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Interview with Afghan President Karzai

Interview with Afghan President Karzai

By The Situation Room - May 21, 2012

BLITZER: President Karzai, welcome back to the United States.

PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Thank you very much.

Happy to be with you.

BLITZER: Let's talk about your meeting you just had moments ago. You met with the president of the United States and the president of Pakistan.

KARZAI: Yes.

BLITZER: How did that go?

KARZAI: Both meetings went very well.

BLITZER: Did you have a three-way meeting, the three of you?

KARZAI: No, we didn't have a three-way meeting. We had a three-way photograph taking.

BLITZER: Just a photo opportunity?

KARZAI: Just a photo opportunity.

BLITZER: And why not a meeting?

KARZAI: What...

BLITZER: Why not have a three-way meeting and discuss the most important issues affecting Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States?

KARZAI: Well, it wasn't for us to decide on the three-way meeting. The United States was the host and perhaps they saw it fit for some other time.

BLITZER: Has Pakistan agreed to resume shipments, trucks, bringing supplies to NATO, U.S. Troops in Afghanistan?

KARZAI: I believe they are negotiating with the United States on that question.

BLITZER: They've been negotiating a long time.

But as far as you know, as of right now, there's no agreement?

KARZAI: Not to the extent that I know.

BLITZER: Have you...

KARZAI: Not yet.

BLITZER: -- but you would know, because this affects Afghanistan's security.

KARZAI: Exactly. But not yet.

BLITZER: You need -- you need those shipments.

KARZAI: Absolutely.

BLITZER: So why is Pakistan resisting?

KARZAI: Well, there was an incident on the border of Pakistan some months ago that has caused some anger there in the public. And subsequent to that, the NATO supplies were stopped.

I believe they are talking about it with the United States. And hopefully, they will resume.

BLITZER: But as far as you know, right now, there's still no agreement?

KARZAI: As to the extent that I know right now, it's not there.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, the Pakistanis, in addition to demanding a formal apology from the United States, they want to increase the fees for each container, each truck from a couple of hundred or $300 to thousands of dollars.

Is that reasonable?

KARZAI: Well, I can't pass judgment on -- on -- on the fee that Pakistan is asking for the transit of goods, but that is an issue, yes.

BLITZER: Because you met privately with President Zardari yesterday, right?

KARZAI: Yes.

BLITZER: Did you raise this issue with the Pakistanis?

KARZAI: No, we didn't raise this issue.

BLITZER: Why?

KARZAI: We raised the issue in general, not in the specifics of it.

BLITZER: But this affects your security.

KARZAI: Not in the specifics of the amounts per -- per -- per truck.

BLITZER: But you told them you need these trucks to bring supplies in?

KARZAI: That -- that's -- that's (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: He understands your position?

KARZAI: Well, I -- absolutely.

BLITZER: Does he also know how concerned you are about the se -- the protection Pakistan is providing the Haqqani network in Pakistan, which is killing Afghans, Americans, NATO troops?

KARZAI: Well, Prime Minister Gilani will be visiting us in about a week's time in Kabul. And we are supposed to be discussing all the issues that are of importance to both countries.

Among those issues, on the top of those issues, of course, is the issue of terrorism and the damage that it does to both countries and the need for us to work together to find ways out.

BLITZER: But you believe elements of the Pakistani military intelligence and the Pakistani government are protecting terrorists from the Haqqani network?

KARZAI: Well, we are -- we are in -- in a -- in a -- in a dialogue with Pakistan. We hope that this di -- dialogue will move forward to result in -- in -- in the removal of the terrorists from Pakistan and the consequences that these terrorists have for both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So we are working toward a constructive relationship with Pakistan in all these areas.

BLITZER: You know, Mr. President, you and I have known each other for many years. We go way back. You're being very diplomatic, aren't you?

KARZAI: Well, we -- Pakistan is a neighbor of ours and we -- we have begun a -- a dialogue with them. And the dialogue is quite ahead now in -- in -- in seeking solutions to the problems that we have. And it's in keeping with this dialogue that we are moving forward and hope that the end result of all this activity, of all this effort, the endeavor on the part of -- on the part of both of us, and the United States, will be the removal of the terrorists from the region.

BLITZER: Because -- I'm going to move on, but I know -- I'll say it. You don't have to say it, because I -- I know you're trying to be diplomatic -- there's no love lost right now between Afghanistan and Pakistan, because of the protection they're provide the -- the Haqqani network?

KARZAI: Well, there is no doubt that Haqqani network is in Miramshah, that the Pakistani government would not deny that there are other sanctuaries, as well, there across the border. The government of Pakistan will not deny it.

But the difference is today that we are talking about these issues more openly and in a friendlier environment than ever before.

And it's in keeping with this new environment that we hope we can find solutions.

BLITZER: One historic footnote. Do you believe they were protecting bin Laden in Abbottabad?

KARZAI: Well, he -- he -- he was killed in Abbottabad. Now, whether he had official protection is something I can't tell.

BLITZER: What do you think?

KARZAI: It's really difficult to say one way or the other. But where he was, how could he have been without some knowledge of him there?

BLITZER: That's what a lot of people suspect.

All right, let's talk about U.S.-Afghan relations. And right now, you've had some successful, I think, meetings with the president of the United States.

KARZAI: Um-hmm.

BLITZER: But a lot of Americans, as you know -- and you look at American public opinion polls -- they're concerned that they want the U.S. Out of Afghanistan. About 70 percent say it's time for the U.S. To come home. The U.S. Is spending, to keep 90,000 troops, $2 billion a week in Afghanistan, $100 billion a year.

Why is this money well spent?

KARZAI: We have already agreed on -- on a process of transition to Afghan authority, whereby Afghanistan will be looking after itself and after its security and of -- and the defense of the country almost entirely by 2014. And that's also the time that the American forces and other forces will withdraw from Afghanistan.

That transition and the eventual withdrawal in 2014 of the U.S. Forces and -- and other NATO forces from Afghanistan, is good for Afghanistan and good for our allied countries.

Today, we discussed that. We have finalized plans.

So 2014 will be a year in which the United States will not be spending as much money in Afghanistan as it is spending today. It will save money and we will be providing security ourselves.

BLITZER: But for another two-and-a-half years, until the end of 2014, there will be thousands of American troops in Afghanistan.

KARZAI: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: And that will be expensive.

KARZAI: It will be expensive, like it was in the past 10 years. But this is a commitment that the world community has made to the war on terror, to the security of the United States, to the security of the world and also to the security of...

BLITZER: Are you satisfied...

KARZAI: -- Afghanistan.

BLITZER: -- with this withdrawal schedule or is it too fast, from your perspective?

KARZAI: No, we are satisfied (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Are you ready to take over all of Afghanistan by the end of 2014?

KARZAI: Absolutely. We have already worked out a plan to have, in six months time, 75 percent of the country taken over with regard to security by the Afghan security forces. So...

BLITZER: You know, the new president of France, President Hollande, he wants all French troops out by the end of this year.

KARZAI: And we support that.

BLITZER: You're ready for that?

KARZAI: Absolutely. We're not only ready for it, we support it. It's a good move.

BLITZER: The chairmen of the U.S. House and Senate Intelligence Committees, they recently were in Afghanistan. They came back, Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers...

KARZAI: (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: -- they said the Taliban is stronger now than it was a year ago.

KARZAI: Well, I don't like to contradict Senator Feinstein, but if -- if that suggests that the Taliban will come and take over Afghanistan, no. Afghanistan has moved far enough not to be reversible to those days of the Taliban take over.

BLITZER: They had a major show of su -- of strength in April, when they launched that attack in Kabul.

KARZAI: That's a terrorist attack. That's not...

BLITZER: But that's the Taliban.

KARZAI: But that's not a show of strength. That's a terrorist attack.

BLITZER: So is the -- is the Taliban...

KARZAI: They will...

BLITZER: -- stronger now than it was a year ago?

KARZAI: To -- to -- to -- to -- to put it in answers, yes or no, you would not project the real scene in Afghanistan. Let me put it this way, that the Taliban may have the ability to launch attacks to explode IEDs, to send suicide bombers. But for them to come and take over the country and take it backward, no.

Afghanistan has moved forward and Afghanistan will defend itself. And the progress that we have achieved, the Afghan people will not allow it to be put back or reversed.

BLITZER: Are you ready to bring the Taliban into your government, to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban?

KARZAI: Absolutely. We have been working on the peace deal for a long time now and -- and -- with -- with quite a heavy dedication and -- and perseverance. We will continue the peace process with the Taliban and with the government of Pakistan, with our allies, as well. This is -- this is something that the Afghan people want and it is something that we have as an obligation toward the Afghan people to do.

BLITZER: But do you really believe the Taliban will ever accept equality for women, women's rights, education for girls in Afghanistan?

KARZAI: Well...

BLITZER: Do you believe the Taliban would accept that?

KARZAI: Well -- well -- well -- well, you see, we have to -- we have to divide the Taliban into categories. Those Taliban who are poor Afghans who have been forced out of their homes by circumstances or by events beyond their control, they are ready to come back to their own country and participate in the social life of Afghanistan...

BLITZER: And let girls go to school?

KARZAI: Absolutely. And they have not said to us so far -- we have been talking to them -- that they have a condition of girls not going to school or of the constitution not being democratic. No, that has not been said.

But those who are part of al Qaeda, part of terrorist networks, with those elements, or such elements, we are not talking (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Where does -- where does the leader, the former leader, who's now in exile some place, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is -- are you ready to work with him?

KARZAI: If he wants to have peace in Afghanistan, if he renounces violence and if he accepts the Afghan constitution and embraces the Afghan people as his brothers and sisters and -- and well-being and -- and respect of their lives, we're most welcome to have peace with us.

BLITZER: So even Mullah Mohammed Omar, who was in total alliance with al Qaeda and bin Laden before 9/11, if he were to pop up some place...

KARZAI: Must...

BLITZER: -- and if your troops were to find him, let's say, would -- would they arrest him? Would they kill him or would you negotiate a deal with him?

KARZAI: Well, we are talking of peace. We are not talking of arrests or of killing.

BLITZER: Even Mullah Mohammed Omar?

KARZAI: Yes, we are not talking of that. We are talking of peace for Afghanistan. We are talking for stability and security for Afghanistan. And we would give all those Afghans -- let me repeat -- all those Afghans, whether Taliban or other groups, who are not part of al Qaeda, who are not part of any terrorist network, who are not inimical to their own country and people, they are welcome.

But if they are part of those categories of terrorists that I just mentioned, no. 

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