Karzai Interview

Lee Van Cleef as Karzai

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French Daily Le Monde Newspaper

December 07, 2013

translated by nitwitcomputer.com

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Correspondent: Thank you very much, Mr. President, of course, I will ask you some questions that a lot of people have already asked you, I am sorry that you would repeat yourself but it is important that the French public needs to know.

President Karzai: Welcome, ok, go ahead!

Correspondent: Let’s talk about the BSA, a lot of people ask and try to understand your position and I think your position has been made quite clear but I would like you to repeat it again. First of all, do you have any idea of if you will sign and when will you sign it?

President Karzai: Those who have followed Afghanistan in the past ten years and my work, know that I had a position, now for at least eight years, that position has been that the war on terror cannot be fought and is not to be fought in Afghan villages or homes or country, that if there is a war on terror, then it has to be taken to the sanctuaries where they shape up , where they get trained, where they get nurtured. So, on this, this has been my constant position and the main source of tension and friction between me and the United States. There are other issues too but this is the principal issue: Afghan civilian casualties and the lack of a visible effort, a genuine effort by the United States with us on the peace process. The day I spoke to the Afghan Jirga- the Loya Jirga that discussed the BSA and approved it, an end to attack on Afghan homes and peace was my condition and on the last day of Jirga, it was again my condition, so the Afghan people are not against a relationship with the United States or NATO, I am not against a relationship with the United States or NATO , the Afghan people approved the BSA, I am for the BSA but I want the BSA to bring peace to Afghanistan and to bring an end to attack on Afghan homes, that has been my position.

Correspondent: And so far, because nearly two weeks now, have passed since the Loya Jirga or ten days, so did you receive any assurances from the US that you might sign it quite early?

President Karzai: Well, before we went to inaugurate the Jirga, the morning of the Jirga, this negotiation continued till late at night and the US government offered to assure us through a letter by President Obama. I received that letter 8:00 in the morning ,the day we went to the Jirga , the 21st of November  and that letter which is also available to the Press and I believe you must have seen it. President Obama assured me that the United States will respect Afghan homes just like they respect their own homes but then we saw that barely two or three days after the Jirga, an Afghan home was attacked in Helmand and on the day of Jirga, Afghan homes were attacked in Nooristan province , civilians were killed so assurances of that nature have not been effective , have not been fulfilled therefore the Afghan people need to see that these attacks stop , that assurances are assurances  and not mere words.

Correspondent: so, you recently met Mr. Dobbins and what in substance did he tell you? I mean, if there is no BSA, for example, for the US but what would it mean for Afghanistan?

President Karzai: Well, I had a long conversation with Mr. Dobbins who I know for ten years now, a very capable US diplomat, a very capable person. He basically said that if there is no BSA, there will be no peace and now you can interpret this many ways, you can interpret this in a positive way, that once you sign the BSA, there will be peace which again if they can reassure us and if they can provide us the trust that we need, it is a good thing. You can also interpret this in a different way that if you don’t sign the BSA, we will cause fighting in your country, we will cause you more trouble and more disturbance and more fighting and less peace. Either way, Afghanistan will remain committed to its demand that the BSA must bring peace to Afghanistan and before it is signed, we must have visible movements towards peace in Afghanistan- that means launching negotiations between the Afghan High Council for Peace and the Taliban. Now, I understand that peace cannot come in a month, two or three, what I want is the launch of the peace process and effective launch of the peace process between the Afghan Peace Council and the Taliban.

Correspondent: But what kind of role can the US play in order to encourage such a process? What kind of means can they activate?

President Karzai: In my experience, and of what I have gone through with the United States and the information that I have, the United States is in a position considerably to help launch the peace process. When we were in Washington, November of 2012, and when we were negotiating for the peace process with the United States, the United States was effectively speaking on behalf of the Taliban with us, so they are in a position.

Correspondent: Do you mean that they have some secret connections with the Taliban?

President Karzai: Surely, they have secret connections but that doesn’t mean that they have, but that doesn’t indicate that they cannot launch the peace process when I say they can help the peace process, is by all other elements that are available to them. They are friendly with Pakistan, they support Pakistan, Pakistan is definitely in contact with the Taliban and the United States has the abilities and the means available through Pakistan and directly as well to bring stability and peace to Afghanistan.

Correspondent: So, if I summarize what you said, you need to see tangible signs first: end of attacks on Afghan homes, tangible sign of the launching of the peace process, once you have those tangible signs?

President Karzai: yes, absolutely, then, it’s alright for me to give a go-ahead for signing the BSA.

Correspondent: And do you think that could happen before the next elections?

President Karzai: If it happens, good. If it doesn’t happen, then the next President should sign it. You see, my responsibility is to deliver all the measures of guarantee for a BSA that serves Afghan purposes and unless and until I am sure of those guarantees, I will not allow signing of it because the BSA as much as it brings and ensures the interests of the United States of America and NATO, must also ensure the interests of the Afghan people and I should be absolutely confident of the future , of safety, security and peace for the Afghan people before I go ahead and approve the signing. Now , why did I call the Jirga, I called the Jirga so the Afghan people will see this document and if they approve it, it will be conveyed to the United States that we are for a relationship with you, now that we have told you that we are for a relationship with you, you must change your behavior, you need not conduct yourself in a manner that will cause harm to Afghanistan or weaken Afghanistan, now that we have given you an assurance of an alliance, you must become an ally and behave like an ally, not like an adversary or a competitioner.

Correspondent: Do you get the feeling that sometimes the US behaves towards Afghanistan as an adversary?

President Karzai: Attacking Afghan homes is the act of an adversary, launching a psychological warfare against the Afghan people is the act of an adversary.

Correspondent:  What do you mean by psychological war?

President Karzai: A psychological war on our economy, on encouraging businesses to leave Afghanistan, on encouraging money to leave Afghanistan, on frightening the Afghan people of the consequences of 2014 if they are not here, this is all a psychological warfare.

Correspondent: Do you think that it is a product or the outcome of state propaganda?

President Karzai: Absolutely, the outcome of state propaganda! Without a doubt, without the slightest element of doubt, if I were not sure of all those things, I would have not been so adamant in my demands, it is out of that certainty in my mind that I demand a peace process and an end [to attacks] on Afghan homes.

Correspondent: In some statements, you equated Taliban and Americans as if they were both your adversary or enemies and that shocked a lot in the US because they don’t understand you, they helped you a lot at the beginning, they funded and gave a lot of money and training and you talked about them as if they were the Taliban, do you think that…?

President Karzai: I don’t say that. I am grateful , the Afghan people are grateful, thankful for the assistance that has been meaningful and helpful to Afghanistan, absolutely, by all means and we like to repeat our thanks many times for but where the United States has behaved against our will and in spite of us repeatedly telling them about it, in a manner that has been hurtful to the Afghan people , it is my job to speak out against it, it has not been a comparison between them and the Taliban, it has been speaking the truth, when the Taliban cause death to the Afghan people, I condemn it, at the same time, I call them brothers because they are Afghans and I want them to come back to their homes and make peace with the country and be in this country as we all are the Afghan people, to the Americans , I have said , you are here to fight extremism or terrorism, why should the Afghan people pay the price of your war on terrorism, why would you attack an Afghan home for an unknown so-called Talib, of whom we have thousands in Afghanistan and cause death and suffering to children and women, so it is more fundamental to our dignity as a people, to us as human beings, will the United States launch drone attacks against homes in America for a bad character or a killer or a terrorist? No, why should they do it in Afghanistan, do you feel that an Afghan is worth less than an American?  I don’t feel that! I have equal respect for an American as I have for an Afghan, and I want the United States also to have equal respect for an Afghan child, as they have for an American child. As human being all over, we are not less worthy, we are as valuable as human beings, as human beings everywhere else, therefore that is something that I will keep on asking and that will never, never change.

Correspondent: In order to exert pressure on you, a lot of US officials say that if the BSA is not signed at the end of this year, it will never be signed, it will be a sort of a zero option and I understood that you consider that those threats are just bluff and that they are bluff, that they are not serious about this zero option, so do you think that they are bluff? Could you tell me about it?

President Karzai: Even if they are real, even if it is not a bluff, even if it is real, we are not going to be pressured into signing it without our conditions being met. Even if they are real, the United States cannot push us into a corner; it cannot be exploiting us or our needs. If it wants to be an ally with us, it has to be a respectful ally, it cannot be an exploiter. What I hear these days, what I heard before and what hear these days is exactly classic colonial exploitation, that is not where Afghans bow down, the Afghans have defeated colonizers, they don’t accept that, they accept a respectable relationship, they are honorable people and they will treat friends honorably.

Correspondent: so, do you think that the US is behaving like a colonial power in Afghanistan?

President Karzai: Absolutely, the threats that they make is that: we keep salaries, we will take it to a civil war, and we will take it to no peace. These are threats, if you want to be a partner with us, you must be a friend, respect Afghan homes, don’t kill their children and be a partner, that is what we will give you and we will do it honorably.

Correspondent: So, you said even if it is not a bluff, what is your own conviction because I understood that…?

President Karzai: Even if it is a bluff, whether a bluff or not a bluff, for us, it doesn’t bring a change, we want our commitment to Afghan lives and peace respected and it heard too.

Correspondent: so, the fact to agitate the risk of strategic void and stop fundings and so on. For you, it will leave nowhere?

President Karzai: We will not cease to be a nation, if that were to happen. It will be harder for us, it will be more difficult for us but we will continue to live our lives and continue to make our ends meet and continue to be a nation and a state.  If the Americans are here , if the NATO is here with us with their resources, hopefully ,properly spent and not wasted or looted, arriving from one door, going through the other door, if it is not in that manner, if our homes are respected, if peace is there, their presence here is good for Afghanistan and we value it but if their presence is here at a price to Afghan homes, for their security, for their dignity and if their presence here means continued war, bombs and killings, it’s not worth it, we rather be peaceful than have a few rich and the others dying, no.

Correspondent: So, Nawaz Sharif was here last week and it was an important visit in the new context of Pakistan with a civilian power, a civilian government which tries to assert itself against the military establishment and we know the negative role that the military…

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afganistan flag svoboda

Afghanistan Flag

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…establishment played in Afghanistan. I cannot understand if you have any hopes of this new civilian government. There is this issue of Mullah Bradar which has been released, I don’t know if he is completely free or just under house arrest, anyway. An HPC delegation went to Pakistan to meet him, what kind of assurances, Mr. Nawaz Sharif gave you as far as these connections with Mullah Bradar is concerned and the positive role that Pakistan can play now?

President Karzai: I have met Mr. Nawaz Sharif before he became the Prime Minister and after that three, four times, he has good intentions for Pakistan , he is a patriotic Pakistani and he wants Pakistan to do well, Pakistan is also under attack in many ways, therefore I am sure that he means well when he says he wants to improve relations with neighbors both with Afghanistan and India and so far, he has tried his best to fulfill his commitment to us including on Mullah Bradar, we had certain understandings reached when he visited Kabul a few days ago. I am hoping that those will be implemented together with us and with the help of the Americans, so let’s hope and let’s wait and see.

Correspondent: Can we know what are these understandings?

President Karzai: Not to this point, when they take place, you will know it automatically.

Correspondent: So, there are some chances that we will witness some big initiative in the next few weeks?

President Karzai: Let’s not describe it in terms of big or small, let’s say that we hope to see movement forward towards the peace process in Afghanistan.

Correspondent: There was this so-called Doha fiasco in July I think and we know the story, do you expect this Taliban Office reopening in Doha or would you like to shift it to another country?

President Karzai: Doha was not our choice in the first place, Doha, Qatar was an American choice and an American plan, we negotiated for almost two years, we told from the very beginning the Americans that is not our place, we want the peace process to be in Afghanistan and if not in Afghanistan, then Saudi Arabia or Turkey but the Americans insisted on Qatar and then we put conditions, the Americans agreed to those conditions and again , the US President gave me a letter of assurances but when the Office in Qatar opened, it was exactly the opposite to those assurances therefore Qatar is no longer an option for us.

Correspondent: You may not allow this bureau to reopen?

President Karzai: Not in that manner, not at all, we want talks with the Taliban, my advice to our brothers the Taliban is that they have a country, their country is Afghanistan and they are free to come here to talk to us. First choice is Afghanistan and first request to them is Afghanistan but if they say elsewhere, then for the sake of peace, we will agree.

Correspondent: but you know better than me that the big, big, big issue is that the Taliban don’t want to talk directly with you, officially at least.

President Karzai:  That’s not true. Well, that’s not true. That’s why I say it’s America and Pakistan, they have the ability to launch peace, it‘s not the Taliban, it’s statements coming in the name of the Taliban but from other countries.

Correspondent: The statement which has been released in Doha for the opening of the Office.

President Karzai: We know who wrote that statement!

Correspondent: It wasn’t the Taliban themselves? It was a joint US-Pakistani …?

President Karzai:  I will not go that far at this stage, later I might, but we know it wasn’t the Taliban’s written statement, we know who wrote it for them.

Correspondent: But the fact is that I don’t know because there is the official statement, a lot of things I ignore but I understood that so far, I mean maybe until last few weeks that their position was I am sorry that they considered you as a sort of puppet as they say and they only want to talk with the master so they completely ignored and snubbed you and the point for you is to be recognized as a legitimate partner.

President Karzai: Even that wasn’t the Taliban, it was to create an environment in Afghanistan, so peace would not happen.

Correspondent: So, you think that actually refusal of the Taliban to talk to you is not from the Taliban, it’s another power, a neighboring power?

President Karzai: Yes, neighboring or more! No, we know that the Taliban want to talk to us, we are in contact with them.

Correspondent: You are in contact with them?

President Karzai: yes, we are in contact with them.

Correspondent: So, can we say that actually the BSA issue and this patriotic stance that you display more and more aggressively is also a way to show people who challenge your legitimacy that you are legitimate?

President Karzai: No, I know our legitimacy, I know where we are independent, I know where we have our needs and that need reduces the practice of our independence, to repeat myself, I know the legitimacy of the Afghan government perfectly there, I know we are independent in our decision-making but I also know the needs of this country and the connection that need provides to the influence from outside and where that reduces the effectiveness of our independent action. So, there is a difference between independence and independence in decision-making, from independently acting or implementing your decisions. We have a handicap in implementing our decisions, it is not because of that, it is not to prove patriotism or independence, it is to prove a right as a human being and then as a citizen of Afghanistan. Would you allow in France in the name of the war on terror that French citizens in their homes and their children be killed? No!  Where it was a sacrifice, where we felt that it was the war on terror, we did give our sacrifice but where I know that a wrong is committed, as a human being which means universally, applicable to all peoples elsewhere and as the President of Afghanistan, it is my duty to defend Afghanistan and its people. Now if I were not the President of Afghanistan, if I were a citizen and the same atrocities taken place, say in Burkina Faso, I would have raised the objection of a citizen, of a human being, here I have a doer responsibility , of human conscience and of my job as the President of this country, it has got nothing to do with patriotism, patriotism is always there and it will be there and I am not the only patriot in this country, there are millions , perhaps more patriot than I am but it’s the assertion of a right and it’s an effort to correct a wrong.

Correspondent: Ok, I would like to get back to some criticisms which are expressed, particularly the corruption issue in Afghanistan, you know it’s a very big issue, so according to you, I mean who is responsible for that, is it a shared responsibility? Is there any one particular source of corruption? How do you analyze this corruption issue and your own responsibility?

President Karzai: There is corruption in Afghanistan, no doubt. There is corruption within the Afghan system, no doubt. There is corruption also from the international community, especially from US contracts and the way those contracts are implemented, for example, the private security firms that the US employed in Afghanistan was one of the biggest sources of corruption in Afghanistan and lawlessness and insecurity and worst of all, the creation of a parallel structure to the Afghan security forces, they had effectively created a state within a state and a corrupt one.

Correspondent: You mean some militias?

President Karzai: Those private security firms that the US had employed, the Dyncorps with the others and their Afghan associates that I had struggled for five, six years to stop and they wouldn’t. The US would keep on insisting that they should have them. To put it in plain words, the Afghan corruption is like a stream of corruption, the US and international corruption is like a river of corruption. For me to fight against both corruptions, I could have taken a lot tougher measures but those tougher measures, would have not ended corruption, they would have caused more friction in Afghan society and government because I know when I demanded from the United States that they should end the contracts for the private security firms, they went to every individual and political force that they knew, had good connections with me and had influence over me and offered them and their children and their family members, private security firms and all of them inevitably came to me with applications in their hands, “Mr. President, the US is willing to give us a private security firm, give us one, order the Ministry to give us one.”  I didn’t do it. Some got angry with me, some are still angry with me. So, when I worked against corruption, US actions countered my effort with an intention to stop me and with a consequence to cause discomfort in my relationship with people, with my friends, with the political players and generally for more confusion.

Correspondent: I read a piece in New York Times from William Dalrymple, you talked to him and he quoted you on, tell me if I am wrong but you were talking about some secret agenda or secret plan between the US and the Taliban to divide the country?

President Karzai: It wasn’t that, it was something like this, I was approached by some countries and also in the name of the Taliban by some individuals through indirect proposals that if the Taliban are given a place in Afghanistan where they can officially come to reside and raise their administration and that will then lead to a peace process. I saw that effectively as the creation of two states within one country and then I called some Taliban personalities, those who are actively in the movement, those who had connections with them to find out about this, they said, yes , they were also approached and offered places in Afghanistan but they refused it and I saw that the movement for Qatar was intended for that purpose and as it was announced, the day it was announced, proved our point, so the way, certain other activities are conducted in the name of the peace process, indicated that certain forces in the West wanted not talks between the High Peace Council and the Taliban but talks between the Taliban and others in the name of ethnic groups in Afghanistan, so they were trying to ethnicise the conflict and then arrange talks between warlords and ethnic groups, this is proven and it failed because the Afghan people reacted to it strongly.

Correspondent: Is it the so-called plan B of run black heal of a de facto partition between the non-Taliban north and the Taliban the South?

President Karzai: Whatever the plan was, we know that the West through associations like the Aspen Foundation and others such, Aspen Foundation which is an organization in the United States and certain members of the US Congress and others, meetings were arranged in Germany where they tried to force federalism on Afghanistan and also then try to give areas to the Taliban. So, we are fairly confident that an effort was made to weaken Afghanistan and to turn it into fiefdoms, to have a weak central government, and the reason, the Americans and some Europeans tried to undermine the Presidential elections in 2009, was also to have a weakened government with less illegitimacy so they could sway it around and use it, they thought the way, they wanted.

Correspondent: So, that brings me to the next Presidential elections, you raised this issue during your Loya Jirga statement because one of US officials raised the possibility of a second round, and then you wrote the condition that the US must not interfere and that was also a condition for the signature of the BSA, is it still a condition? , these are not the interferences of the US.

President Karzai: In a way, Yes, you see we have our experience of the 2009 elections, I don’t know if you heard an interview by Mr. Kai Eide the United Nations Special Representative then in Kabul a few days ago on an Afghan television channel and also the interview of the Vice-Chairman of the Election Commission of that time where they spoke of blatant interference in the elections. For example; our own French General Mario went to the Election Commission of that time, who was an observer, General Mario was the Chief of European Observer Mission, he went to the Election Commission and told the Election Commissioner himself to forget about constitutional requirements and the elections and that he should rather make an arrangement between the two leading vote winners rather than look for the elections and Galbraith had told the Vice-chairman of the Election Commission that he wanted Karzai defeated, when the Vice-chairman of the Election Commission told him, “well it’s up to the people to decide.”, the Vice-chairman was threatened and he was told that you are a young man, you should think of your own future and the Secretary General of the Election Commission was told again by Mr. Galbraith that if you declare the results and announce it without our permission, you will be digging your grave. Now, it was that serious an interference. In ballot boxes, we also know that some of the attacks that took place in parts of Afghanistan, like in Kandahar, like in Paktia, like in Kunduz, like in Baghlan in the name of the Taliban, were not the Taliban. The intention was to deprive parts of the country from voting and when that failed, then they tried to remove more than a million votes in the name of fraud, so that was done to cast a weak government, a compromised legitimacy.  Just three days before the Consultative Jirga to discuss the BSA, the US Ambassador here mentioned to me, when I said, “why don’t you wait for the next government when we had disagreement on arrangements of security for Afghan homes? I said, “Why don’t wait for the next government? sign it with the next government!, maybe they will be less, you know, rigid, more open to you, not having my experience because my rigidity is the result of my experience, maybe the next President will not have the unfortunate experiences that I had, and maybe he will be a lot more open to you. He said, no, we can’t wait. I said, it’s only for months. Then, he said, no, if it goes to the 2nd round, the 2nd round will then take four to six months to convene. Why?  The 2nd round is supposed to be done within two weeks. Why should it go from first round, if it is inconclusive in the first round till second round in four to six months and that alarmed me because I saw in it exactly the repetition of 2009 elections where the first round was nullified and abused and the second round didn’t take place. So the elections took place in August and the results were declared in November, December- four months, therefore so that condition of the election came to my mind as a condition just two or three days before the Jirga.

Correspondent: And you still raised these conditions?

President Karzai: I raised it with the madam Suzan Rice, the National Security Advisor of the United

States and she assured me that the United States will not interfere in the elections, I will take it as an assurance but I will also keep verifying it.

Correspondent: The last question, do you think that the election was planned for the 7th of April, will it take place on time?

President Karzai: It has to take place on time, I am committed to it.

Correspondent: Ok, You will not allow this first round to postpone for later on?

President Karzai: It is for the Election Commission to decide, as far as I am concerned, I will not interfere in whatever the Election Commission decides and if they want to hold it on the 5th of April, I am very much for it.

Correspondent: Last question about different candidates, your brother Qayum is a candidate, a lot of people are speculating that he could be favored by you, will you support him or will you try not to interfere?

President Karzai: I told him not to become a candidate.

Correspondent: You were against his candidacy?

President Karzai: I told him in very clear words and I told him that because of you if you are a candidate, those who want to accuse me of interference, will easily be able to do it, so please don’t be a candidate but he said, “No, I want to be a candidate.” He has the right as a citizen but I have my views and my concerns.

Correspondent: Your other brother Mahmood is pushing him a lot to be a candidate.

President Karzai: Yes!

Correspondent: I understood the relationship between you and Mahmood is very bad, is it true? You have some tension within the family?

President Karzai: No tension as such but I am in disagreement in some of the things done.

Correspondent: Ok, thank you very much, Mr. President!

President Karzai: Thank you, Merci.

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