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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Is it propaganda, does it undermine their credibility to be seen talking to you?

No, they look good if they are seen talking to us.

So why do they deny it?

Probably you have not asked the right people. Those who talk to us will tell you that they are talking to us. The press is talking to some spokesman.

TIME is talking to more than just Zabiullah Mujahid, we are also talking to commanders on both sides of the border.

Well they are talking to us. They have spoken to us in Dubai, in Qatar. They also talk to us in Kabul.

Do you see a split, between some Taliban who want to reconcile, and some who do not?

I have met some of them myself. Those who meet with us, or those who have met with us, or the ones who very much want to have peace come back to their country. Look, they are suffering. They are suffering in Pakistan. They are being put in prison. When they are not following the Pakistani line. And some of them are not suffering in Pakistan because they follow the Pakistani line. But the patriotic ones are around, and they are suffering.

How do you see the end state of reconciliation? Power sharing? Entering political office? Ministries? Regional control?

Afghanistan has a constitution. And the constitution is democratic. There are elections of Parliament, for president. Those Taliban who want to come back and accept the Afghan constitutions, they have the right to stand for president, they have the right to stand for parliament, they have the right to stand for provincial councils as well. Nobody can stop them from that. Those who want to be part of the government, they are welcome, there are people who are from Hizb-i-Islami who are part of this government, there are people from Jebet-i-islami who are part of this government. There are people from Sharal i-waazin, Hizbi-wadat who are part of this government. There are Afghan Millat, and the former communists, the Khalkh and Parchama who are part of this government. So can be the Taliban. Why not?

Do they see it as defeat if they have to accept the government and the constitution? Because they say they don't believe in either.

They have never told us that. Really, never, have they discussed the constitution with us. They have discussed the Americans with us. They have discussed the atrocities with us. They have discussed the civilian casualties. They have never discussed the constitution.

So the constitution is not a problem for them?

Not to those to whom we are speaking.

Now, going on. The next two years before the withdrawal, before the elections. They will pass quickly. There is great anxiety about what happens next. What do you want your legacy to be at the end of your term? At the end of the American and NATO withdrawal?

Well, in a way my legacy is already set. For me the greatest of my achievements would be that Afghanistan became the home of all Afghans. From all walks of life, from all political tendencies, from all parts of the country. They came back to Afghanistan and they found a place here to take the opportunity of life. The...the brutal side of governance in Afghanistan I have struggled to contain. Not that I have been able to abolish completely. But I have struggled against it. No Afghan has gone to prison for his or her political views. Never. The country's education has flourished like never before. The thousands and thousands of Afghan boys and girls that have been able to go to universities inside and outside the country. The country's return to the world community from a miserable isolation. To now having representation all over the world, at meetings and conferences. A better economy. A better living standard. But yes, one of the greatest shortcomings that I will remember painfully is that peace did not come to the Afghan people the way they wanted. Security did not come to the Afghan people the way they deserved, the way they wanted it. Short of that, the rest is good.

You mentioned briefly, Do you think the U.S. has the best interests of Afghanistan in the way it pursues its military solution in the country, or is it making more problems than it is solving?

This is very important question. It's a question that I have thought about so often and so many times. And a question of which...serious tensions have emerged between the U.S. and the Afghans, almost to the point of saying goodbye.

That bad?

Worse than that even. So I don't have a good view. No.

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