News - Afghanistan
Former President Hamid Karzai played open cards in an interview with TOLOnews and spoke of his support of the National Unity Government, the war in Afghanistan, the Bilateral Security Agreement and what he called the US's duel policy towards Pakistan and terrorists. He also said however that he was sure the country could pull together and achieve peace and stability by 2020.
Asked by Black and White host Sami Mahdi, about whether he had ever been offered a bribe – Karzai said he had. However, the bribe had been made by foreigners, he said adding that he had not accepted it.
Speaking frankly on the challenges he faced while in office, on mistakes made and on his achievements, he said the most difficult decision of all had been on whether to sign the BSA with the United States.
But on the subject of the National Unity Government (NUG) Karzai said President Ashraf Ghani had been his choice for president in the run up to the 2014 elections.
"As the former president of Afghanistan I should be cautious in commenting about the current president. My words should be in support of the government. I deem it my responsibility to support the government of Afghanistan and I should be with them. I will do anything to bring a positive environment to the country," he added.
Asked pointedly about whether he is looking to bring down the current government, he said that he has no such intention.
"We left the government. We could continue if we wanted. Foreigners told me several times to continue. The condition was part of the BSA. I rejected the suggestion. I considered both the BSA and the continuation of my government against the interests of Afghanistan. They are not in favor of the country."
But, he said peace will never come to Afghanistan if the politics of the country do not change.
On whether he planned to form an opposition party, he said that was not on the cards. "I don't have talent in this regard, but I do have talent in uniting people and supporting unity among them."
On the subject of intelligence sharing between Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), he said that he was against the ideal. He said he felt it was not in the national interests of the country.
"We told them that it was against the interests of Afghanistan and it should be canceled and such a thing should not be repeated in future," he said.
According to reports, Karzai traveled to Pakistan more than 20 times during his presidency, but none of these trips proved fruitful.
When asked what Afghanistan should do with Pakistan, he said: "We want friendship with the nation of Pakistan - which is a brother and dear nation for us. We have a friendship with Pakistan's politicians and they hope for improvement in Afghanistan. But as much as the Pakistan nation is a friend, their intelligence agency is in the service of big powers and it is them that have oppressed Afghanistan to pursue their own goals. We hope that they have changed. We don't have enmity with them. We want them to change. We want improvements."
"They wanted us to recognize the Durand Line as an international border. We told them it is not possible. They wanted us to cut down on our relations with India. But we will never accept it," he added.
"Afghanistan should talk with Pakistan from an independent and dignified position; not from a weak stance," he said.
When asked about relations between the U.S and Pakistan he pointed out that the two countries had a long-standing friendship – one that has spanned 60 years.
According to him, he does not understand the U.S's interest in Afghanistan and said he has not been able to figure it out.
"I hoped we could find out what it is. But we couldn't. We have a number of doubts. We shared these with the U.S nine years ago. Our message to the US was and is that the US has stepped into this region for chasing its super power aims. Afghanistan as a vulnerable and weak country doesn't have the ability to fight it. The U.S should not undermine the interests of this nation while chasing its goals."
He said: "The war in Afghanistan is a war for strangers' interests ... The war on terror is going on for the past 13 years but terrorism has increased not only in Afghanistan but also in other countries."
When asked whether he considers the US a friend or foe he said: "America is a big country in the world. We want friendship with American people and we thank them for their help. But our view differs about the acts of the U.S government. We criticize their duel policy and we want a clear policy – a policy which guarantees the interests of Afghanistan and our interests are improvement and security in this country."
He said the first time the U.S suggested he sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was in 2012. However, it was only later that the Afghan government started looking at the accord in detail.
He said a lot of political dealings went on during his 13 years at the helm. "What I heard from them was that they told me in 2013 to bring our foreign policy – particularly towards India – under the control of Pakistan. Another thing that I asked them was that if a bomb hits Kabul or any other provinces of Afghanistan and kills children and women; is it terrorism? They told me that it is not terrorism. They said terrorism is considered when the US's interests are under threat. Again I asked them what if Pakistan sends 3,000 forces to attack Paktia province in Afghanistan? They told me that it is an issue between you and Pakistan."
He said such comments resulted in him not signing the BSA, on the grounds that he hoped the U.S would first guarantee peace in Afghanistan and make its policy clear on Pakistan and terrorism.
On the issue of Daesh in Afghanistan, Karzai said the group was a complete foreign phenomenon in the country and that without the support of foreigners it will not grow. "This group has been established by foreigners but it is too soon to say which foreigners are behind it," he maintained.
Again the issue of the BSA was raised when he was asked what was the most difficult decision he had to make during his time in office. He said it was that of whether to sign the BSA or not.
"We took lots of decisions. Some of them were very difficult for us to decide. One of the most difficult decisions for us was that of signing of the BSA with the U.S. After two years of assessment of this agreement, we reached a point that the agreement should not be signed until the U.S committed to bringing peace to Afghanistan. It was a difficult decision."
"The U.S side tried a lot and warned us that it will cut its aid to the country and so on. But on the other hand, the primary interest for the people of Afghanistan was peace and security. Balancing the two was very difficult."
About his biggest mistake in office, he said he felt the decision to have a free market economy was one of the biggest mistakes made during his presidency. "I think we went towards a free market economy in too much of a hurry as it was what the West wanted. It was our biggest mistake."
He said there are three things he did during his presidency that he is proud of. "There are three things. It is that Afghanistan once again was changed into the home for all of its people, education returned for Afghanistan, and freedom of media was initiated. These are my successes and I am very happy about them."
On the issue of infrastructural projects, he said during his term of office he appealed to the international community for three things – roads, dams and locally produced electricity. "They accepted the first one – roads construction – which they needed to travel on but rejected the others. The only country that helped us in infrastructural projects was India. Work on some other power dams like Machalgho and others were started from Afghanistan's budget."
He touched on the electoral process and said a transparent election is only possible when there is no interference by foreigners. "The only thing that affects Afghanistan is the interference from abroad. We should try to hold elections using our own budget in order to witness a transparent and free poll," he said.
However, Karzai has been blamed for leaving in his wake a corrupt administration. He however rejected such claims. "There was no administration, no facilities and no organization in place [when he came to power]. Creating an administration is not an easy task. We put the foundation stones for all these," he added.
He said that the U.S had confessed to him that they lied to Afghanistan. He said a lot that was promised in the form of aid was never forthcoming. In addition, they had wanted him to form a temporary government, he said adding that he had rejected this.
He did however, say he hoped the new government stayed in power and completed its four years. "We should try to help them complete the term. Afghanistan should not be a laboratory – neither for Afghans' nor for foreigners' goals."
"I will urge them to come to the country and build it even if they are bad."
On a more positive note he said he believed that if the nation comes together, by 2020 Afghanistan could be free from war.
"The day when we held the oath taking ceremony for the new president was the happiest day for me. I felt very calm and felt that I was successful. And I felt that Afghanistan was moving towards fundamental democracy."