The Loneliness of the Afghan President: Karzai on His Own

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Pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai will increase as NATO begin to leave his country.

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There are many who say one of your failings of apresident is bringing the dead warlords back to life. Giving them power andposition in government instead of rule of law. What is your response?

Is that true? I wasn't in Bonn when they made that arrangement in 2001. I was in the mountains of central Afghanistan, in Uruzgan. So I had no hand in forming the government. I was myself picked up by that group to be heading the government. I didn't give millions of dollars to the mujahidin who then became strongmen in areas of the country. The U.S. did. The Europeans did. We didn't do that. Second, there are people that when they...when Dostum talks to me, the New York Times and the Washington Post and even Time Magazine dubbed them as warlords. When they go to meet with U.S. congress people to meet in Berlin, they are called allies and whatever, liberators of Afghanistan. So there is a serious question of credibility indeed in the Western application of standards. When you like someone he is a liberator and a great guy, and when that doesn't suit the objective, he is termed a warlord. I needed to bring this country out of factional fighting, out of ideological conflicts, out of people grabbing power by force and by intimidation into a country that all joined hands to do well. And this has worked well. We have gone from 10 years from a country where people were at each others throats — when I say people, I don't mean people, I mean factions, the powerful ones — to now all of them sitting together in parliament. To them working for Afghanistan. So it has helped.

So you have to give these guys positions in government to keep them from erupting into fighting again?

No, its not to keep them from fighting each other, but to help them build this country, and they now all have a stake in a good Afghanistan, for themselves and for the country. And I hope it will continue as it is, that the next president will make his own cabinet and decide his own way, but I am sure that whatever he will do will be with an eye on the overall stability of the country.

Do you have anyone in mind of who that next person could be?

I am thinking of some people, I have met with some people on this question, and I am busy working on this question, this is one of my jobs, one of my perhaps most important responsibilities.

So you are already working on finding a successor?

Very very much. I must find someone that will be an Afghan, will be a patriot, will be good to the Afghan people and tough with our Allies, good to the Afghan people and kind to the Afghan people and tough with our allies, that will not be vindictiveagainst the Afghan people or against those that, who are against the press, or...who will take the country forward...who will have relative security...who will not be against all that I have done.

Who have you found?

Well, it's a bit premature to say. Maybe I can say in a year from now.

What will you do once your term does end? Will you remain in politics?

I will be an Afghan citizen, and stay in Afghanistan. Not a political person.

You don't want to stay in politics?

I never was in politics by the way.

You are the president of Afghanistan, how is that not in politics?

Politics is...that's not politics. I would not be...if you, if you, if you mean by politics someone who tries to have issues raised and issues created and to be involved, no. I'll be an ex-president of Afghanistan, where if I can work as a citizen for furthering the stability and well being of the Afghan people I will continue to do that. If I am asked for advice for things, by the then president I will be willing and honored to give that advice. But I won't be an interventionist. If by political, you mean interventionist, no, I will not do that. I will support the president. I know what it takes to be the president of Afghanistan in these conditions. I know thepressures on the president. It will be much less than what it is today, but I will understand his environment, and from that background that I have gained, I will be a great supporter of the president, and I will advise people to make his life easier and to help him.

What will you do with your time? Golf?

Golf, sure. Or horse riding. Or mountain walking, or just walking around the city. Those will be...I miss that terribly.

When was the last time you walked in the city?

Almost seven years ago. Almost seven years ago in the city of Kabul. I used to do that. That is what I will have to do again.

Thank you, Mr. President.

All the best.

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