Afghans don't need foreign troops: Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his people don't need foreign troops to protect the country

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his people don't need foreign troops to protect the country, urging US-led forces to withdraw quickly.

"We are the owners of this soil, Americans aren't," Karzai said in a speech to young Afghan military officers in Kabul on Saturday.

"Fortunately they are leaving soon," he said about the foreign troops deployed against al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks of 2001.

Karzai also instructed the Afghan military forces taking over from NATO-led troops not to request strikes from aircraft operated by foreign forces.

The president was addressing hundreds of Afghan military officials and officers in an event held under tight security in a newly constructed military academy.

"To defend our soil, we don't need foreign troops," Karzai insisted to applause from the audience. "My soil will be defended by these young officers."

Ties between Karzai and Washington have soured during the more than decade-long military campaign, with Afghanistan angered by civilian casualties in the war and the US complaining of widespread corruption under Karzai's rule.

On Wednesday, 10 Afghan civilians including women and children were killed in a NATO airstrike in eastern Kunar province, according to local officials, while Karzai put the death toll at 14 civilians.

Karzai said he had called the new US troop commander, General Joseph Dunford, for clarification on the casualties, and said that Afghan forces had requested the airstrike.

"I make the announcement today that no Afghan military and security force can request foreigners' warplanes to bomb our own villages and houses," Karzai said.

The NATO-led forces, numbering around 90,000, have started pulling out of Afghanistan and are due to end combat operations there by the end of 2014.

"2014 is our spring," said Karzai. "It is a day our land will be prosperous. We are happy that foreign troops are leaving Afghanistan."

US President Barack Obama in his State of the Union speech last week said that tens of thousands of US troops had already come home, with more to follow soon, and that "by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over."

He said the US will have met its objective "of defeating the core of al-Qaeda" and that "today the organisation that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self."

Beyond 2014, "the nature of our commitment will change," Obama said, pointing to ongoing talks with Kabul on training and equipping Afghan forces so they can hunt al-Qaeda remnants and to ensure "that the country does not again slip into chaos."