KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai sought Sunday to rally public support for an upcoming military operation in the Taliban’s birthplace, promising that U.S. and NATO troops will push into insurgent areas there only after consultations with community leaders.

His remarks to about 2,000 officials and tribal leaders in Kandahar reflect a NATO strategy that makes bolstering the stature and capabilities of the Afghan government in the city as important as clearing neighborhoods of insurgents.

“There will be no military operation without your cooperation and consultation,” Karzai told the leaders as the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and NATO’s top civilian representative, Mark Sedwill, looked on.

U.S. and NATO forces are preparing a campaign in Kandahar expected to kick into high gear in June that will test President Obama’s gamble that tens of thousands more troops can turn the tide in the 8-year war. NATO hopes to wrap up the operation by Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and prayer that begins in early August.

Both U.S. and Afghan commanders have emphasized the need for support among Kandahar’s half million people, most of whom are members of the same Pashtun ethnic group as the Taliban. The Taliban was organized in Kandahar in the early 1990s and made the city their headquarters before they were ousted from power in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.


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