Pakistani Border Shellings Alert Karzai

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The Afghanistan Express Daily Newspaper

May 28, 2014

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KABUL: President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday met US Ambassador James B. Cunningham and NATO commander Gen. Joseph F. Dunford on the unprovoked shelling by Pakistani troops of eastern Kunar province.

A statement from the presidential palace said Karzai asked for an explanation of sporadic rocket attacks from the Pakistan side. He asked NATO and US officials to raise the issue with their Pakistani counterparts, the statement added.

A source quoted the US ambassador as saying he was unaware of any Pakistani rockets fired into Kunar province and that the media always exaggerated the issue.

Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi, while briefing the officials at the meeting, said around 300 rockets had been fired into Kunar in the past couple of days.

Chief of Army Staff Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi said Pakistani authorities had been informed about the shelling but they refused to take responsibility for it.

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http://theafghanistanexpress.com/karzai-seeks-explanation-on-border-shelling

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Karzai And The Taliban Fiddling

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by Azam Ahmed and Matthew Rosenberg

New York Times

Feb. 3, 2014

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KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been engaged in secret contacts with the Taliban about reaching a peace agreement without the involvement of his American and Western allies, further corroding already strained relations with the United States.

The secret contacts appear to help explain a string of actions by Mr. Karzai that seem intended to antagonize his American backers, Western and Afghan officials said. In recent weeks, Mr. Karzai has continued to refuse to sign a long-term security agreement with Washington that he negotiated, insisted on releasing hardened Taliban militants from prison and distributed distorted evidence of what he called American war crimes.

The clandestine contacts with the Taliban have borne little fruit, according to people who have been told about them. But they have helped undermine the remaining confidence between the United States and Mr. Karzai, making the already messy endgame of the Afghan conflict even more volatile. Support for the war effort in Congress has deteriorated sharply, and American officials say they are uncertain whether they can maintain even minimal security cooperation with Mr. Karzai’s government or its successor after coming elections.

Frustrated by Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the security agreement, which would clear the way for American troops to stay on for training and counterterrorism work after the end of the year, President Obama has summoned his top commanders to the White House on Tuesday to consider the future of the American mission in Afghanistan.

Western and Afghan officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the peace contacts, said that the outreach was apparently initiated by the Taliban in November, a time of deepening mistrust between Mr. Karzai and his allies. Mr. Karzai seemed to jump at what he believed was a chance to achieve what the Americans were unwilling or unable to do, and reach a deal to end the conflict — a belief that few in his camp shared.

The peace contacts, though, have yielded no tangible agreement, nor even progressed as far as opening negotiations for one. And it is not clear whether the Taliban ever intended to seriously pursue negotiations, or were simply trying to derail the security agreement by distracting Mr. Karzai and leading him on, as many of the officials said they suspected.

As recently as October, a long-term agreement between the United States and Afghanistan seemed to be only a few formalities away from completion, after a special visit by Secretary of State John Kerry. The terms were settled, and a loya jirga, or assembly of prominent Afghans, that the president summoned to ratify the deal gave its approval. The continued presence of American troops after 2014, not to mention billions of dollars in aid, depended on the president’s signature. But Mr. Karzai repeatedly balked, perplexing Americans and many Afghans alike.

 

Peace Contacts Fade

The first peace feeler from the Taliban reached Mr. Karzai shortly before the loya jirga, Afghan officials said, and since then the insurgents and the government have exchanged a flurry of messages and contacts.

Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for Mr. Karzai, acknowledged the secret contacts with the Taliban and said they were continuing…

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Aimal Faizi, Karzai spokesman...

Aimal Faizi, Karzai’s spokesman

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Mr. Faizi said, “The last two months have been very positive.”  He characterized the contacts as among the most serious the presidential palace has had since the war began. “These parties were encouraged by the president’s stance on the bilateral security agreement and his speeches afterwards,” he said.

But other Afghan and Western officials said that the contacts had fizzled, and that whatever the Taliban may have intended at the outset, they no longer had any intention of negotiating with the Afghan government. They said that top Afghan officials had met with influential Taliban leaders in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in recent weeks, and were told that any prospects of a peace deal were now gone.

The Afghan and Western officials questioned whether the interlocutors whom Mr. Karzai was in contact with had connections to the Taliban movement’s leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, whose blessing would be needed for any peace deal the group were to strike.

Though there have been informal contacts between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders since the very early days of the war, the insurgents’ opaque and secretive leaders have made their intentions difficult to discern. Afghan officials have struggled in recent years to find genuine Taliban representatives, and have flitted among a variety of current and former insurgent leaders, most of whom had only tenuous connections to Mullah Omar and his inner circle, American and Afghan officials have said.

 

Western Outreach

The only known genuine negotiating channel to those leaders was developed by American and German diplomats, who spent roughly two years trying to open peace talks in Qatar. The diplomats repeatedly found themselves incurring the wrath of Mr. Karzai, who saw the effort as an attempt to circumvent him; he tried behind the scenes to undercut it.

Then, when an American diplomatic push led to the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar, Mr. Karzai lashed out publicly at the United States. Afghan officials said that to them, the office looked far too much like the embassy of a government-in-exile, with its own flag and a nameplate reading “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” Within days, the Qatar initiative stalled, and Mr. Karzai was fuming at what he saw as a plot by the United States to cut its own deal with Pakistan and the Taliban without him.

In the wake of the failure in Qatar, Afghan officials redoubled their efforts to open their own channel to Mullah Omar, and by late autumn, Mr. Karzai apparently believed those efforts were succeeding. Some senior Afghan officials say they did not share his confidence, and their doubts were shared by American officials in Kabul and Washington.

Both Mr. Karzai and American officials hear the clock ticking. American forces are turning over their combat role to Afghan forces and preparing to leave Afghanistan this year, and the campaigning for the Afghan national election in April has begun. An orderly transition of power in an Afghanistan that can contain the insurgency on its own would be the culmination of everything that the United States has tried to achieve in the country.

“We’ve been through numerous cycles of ups and downs in our relations with President Karzai over the years,” Ambassador James B. Cunningham said during a briefing with reporters last week. “What makes it a little different this time is that he is coming to the end of his presidency, and we have some very important milestones for the international community and for Afghanistan coming up in the next couple of months.”

Mr. Karzai has been increasingly concerned with his legacy, officials say. When discussing the impasse with the Americans, he has repeatedly alluded to his country’s troubled history as a lesson in dealing with foreign powers. He recently likened the security agreement to the Treaty of Gandamak, a one-sided 1879 agreement that ceded frontier lands to the British administration in India and gave it tacit control over Afghan foreign policy. He has publicly assailed American policies as the behavior of a “colonial power,” though diplomats and military officials say he has been more cordial in private.

Mr. Karzai reacted angrily to a negative portrayal of him in a recent memoir by the former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, and he is still bitter over the 2009 presidential election, when hundreds of thousands of fraudulent ballots were disqualified and, as he sees it, the Americans forced him into an unnecessary runoff against his closest opponent.

 

Domestic Interests

In some respects, Mr. Karzai’s outbursts have been an effort to speak to Afghans who want him to take a hard line against the Americans, including many ethnic Pashtuns, who make up nearly all of the Taliban. With the American-led coalition on its way out and American influence waning, Mr. Karzai is more concerned with bridging the chasms of Afghan domestic politics than with his foreign allies’ interests…

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…If the peace overture to the Taliban is indeed at an end, as officials believe, it is unclear what Mr. Karzai will do next. He could return to a softer stance on the security agreement and less hostility toward the United States, or he could justify his refusal to sign the agreement by blaming the Americans for failing to secure a genuine negotiation with the insurgents.

Mr. Karzai has insisted that he will not sign the agreement unless the Americans help bring the Taliban to the table for peace talks. Some diplomats worry that making such a demand allows the Taliban to dictate the terms of America’s long-term presence in Afghanistan. Others question Mr. Karzai’s logic: Why would the insurgency agree to talks if doing so would ensure the presence of the foreign troops it is determined to expel?

The White House expressed impatience on Monday with Mr. Karzai’s refusal to sign the agreement. “The longer there is a delay, the harder it is for NATO and U.S. military forces to plan for a post-2014 presence,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. “This is a matter of weeks, not months.”

The military leaders expected to attend the planning conference at the White House on Tuesday include Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the commander of American forces in Afghanistan; Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the former Iraq commander now serving as head of the United States Central Command; and Adm. William H. McRaven, head of the United States Special Operations Command.

In recent statements, Mr. Karzai’s office in Kabul has appeared to open the door to a resolution of the impasse over the security agreement. The presidential spokesman, Mr. Faizi, has said that if one party is obstructing the American efforts to get talks going, the United States need only say so publicly.

“Once there is clarity, we can take the next step to signing” the agreement, he said.

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Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington.

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Reply to Obama’s State of Union Speech

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from the website of Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan

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January 29, 2014

In his State of the Union Address to the American nation, President Obama reaffirmed his country’s commitment to a unified Afghanistan.

President Karzai welcomed these remarks, which indeed is a reaffirmation of Afghanistan’s long-standing position and called it in the good interest of the two countries’ bilateral relations. 

As any timeline for signing the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was put aside in the address, the President called it positive and believes that the two countries can work together with patience and due diligence in helping Afghanistan’s peace process to start.

President Karzai urges that it is time now to put an end to the negative propaganda against Afghanistan.

The President stresses that it is peace that assures a country’s stability, progress and unity, and it is for this reason that Afghanistan considers the effective and public launch of the peace process as the key prerequisite for signing the BSA.

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http://president.gov.af/en/news/28802

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Karzai Releases Prisoners

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by Matthew Rosenberg

New York Times

January 9, 2014

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KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Thursday ordered the release of dozens of prisoners accused of having American blood on their hands, saying there was not enough evidence to hold them and intensifying his showdown with Obama administration officials after weeks of warnings that he risked losing American troop support.

The move threatened to plunge relations to a new state of crisis even as a broader, long-term security agreement between the two countries has been held up for weeks.

American officials have said that the prisoners to be released are dangerous Taliban militants and that freeing them without trial would violate an agreement on detainees reached last year.

That detention authority deal was considered a prerequisite to the security pact, known as the bilateral security agreement, which would allow for a continued American troop presence and aid past 2014.

Still, just a week after some American officials insisted that such a prisoner release would prove that Mr. Karzai could not be trusted to honor a security deal, the initial American response on Thursday was cautious. Officials were critical of the release, but also careful to say that the move would not harm the security deal and that they were still trying to get a full accounting for the decision.

“We don’t tie it to B.S.A.,” one Obama administration official said, referring to the security agreement and noting that it was a “separate deal,” while speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The suddenly tempered language from the administration raised the prospect that Mr. Karzai had again called an American bluff, or that the Americans might be sending mixed signals about the White House’s intent.

Mr. Karzai has been increasingly successful in pushing his demands past the point of American resistance in recent years, including the issue of detention. That has led some Afghan officials familiar with his thinking to say that the Afghan president has concluded that the United States was willing to bend as far as he wanted it to in order to keep troops here.

That calculation was on clear display in November, when just a few days after giving his tentative approval to the troop agreement’s wording, Mr. Karzai abruptly reversed course and said he would not sign it until months after American officials had said it would be too late. He persisted after American officials insisted that he was risking billions of dollars in international aid, and then he began to add conditions, including that the Americans bring Taliban negotiators to the table with Mr. Karzai’s government.

An American official said Thursday night that the American ambassador in Kabul, James B. Cunningham, reported in an internal cable that he did not think Mr. Karzai would agree to sign the accord before Afghanistan’s elections in April. News of the cable was first reported online by The Washington Post.

The Obama administration wants the agreement to be signed soon so that the United States and its NATO allies, who are pursuing a similar agreement, will have time to make plans for a post-2014 force.

“There is not a lot of time left before that planning has to begin,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said earlier Thursday.

But instead of dealing with the security pact, Mr. Karzai’s government appears to be reviving an old dispute. Last year, American officials initially resisted Mr. Karzai’s demands to turn over authority over detainees to the Afghans, saying they were worried that Afghan officials would be too quick to release dangerous militants who would then return to the battlefield. The Americans said Mr. Karzai’s promise that it would not happen that way cleared the path for the security agreement.

On Thursday, Afghan officials said that in ordering the release of 72 detainees, they were following legal procedure because neither American nor Afghan security officials could produce evidence that the men had been involved in killing troops.

“We have the right to release the men,” said Aimal Faizi, Mr. Karzai’s spokesman. “The Americans know very well they do not have anything that is solid against these detainees.” He characterized some of the evidence as being nothing more than fingerprints on guns, noting that almost everyone in Afghanistan owned a gun.

The prisoners are being held near Bagram Air Base at what was the main American prison in Afghanistan. Mr. Faizi said that the exact timing of their release would be up to prison officials and the three-member Afghan detention commission that recommended the move.

The commission could not be immediately reached for comment, though one of its leading members, Abdul Shakor Dadras, said last week that the releases would begin soon after a final decision was made.

Mr. Faizi said that for Mr. Karzai, the issue was separate from the long-term security deal. “The president is doing exactly what he has to do as someone who is responsible for all Afghans,” he said.

Jen Psaki, the spokeswoman for the State Department, criticized the release, saying that it undermined justice under Afghan law and that the detainees being freed were “dangerous criminals against whom there is strong evidence linking them to terror-related crimes, including the use of improvised explosive devices, the largest killer of Afghan civilians.”

But she, too, did not tie the release to prospects for an American security agreement. “Our view continues to be, despite these reports, that it’s not only desired by the United States for the Afghans to sign the B.S.A., but it’s in the interest of the Afghan people.”

Just a week earlier, some American officials were suggesting that the two issues were related. One of the strongest statements came from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who along with Senator John McCain of Arizona met with Mr. Karzai last week in Kabul. And they told the Afghan president over lunch that releasing the prisoners could provoke Congress to slash aid to Afghanistan.

Since Afghanistan took over detention authority in March, the Afghan commission has set free 560 prisoners and recommended that 114 be tried on accusations of insurgent activities. That left 88 other detainees whose cases had to be ruled on.

In late December, the commission decided that there was not enough evidence and ruled that all 88 suspects should be freed. But the Americans and the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency, which is supposed to make recommendations to the prisoner review commission, both objected and were given more time to come up with evidence against the prisoners.

Mr. Faizi said Thursday that the directorate, after reviewing the evidence it could collect, ended up recommending in a meeting with Mr. Karzai that only 16 of the 88 be prosecuted. “Some of these detainees have been held as long as seven years for unknown reasons,” he said.

Mr. Karzai then ordered the remaining 72 freed.

Other Afghan officials said that was not the case. The security directorate had recommended that many of the 88 be held for trial, but was overruled by Mr. Karzai, said one senior Afghan security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the president. Mr. Karzai, according to the security official and another Afghan familiar with the president’s thinking, saw freeing the prisoners as a way to accomplish two goals: He could curry favor with the Taliban in hopes of bringing the insurgents to talks, and he could punish the United States for what he considered its insincere effort to initiate peace talks.

Mr. Karzai was also said to be upset over the reported revelations in a new memoir by the former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates about Mr. Obama’s apparent dislike of the Afghan leader and his lack of faith in the American war effort here.

An adviser to Mr. Karzai suggested that his deepening animus for the United States was at least partly behind the decision to free the men. The adviser also argued that if the prisoners later attacked American or Afghan forces, it would be because they had been tortured in prison.

“An official in the meeting told the president that these men have been tortured and kept in very bad conditions, and the president agreed,” the adviser said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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Michael R. Gordon, Mark Landler and Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.
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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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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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Ignoring Karzai’s Insults

an editorial by John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon

New York Times, November 28, 2013

Gen Allen US Marines

John Allen (left), a retired Marine Corps general and former commander of NATO and American forces in Afghanistan…  Michael O’Hanlon (not in photo) helped with the spelling…

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WASHINGTON — What is going on with President Hamid Karzai? The world’s only superpower, leading a coalition of some 50 nations, is willing to stay on in his country after a war that has already lasted a dozen years and cost the United States more than $600 billion and more than 2,000 fatalities — and yet the Afghan president keeps throwing up roadblocks.

The latest insult is his decision to hold off on signing a bilateral security agreement, the legal basis for American forces to remain in his country past 2014, on the grounds that his successor should have that prerogative next year. Mr. Karzai has also thrown in new demands — just when we thought the security agreement was a done deal. For one, he now seems to believe he can compel the United States to release all Afghan detainees in the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay.

Certainly, part of Mr. Karzai’s attitude comes from the umbrage he has taken at various Americans, especially in recent years. Some United States officials did make mistakes in their handling of the complex Afghan leader, lecturing him in public too stridently about matters such as Afghan government corruption. There can be little doubt, though, that Mr. Karzai’s own peevishness and ingratitude have played a large role.

In addition, Mr. Karzai believes, accurately perhaps, that the talks over the bilateral security agreement provide him with his last remaining leverage with Washington. He is wrong in thinking that Afghanistan remains a center of geopolitics, the location of a modern-day “great game” like the 19th-century competition between Britain and Russia, or the 1980s Cold War struggle pitting the Soviet Union against the United States and others. But Mr. Karzai is right that we are concerned enough about Afghanistan’s future to wish to maintain a presence even after NATO’s combat mission expires in just 13 months. He also rightly perceives that the United States wants to keep a vigilant eye on extremist groups in tribal regions of northwest Pakistan.

Against this backdrop, American officials should stay calm. It would be a mistake to let one man — increasingly detached from Afghan public and political opinion — determine the fate of the American role in South Asia. Even with Osama bin Laden dead, the stakes remain high: Extremist groups from Al Qaeda to Lashkar-e-Taiba (the Pakistani group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attack) could easily put down roots again in Afghanistan if the country were to fall to the Taliban after NATO’s departure.

The recent assembly of Afghan tribal elders, a loya jirga, again demonstrated what we already knew — that the Afghan people want us to stay. After the defeat of the Soviets in 1989, civil war, state collapse and Taliban victory followed. The Afghan people have seen this movie already; they do not want the sequel. The loya jirga urged Mr. Karzai to sign the agreement; he demurred.

The main candidates in Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election also want us to stay. A poll by the Moby Group in Kabul, Afghanistan’s largest private media organization, suggests that the two leading contenders are former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Both are pro-Western; both are smart and competent. The same is true of Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul, said by some to be President Karzai’s choice to succeed him after elections in April. Other candidates also support a continuing American and international presence.

So the United States should stay patient. It can say to Mr. Karzai, If you want to reinforce Afghan democracy by letting your successor sign this security deal, we can live with that; in the meantime, working with your ministers and other leaders, we will plan on staying — precisely as if the accord were already in place.

Of course, the United States can make contingency plans; it would need a Plan B in any event. Even as it anticipates alternate scenarios, it can continue discussions with Mr. Karzai on the other “conditions” that he has just introduced. For American leaders, we counsel patience and flexibility in the talks on a security deal.

Let us remember the girls who can go to school — an affront to the Taliban — and the Afghan women who are increasingly emerging as an important factor in the future of their country. Let’s remember, too, the ethnic minorities who have found a place and their voice in a modern, forward-looking Afghanistan.

And finally, let’s not forget the progress purchased so dearly in this decade and more of war. We must not permit Mr. Karzai’s pique to flush all this down the drain.

The United States can ride this one out. And given the enduring American strategic interests in this part of the world, as well as our huge sacrifice, that’s exactly what we should do.

In the end, this is about the American and the Afghan peoples, not about Hamid Karzai.

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Elders Endorse U.S. Troops’ Presence

Afghan elder, interpreter, US soldier...

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by Tim Craig

Washington Post

November 24, 20013

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KABUL — An emotional showdown between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and 2,500 tribal elders here Sunday ended with some — but not all — of what the United States was hoping for.

The elders endorsed an agreement under which the United States will continue to provide advice and training to Afghan security forces, and conduct counterterrorism operations, after the withdrawal of international combat forces at the end of next year. Although President Obama has yet to indicate the size of a potential post-2014 force, most estimates are that it would include up to 10,000 troops.

Delegates said it was in Afghanistan’s “vital national interest” to have a partnership with the United States, and they urged Karzai not to delay the signing of the bilateral security agreement until after the country holds elections in April.

“President Karzai should promise us, he should sign the [agreement] as soon as possible,” said Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, the former Afghan president who chaired the four-day gathering, known as a loya jirga. “This agreement will be beneficial for the people.”

But Karzai remained defiant, taking the stage during the final hours of the jirga to repeat that his signature will not come easily ~ or quickly. Karzai said he wants additional assurances from Washington that the United States will not meddle in the April elections. He also wants the Obama administration to ensure security within Afghanistan and at the same time to promise that a U.S. soldier will never again enter the home of an Afghan citizen in a military operation.

“Peace, security and a transparent election are preconditions for signing,” Karzai declared. “From now onward, Americans don’t have the right to raid our homes. If they raid our homes one more time, there will be no agreement.”

Secretary of State John F. Kerry praised the elders’ decision to endorse the agreement and urged Karzai to sign it before the end of the year.

“I can’t imagine a more compelling affirmation from the Afghan people themselves of their commitment to a long-term partnership with the United States and our international partners,” Kerry said. “The critical next step must be to get the [agreement] signed in short order.”

When he called for the jirga a few months ago, Karzai said he needed to obtain a national consensus about whether U.S. troops were wanted after next year and if so, under what terms. He said repeatedly in recent weeks that the jirga’s vote would heavily influence his decision on whether to forward the agreement to parliament for final approval.

But faced with strong support for the agreement from the jirga, Karzai remained deeply skeptical. His speech to the delegates Sunday was frequently interrupted by elders who urged him to avoid delays in finalizing the accord.

Uncharacteristically, Karzai appeared to abruptly cut off his prepared comments in the face of the outbursts. “On your behalf, I will continue negotiating,” Karzai said as he quickly walked off the stage.

Unlike in his opening address to the jirga last week, Karzai appeared to stop short of directly stating that he won’t sign the agreement until after his successor is chosen in April. That omission is likely to please U.S. officials, who had been looking for an opening to try to get him to move up his timetable…

Afghan elder, interpreter, ISAF soldier

“We are studying President Karzai’s speech. We continue to believe that signing the agreement as quickly as possible is in the interests of both countries,” said Robert H. Hilton, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

The Obama administration has suggested that there is little room for additional negotiating on the agreement, saying the version now up for consideration was the “final offer.”

But the jirga, whose vote is not binding, set a few conditions before expressing approval of the agreement. Most notably, the elders called for a 10-year time limit on the post-2014 troop presence and said they would seek reparations for damages caused by U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan.

In stark contrast to the jirga delegates’ endorsement of the U.S.-Afghan partnership, Karzai denounced the U.S. government in his remarks Sunday, which were made with U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham in the room.

Karzai said the Obama administration undermined him when it allowed Taliban leaders to establish a temporary office in Doha, Qatar, in June, during an unsuccessful effort by the United States to broker peace talks between the Taliban and Karzai’s government. He accused the Obama administration of interfering in the country’s 2009 elections, which he called an attempt to weaken the Afghan government. And he lashed out at the U.S. military for entering the homes of Afghan civilians.

After Karzai spoke, Mojaddedi pleaded with Karzai to reconsider.

“Mr. President, give us your pledge that you will sign the deal soon,” Mojaddedi said. He added, apparently in jest, that Karzai would have to move out of Afghanistan if there is no long-term security deal with the United States.

Then, in an extraordinary moment in Afghan politics, Karzai returned to the stage so that he and Mojaddedi could briefly debate the matter before the 2,500 delegates and a national television audience.

“They must commit that they will not kill Afghans in their homes,” Karzai insisted, adding, “If they do this, then we will sign.”

As the encounter was ending, Mojaddedi said, “If you don’t sign it, we will be disappointed,” according to an account published by the Associated Press.

“Fine,” Karzai said, as he once again left the stage.

Sayed Salahuddin and Mohammad Sharif contributed to this report.

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Afghan Elder

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Karzai Says He’ll Sign Later

not til nex yer

~~~                                                                                                     Not ’til next year…

by Azam Ahmed

New York Times

November 21, 2013

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KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai stood before thousands of Afghan leaders on Thursday in a watershed moment for his tumultuous rule. Having just come to an agreement with American leaders on a security deal that would commit the two countries to a lasting military alliance, and which would surely define his legacy, he convened the assembly that would decide the deal’s fate.

And then, in what has become a signature move, he hit the brakes.

After a speech in which he bluntly described his relationship with the United States as one of mutual distrust, he told the gathering, known as a loya jirga, that even if it approved the deal, he would wait until after the April presidential elections to sign it.

The declaration, which surprised both American and Afghan officials, instantly put at risk an American deadline to have an agreement signed this year. And it served notice that even with his leadership set to expire next year, Mr. Karzai intended for the United States to continue working through him at every turn until then.

The play is not without danger for Mr. Karzai. As American officials’ exasperation with him has intensified, they have increasingly noted the possibility that no American troops — and by extension, no international funding — would be left in Afghanistan after 2014.

They did so again on Thursday. In a White House background briefing, administration officials said they were seeking a clarification of Mr. Karzai’s intent, and suggested that leaving the deal’s completion until next spring would make it impossible to keep any American forces there.

The officials also emphasized that Mr. Karzai had agreed to a one-year timetable when the two countries began negotiating the security agreement last November.

Mr. Karzai’s brinkmanship is also creating anxiety within his own government. The military and police establishments, in particular, have urgently pushed to finalize the deal because it would ensure training and heavy international funding for the Afghan security forces.

Still, officials noted on Thursday that there was nothing to keep Mr. Karzai from changing his mind again if the loya jirga were to approve the security agreement by its close on Sunday. (Originally called for three days, the meeting has since been stretched to four, with the option to go even longer if needed, Afghan officials said.)

And if anything, Mr. Karzai’s statements seemed of a piece with a series of negotiation moves that appeared calculated to squeeze every last American concession out of the process — though each usually ended in Afghan compliance.

Earlier this month, the issue of American soldiers being granted immunity from prosecution in Afghan courts was highlighted by Afghan officials as a potential deal-breaker, until it was not. On Sunday, the Afghans drew a line in the sand about United States forces searching Afghan homes, a demand that also largely fell by the wayside.

And a public statement on Tuesday from a Karzai spokesman saying that the Americans were prepared to essentially apologize for past mistakes during the war turned into an embarrassment for the Karzai administration when two senior administration officials denied there was an apology in the works.

Indeed, there was a certain familiarity in much of Mr. Karzai’s speech on Thursday, delivered to the gathering in a tent at the Polytechnical University of Kabul. While he said he approved the security agreement, he made a point of lashing out at his American allies repeatedly during the hourlong appearance.

“There’s a mistrust between me and the Americans,” he said. “They don’t trust me, and I don’t trust them. I have always criticized them, and they have always propagated negative things behind my back.”

Mr. Karzai called on an assortment of rhetorical devices he has employed over the past decade. He was at times humorous, at times outraged, at times personal and emotional.

It mattered little on Thursday that the coalition commander, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., and the American ambassador, James B. Cunningham, attended the loya jirga. Mr. Karzai offered no quarter to the Americans during his speech, even as he made clear his desire to see the bilateral security agreement signed, a move that would secure an American troop presence through 2024 and pave the way for billions of dollars in financial assistance.

“Those who oppose this security agreement shouldn’t be labeled as Pakistani or Iranian agents,” Mr. Karzai said, referring to a common Afghan belief that Afghanistan’s neighbors want to see the country weak and unstable. “There are people who are pro-B.S.A., but we can’t call them American agents. I am pro-B.S.A., but I have my preconditions.”

“We want the Americans to respect our sovereignty and laws and be an honest partner,” he said.

He then added, “And bring a lot of money,” prompting a wave of laughter in the crowd.

At times, his speech sounded like a defense of his tenure: He made the Americans wait to sign the agreement. He played hardball on crucial issues. He refused to sign any agreement without putting it to the Afghan people, as represented by the loya jirga, which is composed of 2,500 influential leaders selected by the government.

Still, a prevalent view of the assembly was that it had been called, essentially, to grant the leader political cover for the approval of the security agreement. Mr. Karzai, after all, had final approval over the delegate list.

Though his administration made concessions, Mr. Karzai held up a letter from President Obama as evidence of America’s respect and read passages that expressed sympathy with Afghan concerns about “the sensitive issue of the safety and privacy of people in their own homes.”

The letter, a copy of which was posted on the Afghan president’s website, also pledged that “U.S. forces shall not enter Afghan homes for the purposes of military operations, except under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals.”

During his speech, a woman in the audience heckled Mr. Karzai about foreign raids on Afghan homes, a breach of privacy seen as deeply offensive here. Specifically, she pressed him about the concession that foreign raids would be permitted only in “extraordinary circumstances.”

“All the night raids can be categorized as exceptional cases,” she yelled, carrying on for more than a minute before she was ushered from the room.

“This sister has left every jirga,” Mr. Karzai said, referring to her claim that she had been invited to the last two nationwide jirgas. “I know that, but her views should be respected.”

Beneath the levity and criticism, however, Mr. Karzai exudes genuine bitterness over how the American campaign has turned out here. He has seen the hope of many Afghans after the fall of the Taliban fade into cynicism, and has watched yet another generation schooled in the vernacular of war.

As he has in the past, Mr. Karzai mentioned his son during the speech. He recalled coming home after the Ministry of Defense was attacked one night and being greeted by his toddler.

“My son was only 3 years old when he learned the words ‘Ministry of Defense,’ ” he told the gathering, a rare glimpse of family life in a very guarded society. “Can you show me another 3-year-old who knows the words ‘Ministry of Defense?’ ”

Rod Nordland contributed reporting from Kabul, and Mark Landler and Matthew Rosenberg from Washington.

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Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, his website:

http://president.gov.af/en

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Kerry Goes To Afghanistan

US soldiers and Afghan trainees

U.S. Army soldiers look on as Afghan National Army soldiers zero their weapons during basic rifle marksmanship training on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Feb. 11, 2009 (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jill LaVoie)…

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by Matthew Rosenberg

New York Times

October 11, 2013

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Last Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry called President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan with a simple question: If Mr. Kerry came to Kabul, would it help break a deadlock in negotiations to keep American forces in Afghanistan beyond next year?

The Afghan leader suggested it would, and Mr. Kerry arrived here on Friday for a previously unannounced visit that, in the estimation of many Afghan and American officials, represented the best and, possibly, the last chance to head off a complete American withdrawal when the NATO combat mission here ends in 2014.

Mr. Kerry’s decision to make the trip provided a respite from the pessimism that has spread rapidly in Kabul over the past week as the depth of the impasse faced by negotiators became apparent. Some Afghan and American officials reasoned that Mr. Kerry would not make such a public bid to rescue the talks if his chances of success were slim.

Still, few here thought success was a given for Mr. Kerry. Hours before his arrival, a senior Western diplomat put the odds of a deal at “no better than 50-50.”

Alongside the deadlocked negotiations, Afghan and American officials have also struggled in the past week to contain another potential crisis. A week ago, American forces intercepted a convoy of Afghan intelligence agents and seized a senior leader of the Pakistan Taliban, an offshoot of the Afghan insurgent movement, whom the agents were taking to Kabul, said Aimal Faizi, the spokesman for Mr. Karzai.

The Taliban leader, Latif Mehsud, was turned by Afghan intelligence roughly two years ago and had become a valuable asset, said an Afghan familiar with the situation. He was on his way to meet with senior Afghan intelligence officials in Kabul when American forces took him away at gunpoint along a road in Logar Province, south of the capital. He is now believed to be in American custody at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul.

American officials said the Afghans had turned over Mr. Mehsud at the request of American forces, but the officials did not provide any additional details.

Mr. Karzai is said to be furious about the seizure of Mr. Mehsud by the Americans, raising further doubts about his readiness to compromise on a deal with the United States.

The doubts surrounding the talks to keep troops here are a sharp departure from only months ago, when American generals spoke of a post-2014 force as an inevitability and Afghan officials said the only question was how many troops would remain, not if they would get any at all.

But that certainty has given way to a last-minute scramble after nearly a year of talks. The Obama administration has set an Oct. 31 deadline for their conclusion, and Mr. Karzai and Mr. Obama have both signaled they are willing to walk away if necessary.

The sticking points are two Afghan demands that Mr. Karzai has said are crucial to the country’s sovereignty, but that the Obama administration says it will not consider.

The first is Mr. Karzai’s insistence that the United States guarantee Afghanistan’s security as if it were a NATO ally. That could compel the United States to send troops on raids into Pakistan, an ally of Washington and a nuclear-armed power.

Mr. Karzai is also refusing to allow American forces to continue hunting here for operatives of Al Qaeda. Instead, he wants any intelligence gathered by the United States handed over to Afghan forces, who would then conduct the raids on their own.

Mr. Kerry, one of the few American officials who still have a good relationship with Mr. Karzai, arrived late Friday afternoon and headed straight to the presidential palace for meetings and a dinner. The evening concluded with him and Mr. Karzai taking a short walk together alone.

The two sides were “candid about their differences,” a senior State Department official said. But the “differences coming in were narrowed,” the official said, declining to elaborate.

Mr. Karzai raised the seizing of the Pakistan Taliban leader, the official said, adding that talks were to continue Saturday morning before Mr. Kerry left for Paris.

American officials sought to temper expectations that Mr. Kerry would walk away from Kabul with a final agreement.

“The negotiations were going on before he got here. They’ll be going on after he leaves,” the State Department official said. “What this is really about is building momentum for the negotiators.”

A complete American withdrawal would force the European allies to pull out as well, and would most likely lead to a steep drop in the billions of dollars in annual aid, which pays roughly 80 percent of Afghanistan’s bills and props up its biggest businesses, American and European officials have said.

The Taliban, meanwhile, remain a potent threat that Afghan forces are not yet ready to face entirely on their own. Most of the post-2014 force, as envisioned by American commanders, would be assigned to train the Afghans; a smaller element would be made up of Special Operations forces focused on targeting Qaeda operatives.

Mr. Kerry has previously cajoled Mr. Karzai into taking a deal he initially opposed. After the disputed 2009 election here, Mr. Kerry persuaded Mr. Karzai to accept a runoff against his leading contender for president. His rival then conceded the race as part of the deal brokered by Mr. Kerry.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.

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