Ex-President of Afghanistan – about fighting terrorism and the Russian role in straitening peace in the region
Afghanistan topic is on the front pages of the world media for a long time. However, normally, just news of incidents comes from this country: explosions, terrorist attacks, murders. And last week the USA used the largest non-nuclear bomb weighing about 10 tons against terrorists in the Afghan province Nangarhar. The war in Afghanistan lasts almost 40 years. In this interview with Special Correspondent of daily “Izvestia”, Ph.D., Georgi Asatryan the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai told about ways of peaceful settlement the Taliban movement (the organization’s activity is banned) in the country, about the work of the current Afghan government and the USA foreign policy mistakes in the region.
— What do you think concerning efforts of Russia to organize international consultations on Afghanistan, which will be held on April 14 in Moscow? It will be attended by representatives of more than ten countries, including the Afghan authorities. However, despite the invitation, the USA refused to participate.
— I fully support the conference and consultations organized by Russia. They are important for the consolidation of peace and stability, both in Afghanistan and in the region as a whole. I’m so sorry that the USA has refused to participate in this conference. The USA, as a country which is present in Afghanistan, should make efforts to bring stability and peace. This requires strengthening of contacts with all regional countries: Russia, China, India and Iran. A successful fight with terrorism is impossible without cooperation with the countries of the region. In short, if someone wishes peace in Afghanistan, then he must take part in a conference in Moscow.
The USA must to recreate the positive political environment surrounding Afghanistan. The word «cooperation» should dominate there. I will give a specific example. This situation was one of cooperation between the US and world regional powers and until recently. The situation changed at some point, and the spirit of cooperation around Afghanistan disappeared … The main thing that I want to emphasize is that regional cooperation is necessary for peace and stability in Afghanistan. It should be returned. This requires the cooperation of the USA, as a country which is present in Afghanistan, with the countries of the region, including Russia. I hope for the strong position of Moscow in the region, this will help Afghanistan.
— Representatives of the Afghan government have recently appealed to Russia with a request to invest in 124 facilities. These are The Salang tunnel, Kabul Bakery, the Polytechnic University, the Jangalak automobile repair plant, and power station in Pul-i-Khumri. The Russian side said that this was a complicated issue because of the low level of security, which, unfortunately, is fixed in Afghanistan. Whether these investments have any future? Will there be any obstacles from other partners of Afghanistan?
— Russia is Afghanistan’s neighbor. Russia is a very old friend and partner of Afghanistan. Our countries have a long tradition of close cooperation. And most importantly, Russia is in close proximity to Afghanistan. Hence the common interests of the Afghan and Russian peoples. Russian and Soviet investments in the economy of Afghanistan had the most positive effect in the development of my country. Any patriots of Afghanistan will welcome Russian investments. As for some obstacles (pause), I hope that the Western countries will see the positive aspects of the Russian economic presence and will support it. Peace and stability should be the main task of the developments in Afghanistan and around it.
— The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating every day. According to the statistics of international institutions, including the UN, the level of violence is breaking all records.
— Unfortunately. I’ll ask a little naive, but interesting for many readers question. Is it possible to stop the war in Afghanistan?
— Yes! Yes, of course such an opportunity exists. The stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan can be achieved through regional cooperation. By the way of consultations and with the participation, first of all, of the countries of the region in Moscow are a good example. Of course, we are not talking about the exclusion of the USA of negotiation format. I would like them to accept the invitation and also participate. I’m talking about regional cooperation. Sending new military contingents does not solve the problem. The war can be resolved by the spirit of cooperation around the problems of Afghanistan of all, without exception: regional countries and great powers.
— Does the current situation have “authors”? Who do you personally blame for the fact that your country is experiencing such a deep crisis?
— I will be very honest with you. Two countries: Pakistan and the USA to blame for the main fault in strengthening radicalism and extremism in Afghanistan and its spread throughout the region and also the Middle and Near East. These two countries had all the chances to bring peace to the region, but they did nothing.
— However, the USA did a lot at the beginning of the Afghan campaign in 2001, so that your country would get out of the control of extremist forces. Russia, in its turn, at least initially, supported these efforts.
— Yes. And we really appreciate it. The USA came to Afghanistan in 2001, and liberated us from extremists. Afghans appreciate that. Russia and China also played their role in supporting of Afghanistan. We need this spirit and politics again. I have already said that at some point something went wrong at the western coalition.
— Commander of the US Forces in Afghanistan General John W. Nicholson said that the fifteen-year war had reached a dead end. But most importantly he asked for reinforcements, noting that the current contingent is not enough to fight the radicals.
— No (raised his voice), it will not help. They have been in Afghanistan for more than fifteen years. We see more radicalism and terrorism. ISIS militants have appeared in Afghanistan. You should understand that this is not a solution of the problem. Believe me, I’m an Afghan (laughs) and I know my country, it will not help. Afghanistan does not need foreign troops. Afghanistan does not need anyone’s troops on its territory. We need good relations with our neighbors and our own armed forces that can provide security. Afghanistan needs neighboring Pakistan to realize that the use of extremists for its own purposes will not bring benefits to it.
— And then what is needed?
— A new contract with the people of Afghanistan. Understanding, confidence and cooperation with the countries of the region. Only this will help.
— You have mentioned ISIS. How high the risk of ISIS in Afghanistan?
— It’s great. They already have a serious presence, especially in the east of Afghanistan, in the Nangarhar, Kunar provinces and the surrounding area. ISIS in Afghanistan is an element of external presence, this is not Afghans.
— You left the post of President of Afghanistan in 2014. The government of National Unity has appeared in the country. How do you estimate its activity?
— (pause) I wish them success and all the best. I hope that they will manage to do everything so that other countries will treat Afghanistan as a sovereign and independent country.
— It’s great, but are they successful or not?
— I wish them success (raise voice). They will always have our support.
— You still have a lot of supporters in Afghanistan. Do you have political ambitions?
— I will never again participate in the presidential elections, but I will do my best to be useful to Afghanistan and fight against terrorism. All my efforts are aimed at strengthening Afghanistan’s position in the region and strengthening relations with countries such as Russia, China, India, Iran and Pakistan.
— What do you think of the Russian policy concerning Afghanistan?
— I have been following the actions of Moscow in the region and in particular in Afghanistan for a very long time. Russia is a wise and ancient country, it has a long history of presence in Afghanistan, and it is aware of its specifics. The greater the presence of Russia in the region and Afghanistan, the better situation in the region and Afghanistan. Moscow needs stable Afghanistan. And, based on historical experience, the stronger the government in Russia, the better the situation in Afghanistan. I respect President Putin. He brought Russia to the international arena in a new capacity. He is fighting international terrorism and extremism really honestly. Afghans respect the Russian president and support him. And I would like Russia to take a greater part in working for stability in Afghanistan.
— NATO senior officials accused Russia of supporting the Taliban movement. It was stated that Moscow could even supply weapons to the Taliban. So, according to your information, does Russia support the Taliban?
— When they claim that Moscow supports the Taliban, they mean that there is a channel for information exchange and meetings between them. The USA meets with representatives of the movement in Qatar, Pakistan, and Europe. The Germans, Norwegians and British meet with the Taliban. Representatives of the Arab countries meet with the leaders of this movement. Nobody hides that. When they meet with the Taliban, they consider it as normal thing, but when the Russian representatives meet with them, the West is sounding an alarm (laughs). The Taliban are Afghans, and contacts with the Taliban are necessary in order to start the peace process in Afghanistan. Everyone who knows just anything about Afghanistan understands that. Here we are talking about double standards, nothing more. As for the accusations of Russia’s support of the Taliban, I do not see any reason or evidence for this. But I see another: for example, the organization of very important consultations in Moscow on the Afghan issue.
— Does Afghanistan need the involvement of the Taliban in the peace process?
— Of course (agitated)! The Taliban are Afghans, they are our brothers. There will be no peace in Afghanistan without the participation and involvement of the Taliban. They must participate in the peace process.
— The production of drugs in the period of your presidential terms has increased at times, according to some sources, at 40 times. Russia repeatedly demanded from the international forces to strengthen the fight against the drug threat. Have there been sufficient efforts to fight the drug mafia?
— Unfortunately, the production of drugs had increased at times, and the people of Afghanistan suffered and continue to suffer from it. There is an influential international mafia that earns millions thereby. This money goes to Western banks, it does not remain in Afghanistan. I have repeatedly called on the international forces to intensify the fight against the international drug mafia.
— Afghanistan has been a field of «great game» and confrontation of great powers for centuries. Is this trend still the same?
— At least it looks like that. It seems that Afghanistan is being used for their strategic goals (pause). And therefore, it is very important that the regional powers get involved in the struggle against threats that prevent my country from living peacefully.
— Is cooperation between Russia and the USA in Afghanistan possible?
— Of course, this cooperation is possible. It took place at the initial stage, in the early 2000s. Russia supported the USA efforts in Afghanistan. For this purpose it is necessary that the USA explain its policies and objectives in Afghanistan and seek cooperation with regional countries, including Russia. There will be no stability in Afghanistan without cooperation between Russia and the USA.
— New US President Donald Trump has not showed much interest in relation to Afghanistan. He almost never mentioned Afghanistan during his election campaign. What do the Afghans expect from the new head of the White House?
— We hope that the policy of the new US president concerning Afghanistan will be changed for the better. It is very important that he begin to really cooperate with Russia concerning Afghanistan and fight against extremism and terrorism. We need the cooperation of the parties, not confrontation.
— I can’t help asking you about the situation in Syria. The USA made a rocket attack on Military base of the Syrian army recently in response to the use of chemical weapons against civilians. Washington accused the government of Bashar Assad of this. What do you think about it?
— We still do not know for sure who has made the chemical attack. The US attacks on the military base in Syria, in my opinion, is a clear violation of international law. Confrontation and new attacks will not help to resolve the situation. It is obvious that is impossible to get out of the crisis situation by destroying state structures.
The Interview was taken by Georgi Asatryan, Ph.D., scholar, Senior Lecturer, Special Correspondent for daily «Izvestia», 04.17.2017.