'US should have engaged Kabul before 9/11'

President Karzai said USA's failure to address Afghanistan's radical religious movement before 2001 resulted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

india Updated: Sep 26, 2006 18:08 IST

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said the United States' failure to address his country's radical religious movement before Sep 11, 2001, helped lead to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon in the US.

"You had your twin towers blown up because you in the US failed to connect that a monster in my part of the world ... could hurt you in America," Karzai said in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars in Washington on Monday.

After the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan ended in 1989, Karzai said the international community turned a blind eye on his country as religious fundamentalism, born out of the resistance to communism, began to take hold.

"The West forgot about us completely," Karzai said. "We did not matter to international politics ... we were ignored, in spite of our warnings repeatedly."

Osama bin Laden, the leader of the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, fought with the Mujahedeen against the Soviet invasion in December 1979.

Karzai said that religious extremists, and terrorists like bin Laden, took advantage of the resistance to foment their own beliefs on the population, and that that effort "still continues".

Karzai is to meet with President George Bush at the White House on Tuesday and participate in a trilateral meeting with Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday.

The two Asian neighbours have clashed recently over Musharraf's decision to strike a peace deal with tribal leaders in the Waziristan region on the border with Afghanistan - a move the US and Karzai are worried will allow the Taliban better refuge.

US and NATO forces have witnessed a sharp increase in Taliban attacks in Afghanistan over the past few months, as the religious group appears to have taken control of southern Afghanistan.

Musharraf insists the deal will not aid the Taliban, and that tribal leaders are obliged under the accord to hand over Taliban or Al-Qaeda remnants.

In his speech, Karzai signalled another point of contention with Pakistan, calling on Musharraf to close down schools preaching hatred but purporting to be official Islamist schools known as Madrasas.

He said they existed exclusively in Pakistan and not in his own country, though he stopped short of accusing Musharraf of supporting them.

"The problem is with these places acting in the name of Madrasas but preaching hatred and terrorism. I hope Musharraf can address the problem effectively by going and simply closing them," Karzai said.

First Published: Sep 26, 2006 16:05 IST