Image via Wikipedia
August 21, 2010
ABC – THIS WEEK
Christiane Amanpour interview President Hamid Karzai
Joining me now from Kabul is the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.
Mr. President, thank you for joining us THIS WEEK.
KARZAI: Happy to be with you.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, what is the roadmap for your peace talks with the Taliban and how confident are you that you can have some kind of settlement, political settlement with them?
KARZAI: The roadmap is clear. The indications for peace would be that Afghanistan will be ready to talk to those Taliban powers who belong to Afghanistan and are not part of al Qaeda, who are not part of any other terrorist network, who accept the Afghanistan Constitution and the progress that we have achieved in the past so many years and who are willing to return to a normal civilian life and who are not connected to any foreign body outside of Afghanistan.
AMANPOUR: How advanced are you in trying to get the Taliban to these talks?
KARZAI: Of course, there are individual contacts with some Taliban elements; that’s not yet a formal process.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about some of the concerns that people have? For instance, women’s groups are very concerned. They say that promises by you to be properly and adequately represented at any peace jirga are faltering and they are very concerned that any deal with the Taliban leads to their rights, those that they’ve gained, being — being eradicated.
KARZAI: They will be part of the High Council For Peace as well, their representation will be solid and meaningful, substantive.
And of course, this is upon us as the right of the Afghan people to make sure that the gains that we have made, especially the gains that our women have made in political, social and economic walks of life, not only are kept but are promoted and advanced further.
AMANPOUR: Well, given that pledge you are now making, how concerned are you by, for instance, the stoning of that couple, that young couple in Afghanistan over the last week, the first public stoning since the fall of the Taliban after 9/11?
KARZAI: I was shocked when I heard that. That’s a terrible sign. That’s — that’s indeed part of our failure, the Afghan government and the international community as well, to give protection to the Afghan people.
We are investigating it, but it came to me as a deep, deep shock.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you this, the president of Pakistan recently said that the battle for hearts and minds in Afghanistan is already lost. Do you agree with him, and do you believe that the war in Afghanistan is winnable?
KARZAI: I believe the campaign against terrorism is absolutely winnable. We have to win, but we — in order for us to do that, we must end the business as usual and we must begin to reexamine whether we are doing everything correctly, whether we are doing the right things and whether we are having the support of the Afghan people or whether that support is declining, and if it is declining, then there are reasons for it and we must correct those reasons.
AMANPOUR: Specifically, those reasons are what?
KARZAI: Those reasons are that we must provide protection to the Afghan people rather than causing civilian casualties, we must end corruption and corrupt practices in Afghanistan, done by the international community by the way contracts are given, we must end parallel structures to the afghan government, we must end the security firms who are spending billions of dollars in the presence of whom Afghanistan would never developed a police force.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me take a few of those things you’ve just mentioned.
The private contractors, you have called and your office has called for them to be disbanded by the end of this year, in the next four months. That’s something like 30,000 private contractors who are providing security. Are you standing by that declaration you want them out by the end of this year?
KARZAI: Definitely, ma’am. This is a topic that I’ve been engaging with, with our allies for the last at least four years very intensively. Finally, I began to conclude after a lot of consideration and on a good ground of solid information that the more we wait, the more we lose.
Therefore, we have decided in the Afghan government to bring an end to the presence of these security companies who are running a parallel security structure to the Afghan government, who are not only causing corruption in this country, but who are looting and stealing from the Afghan people, who are causing a lot of harassment to our civilians who we don’t know if they are security companies at daytime and then some of them turn into terroristic groups at nighttime.
They are wasting billions of dollars of resources and they are definitely an obstruction, an impediment in a most serious matter to the growth of Afghanistan’s security institutions, the police and the army.
AMANPOUR: Do you mean all of them? Do you mean even the ones who protect you, who protect military bases, who protect diplomats as well and aid convoys?
KARZAI: Well, we will — we will provide a basis for those security companies who are providing protection to embassies and to aid organizations within their compounds and who escort diplomats or representatives of foreign governments in Afghanistan from place to place.
But we will definitely not allow them to be on the roads, in the bazaars, in the streets, on the highways, and we will not allow them to provide protection to supply lines that is the job of the Afghan government and the Afghan police.
Mr. President, the U.S. says the Afghan army and police are nowhere near ready to take over these duties and that an end of the year deadline is way too ambitious. Why are you doing it so soon?
KARZAI: Exactly the right question. One of the reasons that I want them disbanded and removed by four months from now is exactly because that their presence is preventing the growth and the development of the Afghan Security Forces, especially the police force because 40-50,000 people are given more salaries than the Afghan police.
Why would an Afghan young man come to the police if he can get a job in a security firm, have a lot of leeway and without any discipline. So naturally, our security forces will find it difficult to grow. In order for security forces to grow, these groups must be disbanded.
And here, ma’am, through you I am appealing to the U.S. taxpayer not allow their hard-earned money to be wasted on groups that are not only providing lots of inconveniences to the Afghan people, but actually are god knows in contact with Mafia-like groups and perhaps also funding militants and insurgents and terrorists through those firms.
AMANPOUR: Are you not concerned that those who you disband, most of them are Afghans after all, will go and join terrorist insurgents or rival warlords?
KARZAI: No. No, that’s not a concern. If these groups are so bad that if disbanded will become members of the Taliban or insurgents, then they should be disbanded tomorrow.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, let me talk about corruption, which you, yourself, brought up.
There is still so much corruption, so many allegations of corruption. I want to ask you specifically about two U.S.-backed and mentored task forces, anticorruption task forces that you bitterly criticized not so long ago.
Are you still critical or will you allow them to operate to combat corruption in Afghanistan?
KARZAI: The bodies will stay — the bodies will stay to work, but they should be within the confines of the Afghan law, within the confines of the Afghan penal code and within respect of human rights and should be sovereign Afghan bodies not run or paid by any outside entities.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you about a specific case that caused a lot of anxiety, certainly with you. And that is the case of Zia Salehi, who is one of your close aides in the National Security Council. He was, in fact, arrested under a warrant signed by your own attorney general and he was subsequently released the very same day, they are saying, because you personally called and asked for him to be released, and they did release him.
Is that true? Did you intervene?
KARZAI: Yes, absolutely, I intervened. Not only I intervened, but I intervened very, very strongly.
This man was taken out of his house in the middle of the night by 30 kalashnikov toting masked men in the name of Afghan law enforcement. This is exactly reminiscent of the days of the Soviet Union where people were taken away from their homes by armed people in the name of the state and thrown into obscure prisons in some sort of Kangaroo courts. It reminds the Afghan people of those days with immense fear.
So I have intervened. As I am the president of this country, I must uphold the constitution and do things legally from now onwards. Tomorrow, I’ll be giving a new instruction to bring these two bodies in accordance with Afghan laws and within the sovereignty of the Afghan state.
AMANPOUR: Will the case against Mr. Salehi be allowed to proceed? And will you allow the arrest and investigation of anybody who is accused of corruption — he was accused of soliciting a bribe — even if they’re —
AMANPOUR: — your friends and allies?
KARZAI: Absolutely. Absolutely, ma’am. That case is already under investigation, questions are continuing to be asked, the investigation is underway. Corruption should be handled most effectively and delegatedly and with a lot of pressure, but it has to be across the board and apolitical and without vested foreign interests.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
KARZAI: Good to talk to you