| GEO World|
| U.S. never gave Afghans "blank check": Karzai|
| Updated at: 1038 PST, Wednesday, January 13, 2010|
WASHINGTON: Afghan President Hamid Karzai denied on Tuesday the United States had ever given his country a "blank check" but said he was grateful for the "little money" sent by Washington to Afghanistan.
In an interview with US media, Karzai was asked how he felt when he heard U.S. President Barack Obama criticize his government last month for being corrupt and vow there would no longer be a "blank check" for U.S. assistance.
"We really never had a blank check," Karzai said. "But we're grateful even for the little money that's come to Afghanistan, even for the little help that's come to Afghanistan."
"We have no right over the American people to pay for us or to help us. This is our country. We must protect it ourselves and provide for it ourselves," Karzai said.
"So help from America is welcome. And even a penny is worth billions for us. In terms of gratitude, we are grateful for the help that we have received."
In a speech last month announcing that he would send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, Obama put pressure on Karzai to root out corruption in his administration.
Since the United States led an invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to topple the Taliban movement after the September 11 attacks, Washington has spent about $171.4 billion to keep the Taliban at bay. About 900 U.S. soldiers have died fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
In his troop increase announcement last month, Obama vowed to begin bringing U.S. soldiers home in 18 months and start handing off responsibilities to Afghan forces.