Western reconstruction teams like plumbers: Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday compared Western reconstruction teams in his country to "plumbers" who were no longer needed and said they should leave.

Small units of soldiers and civilians -- known as provincial reconstruction teams or PRTs -- help local government in many parts of Afghanistan by working in areas like education, health and infrastructure.

Karzai's comments, his latest outspoken swipe at Western allies of his government, came during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul.

"A PRT is like a plumber. At home, when a water pipe bursts you call a plumber to fix it. Once he has fixed the pipe, the plumber I think won't be staying there for ever, will he?" Karzai said, to laughter from reporters.

He added that PRTs were "like plumbers who came to help us, fix our pipe... and now they must leave."

Karzai said the units, which are thought to have spent hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid on small-scale reconstruction projects since 2002, were hampering Afghanistan's efforts to improve governance for itself.

The president frequently rails against what he says is Western interference in the affairs of Afghanistan.

Most recently, he said "foreign hands" influenced his decision to inaugurate parliament, after having called for a delay to allow time for what were seen as politically-influenced investigations into election irregularities.

US-led Afghan and international troops are battling a Taliban insurgency now in its 10th year since the 2001 US-led invasion toppled their hardline regime from power and implanted a Western-backed administration.

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