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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Do you think Pakistanis see it that way?

I think they do. I think they do. I think they do. A great many of them do. If this is a threat to all of us, then we all must join hands to fight it together. The United States has to prove its sincerity in the war on terror to Pakistan, to Afghanistan and to others. And this is what I have been telling Americans for a long time now. And we have to prove to Pakistan that we will be of no danger to them. And Pakistan has to prove itself to us as well, and to the Americans. So it's an all rounder. We all have to make sure that the other side understands us better, that our motivations are understood, that our purposes are clear and understood, and that we work towards the same objective. This has not been the case unfortunately, either because of the incidents that darkens the environment, or for whatever reasons. So there has to be a sincere, clear, effort.

There are conflicting assessments of how strong the Taliban is at this point as a moment. Military and Ambassadors say that they are a declining threat, they are weakened divided and split. Then we have American intelligence that says they are getting stronger, they have shadowgovernors in most provinces and that they could pose a threat to the Afghan government in the future. What is your assessment of their strengths?

No. No. Look, now there is a lot in the Western press about the Taliban coming back and all that. If you asked me three years ago, I would have not answered you in the positive. I would have said 'I don't know', or 'you are probably right', or somewhere in between. But now I can tell you withconfidence, ma'am, that the Taliban as a force to threaten the government of Afghanistan, or the way of life we have chosen is no longer there. That the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan will not lead to the Taliban coming back. That rather when that happens the Afghan people will be more effective in their fight against terrorists that come to Afghanistan. That in the absence of the international forces, the Afghan people will be more effectively defending their country and the Afghan forces will be more effectively campaigning for their own security. So I have no worry about that.

Well if the incidents of terrorism increase of decrease is a different question. If you are talking about the Taliban as a movement coming to take over, no. But incidents of terrorism, that is something that we all have to be concerned about and which might increase, which is not so much the Taliban, the traditional Taliban, but more other factors than the traditional Taliban. So no, I am not concerned about that.

But that brings us to another question. Eventually it's the Afghan people and what they do that will determine the future of Afghanistan. If we as a nation take the right decisions, move in the right direction, do the right thing, and establish a government that is in the service of the Afghan people, we would not at all be damageable as a system as a constitutional body. But if...and this has been a struggle for me, this has been a struggle for me...if the Afghan people see that their own government is violating their homes, that there is any illegitimate use of force, and that the constitution of Afghanistan, the laws of Afghanistan and the security and safety and dignity of the Afghan people is not taken care of, then of course I as an Afghan too would not tolerate and do all I can to bring me safety and security.

Do you feel as if the West is with you or against you?

As an individual, or a country?

You as an individual.

Well the West has been against me, clearly. For the stance that I had, and regardless of whether I am liked or disliked by elements in the West, or all of the governments there, or some of the elements or individuals there, my job is for Afghanistan. I have been doing all I can for Afghanistan, so just like the U.S. president has the right, and he should protect the life of the American people. See if you hear President Obama, he always goes to the American people and says that he has committed these American troops to Afghanistan in order to bring safety and security to American people. It's the American people for President Obama. It's the Afghan people for Hamid Karzai. That's as simple as it is. It's the Afghan people that I am working for. And in order to bring protection and security to the Afghan people I am willing to take wrath from all over the world.

What about from within your own government? Last week your finance minister, Omar Zakhilwal was complaining in a press conference that your government has done nothing to stop corruption.

That's a different thing.

He said, "Up until now, anti-corruption efforts have been made only to satisfy donors; it's not enough."

Well, he's right about that.

That the moves you have made so far are only to satisfy donors?

In the sense that the corruption thing is more a donor drama. It is less a concern about corruption in Afghanistan, as it is true. There is corruption in Afghanistan, no doubt, and more and more of the Afghan people come and tell me. More and more of the Afghan people come and tell me that there is corruption in Afghanistan on account of the Afghan government, and the prevailing environment, and also on account of a mess of the way money has been spent by donors in Afghanistan. The contracts given to people, the way contracts are used to leverage the Afghan government officials and parliamentarians, and the way that feeds into more corruption in Afghanistan, and one we have discussed before. I don't want to continue with something we have discussed before. I have very particular feelings about that.

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