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Afghanistan’s ex-president Karzai; “Washington feeds hands that kill American, Afghan soldiers”

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An interview by Susanne Koelbl-Hamid Karzai was the first democratically elected President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The Pashtun ruled the war-shattered country after the US-led invasion of December 2001 for 13 years. The 60-year-old still has significant influence, especially among the tribes in southern Afghanistan.

In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE Karzai draws a bleak picture of the situation in his home country. The number of extremists is steadily increasing and neighboring countries are using the country as a venue for their geopolitical power struggles. The ex-president accuses the US in particular of being too lenient towards Pakistan, the main supporter of the Taliban. On the other hand, Karzai finds words of praise for Germany’s role.

His political future is open to the former head of state. He does not rule out a candidacy for the presidential elections next year.

Read the full interview with Hamid Karzai here:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The war in Afghanistan is lost from the West’s point of view, yet it does not end. Why?

Hamid Karzai: At first we were successful after the tragedy of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001. The Taliban were expelled, the women were given back their rights, institutions were built up. But then it went terribly wrong. So many lives have been destroyed. The number of extremists has increased many times over. The “Islamic State” is now also operating in Afghanistan. We failed. But that’s hard to explain to people in America or Germany – after all the sacrifices they made.

SPIEGEL ONLINE : What follows from the bitter realization?

Karzai: The only salvation against the war is a political solution. A peace that really involves all, including the Taliban. We must all come together, we need a new agreement. At first we had all the neighbors of Afghanistan on board, plus the West, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran. This unit was the key to success. Now all these countries have become rivals. They try to harm each other in Afghanistan. The price is paid by the Afghans.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you have a solution?

Karzai: The irony of the story is that the US has always known that the Taliban have their safe havens in Pakistan. Nevertheless, they supported the Pakistani army with billions of dollars, to this day.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Pakistan is officially an Allied of West.

Karzai: The Americans feed the hand that kills their and our soldiers and countless Afghan civilians. I never understood that and was very upset. The Americans are completely fixated on Afghanistan as a combat area. That was and is a mistake and should be corrected. The US should not be an enemy of Pakistan, but act according to the realities.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Pakistan is Afghanistan’s direct neighbor, you share a 2,430-kilometer border. Can your country ever make peace with Pakistan and vice versa?

Karzai: We need to give the government in Pakistan security that Afghanistan will not be used against them. Conversely, Pakistan should not abuse Afghanistan as a strategic hinterland against other countries. In return, Pakistan would receive the guaranteed support of the entire neighborhood. That’s what the plan might look like. Perhaps Afghanistan should even strive for a strictly neutral status, like Switzerland or our neighbor Turkmenistan.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ever since the Taliban raided Kunduz in 2015, most Germans believe that Afghanistan is a hopeless case. The construction work of over ten years was destroyed in a few days.

Karzai: But that’s not your mistake. You Germans have done your part, only the overall framework in Afghanistan did not fit. The Germans are perceived very positively by the Afghans today. The German contributions were enormously important, the economic benefits, the police training, the political impulses.

SPIEGEL Online: Their relationship with the Americans, on the other hand, is deeply shattered. A few days ago, the US Ambassador in Kabul, John Bass, came to you in surprise. Can you imagine working with President Donald Trump?

Karzai : Absolutely, like any other US government. My argument with the Americans is all about how they wage this war. If they change their approach, we can be the best allies.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In May 2019, Afghanistan will be elected. Are you against President Ashraf Ghani?

Karzai: I was a democratically elected president and I do not want to pollute this heritage. The Afghan constitution allows only two legislative periods.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Some lawyers interpret the constitution in such a way that a president after two legislative periods only has to suspend once and then start again.

Karzai: If there is no other solution and the political camps agree, I would not miss the challenge.