Karzai says a ‘grand dialogue’ needs to happen to save Afghanistan

Photo: Reuters.

Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai said this week that it is important that the Taliban begin a process of inclusivity in the country by launching a grand Afghan dialogue and that the country needs a constitution.

He said this was “for the good of the Taliban themselves and for the good of the country.”

“It has to happen. They have no other alternative,” he said.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Karzai said: “We saw how things didn’t work for Afghan governments when there was one element of it or the other element of our society absent from it.”

He said this notion has been discussed with the Taliban and “on principle” there has been an agreement. “On a national dialogue being imperative to a better Afghanistan, there is an agreement. On getting it launched and done, we haven’t yet gotten where we should be,” he said.

He said the matter had again been discussed just a week ago between himself and a “very senior Taliban leader” but while he was “cautiously” optimistic, it would be premature of him to say they are at the point of calling a grand assembly.

Karzai also stated that Afghans in general are “tremendously concerned” at the situation in the country but that they are also hopeful that things will be better managed in the near future.

Karzai went on to say that both the United States and Afghanistan are responsible for the current situation in the country.

“I have had lots of disagreements and quarrels with the United States on issues. … But I am not going to lay the whole blame at the door of the United States. We Afghans are responsible as well in many, many ways,” he said.

However, he said he strongly disagrees with the decision by the US to strip the country’s foreign reserves and hold by $3.5 billion for possible distribution to 9/11 victims, adding that Afghans themselves were the “greatest victims of terrorism”.

“It is morally wrong to take money from the greatest victim and the poorest victim and give it to another victim when both are victims of the same atrocity, of the same oppression,” he said.

Karzai stated however that the Biden administration needs to help stabilize Afghanistan. He said a coalition of powers should be brought back that will support Afghanistan.

“We don’t want Afghanistan to be a centerpiece in rivalry between the United States, Russia and China. That’s what happened to us in the 19th century between the British and czarist Russia. That’s what happened to us in the 20th century between the United States and the Soviet Union. We see that trend developing again today. … We don’t say that America has no interest, or America should not have interest in this region. They do. They have. What we’re saying is that you pursue your interest in a way that will not bring Afghanistan to suffering or destruction.”

In terms of gaining the trust of the international community, Karzai said the Taliban need to first create a situation inside Afghanistan where the will of the Afghan people is expressed.

He said it was also necessary for the establishment of a government that is seen as legitimate inside the country and is supported by the Afghan people.

He also said the current crisis in the country will not improve “unless girls go to school, unless opportunities are created and unless all the Afghan people find themselves as owners of this country, as present in decision-making for this country, as represented by the government of the country.”

He said Afghans should approach the international community about recognition once the country and government is visibly moving towards the betterment of life in Afghanistan, “which isn’t the case right now.”

Karzai also stated that the war in Afghanistan “was not our war. I was against that war. I was not a partner of the United States in that war against Afghan villages and homes. I stood against it, and I worked against it. I changed from the moment I recognized that this war that is fought in the name of defeating terrorism is actually a war against the Afghan people.”

He said he called the Taliban “brothers” for that reason. “Because the Afghans were being killed on both sides of the divide that foreigners created in us for their own objectives.”

“I wanted the United States of America to be an ally of the Afghan people and not to fight a war in our villages. They knew, the Americans, that the sanctuaries were in Pakistan. They told us that repeatedly. And they would bomb Afghan villages. They would come and tell us that Pakistan was training extremists and terrorists. Then, they would go and pay them billions of dollars. When this was repeated and repeated, I had only one conclusion. The conclusion was either the Americans are doing this on purpose, or that they are extremely naive and out of touch with the realities of this region.”

Karzai also touched on the issue of corruption and bribes in the delivery of services and said he takes “full responsibility” for it adding however that the US was to blame for the large-scale corruption – the the hundreds of millions of dollars. “But the big contracts, big corruption … was clearly a United States of America thing.

“Yes, there was corruption, but to blame Afghans or the Afghan government for it, is wrong. We do take responsibility. I would never say there was no corruption. But who was responsible for it? Afghans or our international partners? Mainly our international partners, and they know it. They will admit it,” he said.

Girls’ education was another point of focus for him and he said many Taliban leaders are in favor of education for girls, but the “fact it is not happening has to be explained.”

On the fall of Kabul, Karzai said the state would not have collapsed on August 15, 2021 had former president Ashraf Ghani not fled the country. “Ghani leaving was the collapse of the whole thing,” he said.