September 26, 2006 in Nation/World

Karzai prods Pakistan to shutter extremist schools

Barry Schweid Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld escorts Hamid Karzai from the Pentagon after their meeting Monday.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Afghanistan’s president urged Pakistan on Monday to shut down extremist schools and arrest the people who run them.

Hamid Karzai, who has strong U.S. support, has engaged in some sniping with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on countering terrorism.

“There will not be an end to terrorism unless we remove the sources of hatred in madrassas and the training grounds,” Karzai said in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for scholars.

He is due to meet with President Bush today. Then, at dinner Wednesday night, Bush has a meeting scheduled 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.

He was upbeat about Afghanistan’s conflict with insurgents and the country’s economic progress. He said, for instance, that Afghanistan has $1.9 billion in reserves, up from $180 million in 2002.

But 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.

At the Pentagon, Karzai told reporters after a meeting with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that while Afghanistan welcomes help in combatting narcotics, the task is ultimately one for Afghans.

“We are ashamed of that terrible product hurting us and hurting young people around the world,” he said. “Afghanistan will have to fight it and destroy it.”

At the Wilson center, Karzai he dismissed suggestions that the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003 motivated militants to engage in violence.

“Iraq is not a complicating factor,” Karzai said. “Those who hate us for whatever reason hated us before 2001” and the attacks that year on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

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