in the fight against terrorism.

"So I have a job to do, a job to complete. In that sense, yes, I would like to run," a relaxed-looking Karzai told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday in the presidential palace in the center of Afghanistan's heavily fortified capital.

Dressed in a white shalwar kameez, the traditional dress of the region, Karzai reflected on his aspirations for Afghanistan, which is still struggling to recover seven years after the rigid religious Taliban regime were driven from Kabul.

"I have begun a task to rebuild Afghanistan into a peaceful prosperous country, into a democratic country, a country where the Afghan people will have a voice and their rights respected, a country that will be producing on its own and living off its own means," said Karzai.

"Afghanistan is not at peace," he said. "The Afghan people still suffer massively in the war against terrorism and in the war for stability in Afghanistan."

Some of the harshest criticism of Karzai has come from his inability to stem the flourishing opium drug trade in which his political allies and even his half brother Ahmed Wali, head of the Kandahar provincial council, have been implicated. Karzai has dismissed the allegations against his brother, but they have stuck.

With an election year looming, Karzai may be less inclined to make powerful enemies of some of the country's political elite who are reputed to be involved in the drug trade.

Afghanistan has seen a sharp rise in violence this year, which is on pace to be the deadliest for international troops since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. Insurgents ambushed a group of elite French troops Tuesday, killing 10 soldiers in a militant stronghold outside the capital, and have also carried out powerful bomb attacks on an international hotel and the Indian Embassy.

Some of his troubles, Karzai said, are not of his own making.

He warned that his fledgling government was being "very seriously" undermined by errant coalition bombs that kill civilians, as well as by the hunt for insurgents that take international forces into Afghan villages.

"The reason we are still around is because of the immense resilience of the Afghan people and their goodheartedness toward the presence of the international community," he said. "Other than that, activities like breaking into homes would have gotten us into serious trouble a long time back."

More than 3,400 people - mostly militants - have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Western and Afghan officials. The toll includes about 690 civilians, most of whom were killed in Taliban attacks, though about 160 civilian deaths have been attributed to U.S. or NATO forces.

The NATO commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. David D. McKiernan, blamed civilian casualties on insurgents who hide among the population.

But Karzai, who prefaced his criticism of civilian casualties with praise for the international community's contribution to rebuilding Afghanistan and the ouster of the Taliban by international forces, said there were no terrorists in Afghanistan.