Don’t want role in US-Iran hostilities: Afghanistan

Afghan territory should not be used in a proxy war between the United States and Iran, President Hamid Karzai said.

Last Updated: Dec 15, 2011, 09:22 AM IST

Kabul: Afghan territory should not be used
in a proxy war between the United States and Iran, President
Hamid Karzai said on Thursday after the Islamic republic captured a
US drone.

Karzai was speaking in Kabul after an hour-long meeting
with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who nevertheless said
the US would continue to pursue "important intelligence
operations".

The bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel, a stealth drone designed
to evade radar for surveillance flights, was launched from
Afghanistan on a CIA spying mission when it went missing, US
officials have said.

"Afghanistan should maintain and has maintained a very
friendly relationship with Iran so we don`t want to be
involved in any adversarial relation between Iran and the US,"
Karzai said.

"Afghanistan wishes that its sovereignty and territorial
integrity is not used one against the other."

But Panetta said such intelligence operations would
continue.

"Those are operations that I will not discuss publicly,
other than to say that part of our efforts to defend this
country and to defend our country involves important
intelligence operations which will continue to pursue," he
said.

Afghanistan has long been used as a pawn in battles
between other nations, including the US and the Soviet Union
during the Cold War, and suicide attacks on Shiites on
December 6 which killed at least 84 people threatened to open
up another divide.

The drone episode has handed Iran a propaganda coup and
Iranian state television has shown images of a robotic
aircraft that experts say resembles the Sentinel.

Kabul is negotiating a strategic partnership deal with
Washington which will define the terms of the US military
presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of combat troops
in 2014.

And Karzai has said a condition of the deal will be that
the US does not use its territory against its enemies in the
region.

But Iran has voiced its objections to the continued
presence of international forces in Afghanistan after NATO
combat troops pull out in 2014.

PTI