KABUL (AFP) — President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday violence had surged in Afghanistan, admitting his government's internationally backed efforts to secure the country had failed.
Security had even deteriorated since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001, the US-backed leader said in an address to hundreds of women gathered from all over Afghanistan for a meeting in Kabul.
Since his government took power after the fall of the Taliban, "we have achieved major success", Karzai told the gathering.
"But one of the nation's biggest wishes was full security ... which we have not brought. It has even dropped," Karzai said.
"Our roads are not safe, you can't go to Kandahar, to Herat. You can't take the road from Kabul to Paktia," he said, referring to key provinces outside of the capital.
Road travel outside of the capital, notably to the south, is risky with Taliban insurgents and bandits regularly attacking and sometimes kidnapping or killing travellers.
"When we came, life was good, but now it's not," Karzai said. "We are still a nation deeply in pain and misery."
Karzai was installed by US and other Western allies after the US-led invasion that drove the Taliban from government. He became Afghanistan's first democratically elected leader in a 2004 poll.
A Taliban insurgency to topple Karzai and take back power has grown steadily since then with attacks at record levels this year despite the efforts of 60-70,000 international troops helping the Afghan security forces.
Crime has increased with wealthy Afghans or their relatives, as well as expatriates, being kidnapped most often for ransom.
The intelligence agency this week released video and pictures of hostages being tortured that were made by kidnappers to send to their families with ransom demands.
One showed a hostage being brutally beaten and another victim appeared to have part of his ear cut off.
Some of the women in Karzai's audience called for kidnappers to be publicly hanged. The president responded that he is supporting the death penalty but would not allow public executions.
The 1996-2001 Taliban government had executed people publicly, including by stoning, and cut off their limbs for certain crimes.
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