Karzai: "They Hate Our Way of Life"

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Karzai: As you may have heard, we just got news of a suicide bombing in Kabul. I'll be getting the details shortly.

TIME: What does this attack mean?

Karzai: We are used to it. It's so unfortunate when you hear so much of it. Afghanistan has been going through this sort of suffering for a long time. You get very angry, and each time you get angrier. But then also you think and try to rationalize and seek better ways of prevention. That's what one does. That's how it is.

TIME: There has obviously been some worrying news out of Afghanistan over the last few weeks, fighting in the south, reports about [opium] poppy cultivation. For a lot of people outside of Afghanistan there is a sense that the world is failing and that the effort to build a new Afghanistan is faltering.

Karzai: It is definitely not. What the world should see is the desire of the Afghan people, not the problems we have along the way.

(Karzai leaves to consult with security advisor.)

Karzai: This is what I am hearing about the blast. So far, reports indicate three people killed in the coalition, three Afghans and the suicide bombers. (Numbers rose to 16 Afghans dead, 2 soldiers, three dozen wounded.)

TIME: As we were saying, these sorts of things add to a perception that the effort here is going backward.

Karzai: Look, we have enemies. The same enemies that blew up themselves in London, the same enemies that blew up the train in Madrid or the train in Bombay or the twin towers in America are still around. Before September 11, they were the government in Afghanistan. They were in charge here. Today they are not the government. Today they are on the run and hiding and they come out from their hiding and try to hurt us when they can manage it. They hate us all—they hate our way of life and they like when they can afford it to inflict as much damage as they possibly can. So we will have this for a long time. But what are we comparing the situation to? Are we forgetting that they were the government of Afghanistan? Are we forgetting that they were in charge of this country, that they had the entire infrastructure of Afghanistan at their disposal from where they could launch major attacks across the world? Today we are hunting them openly and publicly and they are hiding and occasionally they come out of their hiding and try to hurt us. So the enemy is defeated, but the enemy is not eliminated. The elimination part is what we should continue to work on. And that needs patience. That needs perseverance and that needs hard work.

TIME: Isn't this enemy growing stronger, isn't that what we are seeing in the South?

Karzai: No, the South is a different situation. Bomb blasts is one thing that you cannot stop. A terrorist activity of that nature, a suicide bomber, of explosions, is one aspect of it. The other aspect, the Taliban activity in the South of the country is an entirely different issue. That's something that is preventable. That is much easier to prevent and neutralize. The reason why there are now Taliban in Panjwai, in Pashmul, in Kandahar, is because we were weak there. People in Kandahar told me two years ago to strengthen the districts with a police force. We couldn't do that because we had no resources to implement what we wanted. And I began to negotiate with our allies exactly two years ago. It kept going on, we kept talking, and no one came forward to help us with that. The population kept calling for stronger district administration, police resources and reconstruction. We tried in that in some of the districts of Kandahar on our own. Two and a half years ago you will remember the Taliban were there. [In one place] they destroyed the mosque, they destroyed the bazaar, and they destroyed the district offices. And then the local population came to us and said, Look, we defended the districts for so long, we cannot do it without government help. I said 'What do you want?' They said, Send us 100 men or give us resources for 100 men in the district. And we did that. Till today it is the strongest of districts. We wanted to do the same in every district in the southern parts of the country. Or where we had borders with Pakistan. Where we have done that we are secure. Where we didn't do that we are not secure. That's a much easier problem.

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