My view is that there was no terrorism in Afghanistan, and no extremism in Afghanistan, says Karzai
As the U.S. quickens the pace of its troops pull out, and talks in Doha hit an impasse, Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who is still seen as a power figure in the country, is due to embark on a mission for talks with Taliban and Pakistan. In an interview to The Hindu, Mr. Karzai says the U.S. has failed in its mission in Afghanistan, and said hopes for regional security solutions depend on Russia, China, Iran and India, and an end to extremism by Pakistan.
You have been very critical of the US as it completes its troops pull-out,you’ve said that the West has let Afghanistan down.What could they have done differently?
My view is that there was no terrorism in Afghanistan, and no extremism in Afghanistan. And that when the United States and its allies after the tragedy of September 11, came to Afghanistan, and they were welcomed wholeheartedly by a great majority of people in the hopes that they would be liberated from the creeping invasion that occurred in our country, and that Afghanistan would then be built primarily with efforts of Afghan people but also the systems of international community, India included. We thank all those who have helped us but the part which we suffer now, and has not been fulfilled, was the mission, as was stated by the United States repeatedly, that their presence in Afghanistan is to fight extremism and terrorism and bring stability.That has obviously failed. Look at our condition. Look at where we are, just a month and a half ago, more than 85 Afghan schools, girls, young girls and teenagers were killed and this was claimed by the ISIL or Daesh. And Daesh emerged during the presence of the US and NATO forces against the mission that they had proclaimed.
Just a few months ago, US Secretary of State offered a new proposal to President Ghanifor a transition government that includes Taliban officials. Do you think that proposal is workable?
The Taliban belong to the same country as we are. And we belong to the same country as they belong to, therefore we must sit together. And we mustnot be victims of a foreign plot in which we Afghans die, and others reap the profits. Therefore, the solution to whatever mechanism that brings peace to Afghanistan and stability to our nation, is something that Afghan people will wholeheartedly work for.
Most, nearly more than half of the American troops have already pulled out in the last few months. And yet the Taliban attacks continue.
They shouldn’t be doing that. They shouldn’t do that. That’s very wrong.
Where are they getting support from? Why do you think that they continue to carry out this violence?
Of course, support comes to them from the neighbourhood of Afghanistan. This has been there for a long time. And you and I have spoken often about that. There are two sides to this failing situation in Afghanistan, one is the misconduct of the United States policy, visibly in Afghanistan itself, and the way they dealt withour neighbours Pakistan.They complained against Pakistan. And yet they provided them support. So we suffer from these two contradictions.
There was a report in India that suggested that you might be the consensus candidate in a transition government?
No, that’s not something that I would see happening. Leading any such arrangement would hurt my efforts for peace, and I don’t want my efforts to be tainted that way. As a citizen of Afghanistan, I’m working for a peaceful life, for the Afghan people, for myself, for my children, for my friends for the country. But in no way would I be part of any mechanism that becomes a government. No.
You are expected to lead a delegation, a grand council delegation for talks with various groups, including a visit to Pakistan. Do you feel there has been any kind of a shift in Pakistan?
We have heard that, we have seen that in writing as well from the Honourable Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan, and from other Pakistani officials.These statements always come, but at the same time, we hope very much that they are put in action, and that this becomes a reality. Our expectation, and our hope is that change has occurred in Pakistan. We hope that is true, the statement that they make, and if it is true, that Afghan people will engage in all sincerity in making sure that Afghanistan and Pakistan have good positive, good neighbourly friendly, civilised relations.When I emphasise and underline the term or expression, civilised relationship will include the end the use of extremism.
What do you hope to achieve with this visit? And does this mean that the Doha process for talks that we saw inaugurated last year has reached a dead end, an impasse?
Doha process has not been productive so far, it has not given us the results that we wanted. We wish it well. We want it to succeed. We’re looking forward to meeting with the leaders of the Taliban movement. We also hope that our engagement with Pakistan, if it happens, will be one that will lead both nations to a better relationship. That is a desired outcome people and we’re looking forward to substantive real engagement on this.
We heard from a Qatari senior official, the Special Envoy as well confirming that an Indian delegation had met with the Taliban. What is your reaction to that?
India’s a great old friend of Afghanistan. I’m a product of Indian education, which I’m proud of, I’m very happy about. And India has been a tremendous ally,there are various reconstruction and development projects that India implemented in Afghanistan. I have been for a long, long time of the view that South Asia must be peaceful, and that we must all live together, exactly the way the European Union is now having a very profitable and free interaction among the states there. And for that to happen, how can we not recognise that India must be part of the processes in this region, not only the peace process, but everything else? Therefore, I welcome India’s talks to the Taliban. I think it was long overdue. I hope it has occurred. I don’t have first-hand information from either the Government of India nor the Taliban. But I wish it is true.
Do you think India has had to acknowledge that the Taliban was in fact, it is, in fact, a force that they have toreckon with, and that violence in Afghanistan will impact India as well?
That’s a very important question on the[possible] continuation of instability and conflict. The growth and mushrooming of extremism in Afghanistan will first affect Pakistan deeply as it has already, then definitely, it will cross over to India. So extremism in Afghanistan, in any form is going to affect the neighbourhood of Afghanistan. Therefore, any engagement by India and Afghanistan, or with Pakistan, that brings about the reduction and the eradication of extremism and terrorism is good for all of us. And I believe that is a responsibility upon us to fulfil.
How long will the Afghanistan democratic leadership [continue to engage Taliban], what are the red lines for them? Is there a point at which you might actually say there is no point speaking to the Taliban…We fought them once we will fight them again?
Yes, yes, there are clearly red lines.The red lines are a sovereign Afghanistan, exactly in the same way as it was towards the former Soviet Union, exactly in the same way as we reacted to the United States. An Afghanistan where the will of the Afghan people determines the future, chooses its government and an Afghanistan where the people enjoy the rights that God has given to them, and where the Afghan women have the right place in the society, that we live happily together in unity and peace and towards prosperity. Those are red lines that cannot be compromised. And that has been amply, and very, very often made clear to the Taliban.
I have my own daughters growing up in Afghanistan. They are little girls now that are growing up, and I want them to have an excellent future in their own country, to be educated to be what they want to be, to serve the country. And there is no compromise on that.
What specifically do you think India can do to help Afghanistan security situation?
We did sign a strategic partnership agreement with India [in 2011]. And it was the first agreement that we signed with any country. Afghan security is for the Afghan people to provide. We do want to have the best relations with all those countries who wish to be our goodfriends, including the United States of America.For a peaceful Afghanistan, India’s contribution will remain extremely important, and imperative for stability in Afghanistan, of this region.
What is the role of Russia and China right now?
Russia has conducted several very productive rounds of intra Afghan dialogue in Moscow from November 2018, to last March2021. And the last Troika plus meeting ended with a very good declaration statement on Afghanistan. Russia has done all it could, and I very much want Russia to do a lot more. China is a good friend of Afghanistan, a neighbour of Afghanistan, it means well for the Afghan people, we also hope very much they would step up their profile and activity in Afghanistan. We hope that the Troika plus would include Iran and India as well. Peace in this regioncan only come when we join hands, all of us, and remove the competition, or the negativity surrounding this exercise.
You said that the US has failed in its mission in Afghanistan when it comes to fighting extremism. Do you not think Afghanistan’s leadership has failed the country as well in failing to provide them security and unity?
We the Afghan people cannot be without responsibility in this regard. As far as my role is concerned, I delivered according to the Constitution of Afghanistan, to the new government, seven years ago, a united country, a country that was progressing, a country that was looking forward to a better future, and I had hoped that all other Afghan people and the leaders would be able to deliver that country too.
Looking ahead at Afghanistan’s future, do you feel despondent? Do you feel hopeful? Do you feel that come September, the situation could get worse or better?
This is our country. We are the sons of the soil and it is upon us to protect it and provide security through which to grow and prosper. Afghanistan faced extremely difficult circumstances in the past 40 years. We have gone through a lot. We are resilient people. There is an immense vision amongst the Afghan youth to grow their own country, and we must provide for our own security. We cannot depend on any outside source for our security. And we hope that our neighbours will understand that Afghanistan wishes good relations, especially with Pakistan. Our plea our request, is that [Pakistan] recognises that the future lies in a civilised relationship between the two of us, away from extremism.