US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday said that the progress in Afghanistan has cost thousands of military lives and it would be helpful if Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed gratitude for that sacrifice.
“We have made progress in Afghanistan because there are men and women in uniform who have been willing to fight and die for Afghanistan’s sovereignty and their right to govern and secure themselves,” he told reporters.
He noted that 2,000 US troops were among those who had been killed in the war.
“Those lives were lost fighting the right enemy, not the wrong enemy,” Panetta said. “And I think it would be helpful if the president every once and awhile expressed his thanks for the sacrifices that have been made by those who have fought and died for Afghanistan, rather than criticising them.”
On Thursday, President Hamid Karzai in a news conference urged the US and Nato to combat terrorism in the region, saying the focus should be to eliminate it at its roots – which are not in Afghanistan.
“The US and Nato should go to the places where the roots of the terrorism exist. They are saying one thing but acting contrary to that,” he said.
Karzai noted that the Afghanistan-US security pact will allow for some presence of US troops in Afghanistan which should help peace and stability in Afghanistan. However, he made it clear he was not solely depending on the US, using the Afghan Air Force as an example.
“I asked the US government to equip our air force with weapons, intelligence and transport planes – we still haven’t received a response from them. Our discussions will continue next week as well and if they show no interest in this, we will decide to whether purchase from Russia, China, India or any other country,” he added.
Karzai laid some blame on the US for the ongoing shelling of Afghanistan’s eastern provinces from Pakistan, saying that the Afghan forces were not sufficiently equipped to respond so the US should have stepped in.
Tensions between Washington and Kabul have risen in recent weeks over the attacks by Afghan troops on their US and international counterparts.
Panetta assured Nato partners that US General John Allen, the head of international forces in Afghanistan, was working with Afghans to address the problem of insider attacks.
There are around 117,000 international soldiers, mostly Americans, fighting insurgents in Afghanistan. The troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 after the Afghan soldiers take full security responsibility of the country.