Afghan president calls on Pakistan to close extremist schools

Tuesday, September 26th 2006, 10:37 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Afghanistan's president is calling on Pakistan to close extremist schools and looking for support from President Bush in his campaign against ``places that teach terror.''

``There will not be an end to terrorism unless we remove the sources of hatred in madrassas and the training grounds,'' Hamid Karzai said before the two met on Tuesday at the White House.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Dana Perino raised the possibility on Tuesday that the administration would declassify an intelligence assessment on terrorism.

Portions of the document that have been leaked suggest that the threat of terrorism has grown worse since the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the war in Afghanistan, due in part to the war in Iraq.

Releasing the intelligence analysis is ``being given serious consideration,'' said Perino, noting that there had been calls for the administration to do so from various quarters. Both the chairman and the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee have urged the White House to release the material.

Democrats have used the report to bolster their criticism of Bush's Iraq policy. The administration has claimed only part of the report was leaked and does not tell the full story.

Rising Taliban violence and an unprecedented narcotics trade were also on the agenda of the Bush-Karzai meeting _ possibly along with a request for more U.S. money to stabilize Afghanistan.

Karzai said Sunday his country would be ``heaven in less than a year'' if it received the $300 billion the United States had spent in Iraq.

As it is, Karzai said at a news conference Monday that Afghanistan has $1.9 billion in reserves, up from $180 million in 2002.

In a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars he expressed concern _ without elaboration _ with ``radical neighbors who have very dangerous ideas'' and said narcotics had supplanted the growing of grapes, raisins, pomegranates, almonds and other crops.

Struggling farmers need more help, he said. ``Give us the roads and we will give you the best grapes in the world,'' Karzai said with a smile.

Afghanistan has been suffering its heaviest insurgent attacks since the Taliban regime was toppled in late 2001 in a U.S.-led war.

Karzai has engaged in some sniping with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on countering terrorism. Musharraf has complained Karzai had not done enough.

But Karzai said, ``There will not be an end to terrorism unless we remove the sources of hatred in madrassas and the training grounds.''

His meeting with Bush sets the stage for a three-way dinner meeting Bush plans Wednesday with Karzai and Musharraf.

Here last week to see Bush, Musharraf said extremist schools accounted for only about 5 percent of the schools in Pakistan. He acknowledged that ``we are moving slowly'' against them.

Karzai said he had no objection to madrassas that teach Islam to young people. ``We need preachers in our religion,'' he said.

But he said it was up to Musharraf to deal with the problem of teaching hatred to young children. ``Those places have to be closed down,'' he said.

While it is Pakistan's job, the United States could provide some financial help to get it done, Karzai said.

Musharraf, speaking in New York City on Monday night, said Pakistan was being blamed unfairly for the Taliban's resurgence. He suggested that Karzai was partially at fault for disenfranchising the majority Pashtun ethnic group and warned that the Taliban cannot be defeated by military might alone.

Musharraf praised Karzai, calling him clearly the best choice to lead Afghanistan as it rebuilds after decades of war, but he also slammed Karzai for suggesting that much of the recent violence in Afghanistan was the result of cross-border attacks from militants hiding in Pakistan's tribal areas.

``The sooner that President Karzai understands his own country, the better,'' Musharraf told the Council on Foreign Relations, referring to alleged favoritism toward ethnic minorities in the Northern Alliance that fought against the largely Pashtun Taliban. ``We have a problem with Pashtuns feeling alienated.''

Later, Karzai accepted an honorary doctor of laws degree from Georgetown University.

In brief remarks, he described advances in the social sector in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

In contrast to the Taliban policy of denying education rights to girls, he said girls now account for 35 percent of total school enrollment in the country.

He said 80 percent of Afghans now have access to health services, compared with 9 percent under the Taliban.