U.S. Defends Afghan Airstrikes

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks to the media in Kabul, Afghanistan after returning from a trip to Europe in this May 14, 2005 file photo. After speaking at Boston University's commencement on Sunday, May 22, Karzai is scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House in Washington on Monday. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq, File)
Airstrikes have been "very decisive" in fighting militants and house searches are usually done jointly with local troops, a top U.S. general said Thursday, after Afghanistan's president said airborne attacks are no longer effective and demanded an end to raids on homes.

Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, the U.S.-led coalition's operational commander, said American forces are gearing up to battle Taliban rebels well into next year, after fierce fighting in the six months leading up to historic legislative elections last Sunday left more than 1,200 dead.

President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday challenged the need for major foreign military operations and said foreign forces should instead "concentrate on where terrorists are trained, on their bases" — a veiled reference to support that militants allegedly get from neighboring Pakistan.

But Kamiya told reporters at Bagram, the U.S. military's headquarters in Afghanistan, that while "part of the problem may extend from Pakistan," the insurgency is largely fueled internally.

Widespread poverty and a lack of government authority in rural areas has led youths to join the insurgents, he said. Until reconstruction projects bring jobs and other opportunities and there is rule of law, the violence would continue, he added.

Kamiya said the military was spending millions of dollars each month to employ an average of 11,000 Afghans a day on reconstruction projects in violence-wracked areas to undermine Taliban recruiting efforts.

He predicted the fighting would ease during coming winter months, before picking up again when snows melt on the high winter passes the rebels use — a pattern seen since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001.

"Until the government is strong enough, there will always be a resurgence in spring," Kamiya said.

In response to Karzai's demand for an end to raids on Afghans' homes, Kamiya said nearly all such operations are now done with Afghan soldiers or police.

"When we do have to violate the sanctity of an Afghan family's compound, we do so in a soft-knock manner, a very courteous manner, asking permission first and having Afghan forces doing the searches," he said.