Hamid Karzai: Afghanistan ready if NATO accelerates its troop withdrawal plan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that his government would be ready and willing to take over security if the United States and NATO quickened their withdrawal plan.

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‘‘Afghans are ready to expedite the process of transition if necessary, and willing as well,’’ Karzai said at a press conference in Kabul with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. ‘‘So this is, in all aspects, good news for us and good news for NATO.’’

“In case we do it before time, we’ll be ready and happy as well,” Karzai said.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) plans to hand off security control to the Afghans by the end of 2014, while keeping a small force there — primarily for training — afterward.

There have been increased calls from critics of the 11-year war for a more rapid withdrawal amid an increase in “insider attacks” by Afghan forces on NATO troops. 

Even staunch hawks in the United States suggested that the U.S. should consider a quicker exit after some joint operations between ISAF and Afghan forces were temporarily suspended last month.

Rasmussen said all countries in the ISAF coalition were sticking to the current Afghan timeline.

“Our strategy is working and our timeline remains unchanged,” Rasmussen said. “We are all committed to seeing our combat mission through by the end of 2014. That was what we agreed with you, Mr. President, at the Chicago Summit — in Lisbon and Chicago.”

Asked about the U.S. presidential election, Karzai said he did not think the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan would be greatly affected if Mitt Romney were to win the presidential election in November.

“I don’t think the presidential elections in the U.S., whichever is the winner, Republicans or Democrats, the foreign policy is there,” Karzai said. “So whoever is in power will have to implement and act on the principals of their foreign policy.”