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US Dismay Over Karzai Call For Diminished Role In Afghanistan

The United States has expressed dismay over Afghan President Hamid Karzai's call for whittling down American military operations in the war-ravaged south Asian nation, reports said.

General David Petraeus, Commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is said to have warned Afghan officials on Sunday that Karzai's public criticism of the U.S. will only help to undermine the gains made by the security alliance in the battle against insurgency.

Unnamed officials told the media that Gen. Petraeus while making clear his "astonishment and disappointment" over the remarks also reportedly made "hypothetical" references to an inability to continue U.S. operations in the wake of Karzai's call.

Karzai had said in an interview on Saturday that he wanted a limited mandate for U.S. troops in Afghanistan which would make their presence less intrusive in everyday lives of the Afghans.

More importantly the Afghan leader wanted an end to nightime raids which is the cornerstone of the current military policy aimed at turning the tide of the war against Taliban militants.

But Karzai acknowledged that U.S.-Afghan ties had improved remarkably since Gen. Petraeus took over, and the two countries now have a more "mature relationship."

The diplomatic row set off by Karzai comes on the eve of the NATO Summit scheduled to be held in Portuguese capital Lisbon which will be attended by NATO leaders led by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The Summit is expected to announce a time-table for handing over security tasks to Afghan forces in pre-identified areas and will also set 2014 as deadline for complete pull out of NATO forces from there.

Obama has already announced a July 2011 date for starting troop withdrawal but U.S. administration officials subsequently said the withdrawal would largely depend on existing ground realities.

Karzai has had run-ins with Washingon in the past over Kabul's decision not to allow private security guards to serve in the country as well the re-appointement of an allegedly corrupt aide.

Presently there are around 150,000 foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan which has been plagued by a stubborn insurgency for nearly a decade now.

NATO soldiers were first deployed in Afghanistan in 2001 for counter-insurgency operations which led to the ouster of its Taliban-backed government.

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