While the Obama administration has been harshly critical of Karzai, the Afghan president has complained loudly about U.S. attacks that have killed civilians.
The tension between the two allies surfaced several times during the interview. While Obama has indicated U.S. troops will begin withdrawing in 2011, Karzai repeated his assessment that his forces will need American combat help for another five years.
In recounting his successes, Karzai said, "The only area where we have not been able to show progress, where things have gone somehow backwards, is in terms of security and the war on terror."
He again urged the U.S. military to be careful saying, "The only thing that we want from America in this war on terror is to avoid civilian casualties, to avoid nightly raids on our homes, and don't take prisoners."
When asked what he wished he had done differently, Karzai replied, "A lot of things I wish I'd done differently, and a lot of things we requested, we informed the United States about to do differently, which it didn't do."
It was Karzai's most forceful public defense of his government since the fraud-tainted election in which prominent members of the Obama administration openly questioned whether Karzai was capable of uniting and leading the country at a time the U.S. was committing another 30,000 troops.
A fresh poll indicates that the popularity of Karzai's government is on the rebound.
The survey by ABC News, the BBC and ARD German TV found that 70 percent, a 30-point advance in views, that the country is headed in the right direction. That is the highest level of optimism since 2005.
Afghans' expectations that their own lives will be better a year from now have jumped by 20 points, to 71 percent, a new high. And there's been a 14-point rise in expectations that the next generation will have a better life, to 61 percent.
McChrystal also told Sawyer Monday that he felt the initial phases of the surge of U.S. troops was turning the tide against the Taliban.
ABC News' Nick Schifrin, Luis Martinez and Jake Tapper contributed to this report