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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And you want the Americans to assist you with this?

The Americans and others. Because when the Soviets left we had an air force of nearly 450 planes, and a formidable arrangement of armored vehicles, and mechanized and tank divisions, and all other, you know, equipment for the army and armed forces. Unfortunately they were all destroyed in our internal upheavals.

And used against the Afghan people.

Unfortunately, yes. Used against our own people.

So how would you explain to an American public suffering its own economic upheavals, that they should be spending their money on Afghanistan's army?

Well, it's in America's interest. If the United States has an interest in this region, and on the war on terror, and if in that Afghanistan is important, then they have to build it for us. Its's up to them. We are not forcing the U.S. to do this. The Americans are asking us for something, and we are asking for something in return. It's a give and take. Its not a matter of the United States helping us, it's a matter of we give something, they give something in return.

So you are giving them...?

We are giving them security, our facilities, the use of parts of our installations, and in return they are giving us A, B, C and D.

When you speak of American security interests, the priority is on preventing al Qaeda from finding a safe haven once again, coming back to Afghanistan.

They don't want terrorism, they don't want al Qaeda coming back, they want a region that's good for them, all of those things are what the U.S. is seeking here.

But the insurgency is not using aircraft, so why would the Afghan military need air force?

We don't need a military to tackle the insurgency at all. If this is even an insurgency. By the way, we have a problem of definition. I never call it an insurgency. I call it terrorism. The west has begun to call it terrorism, in the media and in their official language. We never call it an insurgency, this is terrorism. If it is an insurgency, then it is an Afghan problem and an outsider has nothing to do with it. In that case an outsider is taking a gun against one Afghan for another Afghan, and that is interference. So if it's an insurgency, I would not seek any U.S. assistance. I would rather be against such a U.S. presence in Afghanistan on such assistance. If it is terrorism, if it is war on terror, then the Afghan people will join you on terror. But the war on terror as I have repeatedly said in the past, and the Afghan people believe in it, in truth, is that the war on terror is not in the Afghan villages or homes. Its in the sanctuaries, it is in the training grounds, its in the motivation factors and the money that comes to it. So that definition has to other words, we distinguish it as such.

The sanctuaries. Do you see Pakistan as an ally or an enemy at this point?

I would not use the word enemy, I have never used the word enemy. I don't find it easy to use such words. I would never call a neighbor an enemy. But I would request the neighbor to be a good neighbor, to see that the neighbor's interest is a stable prosperous neighbor, a neighbor that is doing well. Therefore I would continue with my pursuit of a friendly neighborly strong relationshiptowards which we have taken some very fundamentally strong steps, the number of phases from both countries, the number of pledges from both countries, some where a delivery has been made, elsewhere where they have not been made, and it is the elsewhere that is the war on terror. An effective war on terror that has not been done, and we must do it together. The other point is for both of us to seek to bring the reconcilable in this process to reconciliation, to peace and Afghanistan should help Pakistan do it in their own territory, and Pakistan I hope will help us do it in our own territory.

The United States has often complained that Pakistan is not doing enough to fight terror on its own territory.

I agree. They could do a lot more. Look, this is very clear.

You have had reconciliation with the Taliban a key goal of your time left in office. Do you think it issomething possible to achieve in the 2 years you have left?

Well, I will keep trying to the last day of my tenure in office. Whether we achieve it or not is a different question. It is something that is good, that you must work for. If you achieve it, great. Happy. If you don't then let the next president continue the work.

So how long do you think it would take?

Well I would want it today, but if it is not possible today, then I would want it tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow, then next week. So I will continue to work for the peace process by all the means that I have, by all the power that I have, by all the persuasion that I have, and get it done with and I would hope also that the United states and our other allies and our neighbors will be sincere intheir work for the peace process for them and for us.

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