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At Davos, Karzai Dings the Brits

9:47 AM, Jan 25, 2008 • By BILL ROGGIO
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The recriminations over the security situation in Afghanistan continue, but from a new corner. Afghani President Hamid Karzai has criticized the British effort in the southern province of Helmand, where the Taliban have waged a violent campaign against NATO and Afghan forces.

"There was one part of the country where we suffered after the arrival of the British forces," Mr. Karzai told a group of journalists at the Davos Economic Forum. "Before that we were fully in charge of Helmand. When our governor was there, we were fully in charge. They came and said, ‘Your governor is no good'. I said ‘All right, do we have a replacement for this governor; do you have enough forces?'. Both the American and the British forces guaranteed to me they knew what they were doing and I made the mistake of listening to them. And when they came in, the Taliban came."

Asked if he was blaming British failure for the return of the Taliban, he added: "I just described the situation of mistakes we made. The mistake was that we removed a local arrangement without having a replacement. We removed the police force. That was not good. The security forces were not in sufficient numbers or information about the province. That is why the Taliban came in. It took us a year and a half to take back Musa Qala. This was not failure but a mistake."

The British, in a highly controversial move, negotiated with the Taliban in late 2006 to turn over Musa Qala to the Taliban. The district wasn't liberated from Taliban control until December 2007.

Karzai's jab at the Brits and the United States comes after infighting within NATO over commitments to the Afghan war. The British wrongly accused the United States of shying away from the hot zones in Afghanistan, while Secretary of Defense Gates questioned NATO countries' commitment to provide troops and their ability to wage a proper counterinsurgency campaign.