KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday lashed out at Pakistan for the third time this week, accusing the neighboring country of trying to make "slaves" of the Afghan people.
Karzai's rhetorical barrage against Pakistan started in a tearful speech Sunday, when he said terrorists from Pakistan are killing Afghan children. He ratcheted up his criticism Tuesday, directly charging the Pakistan government with supporting the Taliban.
On Wednesday, he again took direct aim at Afghanistan's eastern neighbor.
"Pakistan hopes to make slaves out of us, but we will not surrender," Karzai said in a school courtyard, in a 90-minute speech punctuated by frequent applause from several hundred students.
He said Afghan students may aspire to lofty career goals, but that "Pakistan wants you to be a gatekeeper at the hotel in Karachi."
Afghan and Western officials have long blamed Pakistan for not doing enough to stop terrorists from training on its soil and then crossing the border to attack in Afghanistan. Several suspects recently arrested for allegedly planning suicide bomb attacks have come from Pakistan.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Tasnim Aslam, said the Taliban are operating well inside Afghanistan, and reiterated that Islamabad is standing up to the problem.
"Pakistan is doing whatever is needed to counter extremism and terrorism and not to allow its territory to be used for militant activities in Afghanistan. We have deployed 80,000 troops. We are taking military action," she said.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has to do more, Aslam said.
If Afghan refugees living in Pakistan return to their home country, "this would remove the presence of Afghans close to the border, which appear to prompt the allegation from Kabul," she said.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri said Karzai was misinformed and was merely looking for a scapegoat.
"To those who say this, I would like to say that it is a common human reaction when you have difficulties, you find somebody else to blame. I am not talking about President Karzai," Kasuri said Wednesday in Islamabad.
"People who are well-informed ... they know better. They know what Pakistan is doing, they know the price that Pakistan is paying," Kasuri said.
According to a tally by The Associated Press based on reports from Afghan, NATO and coalition officials, nearly 4,000 people have died in violence during 2006 — mostly militants but also including about 300 civilians.