US, allies have responsibility to explain their failure to Afghan people: Hamid Karzai
Published: Jul 04, 2021 10:48 AM
Afghanistan's former president Hamid Karzai. Photo: VCG

Afghanistan's former president Hamid Karzai. Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

Since the US announced its complete September withdrawal plan from war-torn Afghanistan, the security situation in the country has worsened. To understand the gravity of the crisis, Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen talked to former Afghan president Hamid Karzai (Karzai), who has always been vocally critical of the US military operations, about his perspectives of the US' post-withdrawal Afghanistan and the role of China. 

GT: In a recent interview with AP, you said the US came to your country to fight extremism and bring stability to your war-tortured nation and is leaving nearly 20 years later having failed at both. Can you further elaborate? 

That is exactly what I meant in that interview. Look at the Afghan situation, look at the increase in conflict and the terrorist attacks against our people. Just about a month and a half ago, as many as 85 schoolgirls were killed in an attack claimed by the Islamic State. The heinous attack is but one example of the sufferings of the Afghan people. 

The United States and its allies in NATO came to Afghanistan in the name of fighting terrorism and extremism and to bring stability to Afghanistan. Not only did stability not come, conflict did not end, rather new terrorist groups emerged. IS is a new phenomenon here. It emerged during the US presence here under their watch while they had full control of Afghan airspace and ground. 

Therefore, looking at the sufferings of the Afghan people, the emergence of IS, and the continuing conflict, it's clearly turning out that the United States has failed.

GT: When meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, US President Joe Biden said Afghans must decide their own future. How do you comment on this remark?

The United States is shifting the burden to the Afghan people. They're trying to tell us that whatever has happened is for the Afghan people to handle and that the United States has no responsibility toward it. From one angle, it truly is the responsibility of the Afghan people to provide security for our country and to unite in the name of peace in our country. 

But looking at it from another angle, the United States and its allies came to Afghanistan, mandated by the United Nations, and helped by the entire international community, including China, Russia, India and even Iran, to bring stability to Afghanistan. 

That failure by the US and its allies is now their responsibility to explain to the Afghan people. I agree with President Biden that it is for the Afghans to decide their future and to bring peace. But it is also the responsibility of those countries, especially the United States, who came into Afghanistan in the name of bringing peace and stability. They cannot be absolved of their responsibilities here.

GT: The US said after the withdrawal, it will continue to provide support to Afghanistan. What impact will it have on Afghan peace?

The United States withdrawal from Afghanistan and then the continuation of support to Afghanistan must be from the Afghan perspective entirely intended for peace and stability in Afghanistan. If they have not been able, in the past 20 years with the wholehearted support of the Afghan people to them and of the international community, to provide stability and security or to prevent the rise of terrorism and extremism, this failure cannot be addressed by continuing assistance to Afghanistan where conflict continues.

In other words, any form of US presence in Afghanistan into the future must be beneficial to the wellbeing of the Afghan people and be for peace and security in Afghanistan. It must genuinely address the issues of terrorism in Afghanistan and terrorist groups in Afghanistan like the IS. It must also be acceptable to the region and conducive to regional stability. 

We cannot accept a situation where in the name of providing assistance to us, Afghanistan continues to suffer, and our people continue to die. And while, the region continues to suffer the consequences of that as well. Any help must be clearly seen and proved to be for peace in Afghanistan, and that intention must be made clear. We don't need to look at Iraq or Syria. We have our own country to look at and see how things are. 

GT: Besides the unity of the Afghan people, what is needed the most to eradicate terrorist attacks on Afghan soil?

What is needed is the understanding and cooperation of neighbors and major global powers - who are incidentally almost all in our neighborhood. China is our neighbor and a global power. Russia is our near neighbor and the global power. So are India, Iran and Turkey. Therefore, what is needed now is for Afghanistan and the neighborhood to put hands together and to bring the needed stability to us and the broader region. 

China can play a very significant role here, especially trying for the betterment of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and for working toward a relationship between the two countries. This should be based on civility. In other words, civilized relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan is in the interest of both countries. That's where China could play a very important role and also in the form of troika plus - the United States, Russia, China plus Pakistan. Through this mechanism we believe Afghanistan would have peace; peace through the concerted efforts of the Afghan people and our neighbors.

GT: You mentioned China. China has chosen to get involved in Afghan affairs in a constructive way by offering platforms for internal talks and suggesting dialogue mechanisms. What do you think of China's constructive involvement? 

China is a good neighbor of Afghanistan. China has been a very constructive player for peace and stability in Afghanistan and has also been an economic partner with Afghanistan. China tried to convene intra-Afghan dialogue in Beijing several times and some meetings were held there. One major meeting was attempted in 2019. We really want China to continue to contribute to  peace in Afghanistan by creating a platform of talks through its own initiative in Beijing, and also through the joint exercise of troika. These two mechanisms combination: of China's own initiative with Afghanistan and neighbors, and through troika mechanism. In this sense, China can play a very, very significant role in bringing peace to Afghanistan. 

Another aspect that I already referred to is China's ability to work between Afghanistan and Pakistan and improve relations between the two countries, to make sure relations between the two countries will be based on, as I mentioned earlier, a civilized interaction rather than what's happening today.

GT: Some compare the US rash withdrawal from Afghanistan to its withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973. Both are considered failed military operations. What do you think of this?

I hope the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is with good intentions. I hope that whether the US has made mistakes or whether it has not implemented policies effectively (whatever the case may be), we would like the United States to leave responsibly.