TIME: Last time we met, in September 2006, Kabul's first major suicide attack went off during the middle of our interview. Since then we have had several devastating attacks and an attempted assassination...
Karzai: And the casualties will only get worse, I fear. And then did you see what was happening in Pakistan, why would someone go and blow himself up in a hospital [in Peshawar]? Who are they, what are they? It cannot be justified. The justification is far away. You can fight people anywhere, any place, but you don't kill people in a hospital. So why? It's going crazy. Why?
If they die in suicide attacks, how will their movement survive? What is behind this? It is criminality on the part of those who use them. Criminality is perhaps a light word. Diabolical, worse than that. Someone needs to coin a new term, a new phrase.
What would your phrase be?
Inhuman. It's to no end. It's not a war you can win. They blow people up, and disappear. Without a political cause, without a political objective. With nothing that can bring success, or any symbols of success?
So how do you combat a movement that has only annihilation as its goal?
The way to fix Afghanistan is to fix things with Pakistan. In order to fix terrorism at large, we need to remedy the wrongs of the past 30 years. Remedy means to undo. Did you see what happened in Algeria today? I will call the president of Algeria.
The world pushed us to fight the Soviets. And those who did it walked away. And left all the mess spread around. September 11 is a consequence of this. The bombing in Peshawar today is a consequence. Algeria is a consequence of that.
Afghanistan was a once great place. In perfect harmony with the rest of the world. Families sent their girls to university, wearing whatever style they wanted. And that family lived in perfect harmony with another family who was conservative and traditional. Both lived together and socialized. But in the years of fighting against the Soviets, radicalism was the main thing. Someone like me would be called half a Muslim. And we were actually called half Muslims. Because we were not radical. The more radical you became, the more money you were given. So radicalism became not only an ideological tool against the Soviets, but a way forward economically. The more radical you presented yourself, the more money the West gave you.
It wasn't just the West, it was Saudi Arabia, Pakistan...
Everybody together I call them the West, because they were led by the West. The moderates were undermined, not allowed. Patriotism, Afghan history and nationalism was called atheism. It was undermined. The more you betrayed Afghanistan, the more you spoke of radicalism, the more you went away from Afghan history, the better you were treated. And that's what we are paying for now.
So how do you repair the damage?
By paying proper attention to the hundreds of thousands of disparate lives... these people who have nowhere to go to, who are not being raised in a parent's home, who don't have sisters and brothers to live with. Who don't have dinner with their families every night. Who are taken [in] by these... enemies of Islam, who work in the name of Islam. These places are called madrassahs, but they are not [real] madrassahs. They train and raise these young souls to be ammunition in a political game. That is what happened today in [the hospital in] Dera Ismail Khan [in Pakistan], that is what happens in Afghanistan on a daily basis.
And also, let's focus on Pakistan. The ISI [The Inter-Service Intelligence spy agency of Pakistan]. The organization must stop using radicalism and extremism as an instrument of policy. Once that stops, unless the use of these young men as tools of radicalization, and as weapons to promote whatever agenda they have stops, we will have continued attacks like this.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, your long time foe, stepped down yesterday. What does this mean for Afghanistan?
Arrivals and departures don't matter much. What matters is institutional corrections. Unless we correct the institution, unless we change the mindsets that follow an old policy. For example, if Pakistan is using radicalism as a tool of policy for strategic depth in Afghanistan, well, I wish to tell them that it won't work. The best strategic depth in Afghanistan is friendship, cooperation. Like France and Germany. Now France has the best strategic depth in Germany. And Germany has the best strategic depth in France. [It is a] cooperative environment. Afghanistan is willing to build that kind of relationship. In my opinion that is the best strategic depth to have: cooperation, not weaponry, not sanctuary, not undermining, not seeking a puppet state. That will not happen period.
You have accused the ISI of supporting terrorism in Afghanistan, particularly in the case of the Indian Embassy bombing. Do you think the new civilian government in Pakistan will be able to rein in the ISI when a military leader could not?
[Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza] Gilani is a good man. He has the right intentions. I hope he gets the tools of control. That is for the Pakistani government to decide, and that is for us and the international community to help him with. Afghanistan will go out of its way. Today the army chief of Pakistan was in Afghanistan today at Bagram Airforce base. I called [General Ashfaq Pervez] Kayani on the telephone to welcome him to my country. And to tell him that Afghanistan cannot achieve peace or prosperity without friendly relations with Pakistan. I hope he recognizes that what they are doing [in terms of supporting militancy in Afghanistan] is causing immense damage to Pakistan itself. Someone has to recognize this need for change, and for a modern relationship with Afghanistan, a civilized relationship. I hope it will occur.
Do you think this will happen?
I am always optimistic. There is no other way. we cannot live a life in opposition. And I will continue working , continue and continue forever.
Do you think Pakistan's new civilian government can reign in the militancy?
Not by not changing the concept. In other words, unless the establishment of Pakistan changes its foundation of policy towards the neighbor, there will be trouble. If they think that strategic depth in Afghanistan can only be gained by promoting radicalism, destabilizing Afghanistan, having a weak puppet government, and having Afghanistan in disarray, then they will have to have a staging point, and that staging point cannot be in Afghanistan, it will have to be in Pakistan. And that staging point creates exactly the replication of what is happening in Afghanistan. Therefore the tribal territories will not be peaceful as long as that policy continues. When that changes, yes, the tribal territories will become peaceful.
But is it too late, is the genie out of the bottle?
The genie was out of the bottle a long time back, not this year or last year but many years ago. The genie is not a self-winding one. The genie can be put back into the bottle and the bottle can be destroyed.
What will it take to do that?
A proper analysis of the Pakistani national interest. A proper analysis of the course to be followed into the future. A different thinking about life itself. How do I want to live with my neighbor? Do I want to live a life undermining it or pushing it around, or do I want a neighbor who is prosperous and good and with whom I can work well? Afghanistan wants that life. And Pakistan will benefit from that life too. One day it will come about. Definitely.
Secondly. There is also a job we have to do in Afghanistan. Afghanistan will never be beholden to Pakistan. Afghanistan's progress and stability will only add to Pakistan's progress and stability. Afghanistan will bring prosperity to add to Pakistan. Afghanistan will bring no quarrels to Pakistan. Pakistan has to recognize that Afghanistan has been in this part of the world for a long, long time. It's a good, old, sage man. It will not go away. Empires have tried and failed to conquer this place. And Afghanistan will guard its independence and soverignity and it's right to a relationship with others very jealously. Extreme jealously. I am extremely jealous. I will guard it jealously.
We will have relations with India. We will have relations with Iran. With china. We will have relations with America. Strategic ones, strong ones. Deep ones, and with Russia too. But these are relationships that will not be used against our neighbors. Not against Pakistan, not against Iran. We have been very firm with the Americans about Iran, and we have been very frank with Iran about our relations with America. I went and explained to the Iranian government our relation with the United States. Therefore our relationship with India in the same manner is not counterproductive to Pakistan. It is between Afghanistan and India. India is one of the great economic powers.
[India provided] a good educational environment for Afghans — I was one of them and there are a thousand more like me in India now. Afghanistan wants this relationship, and we hope that Pakistan evolves into a good relationship with India as well. So we are clear. We are not shadowy. We have clarity about our objectives, our way forward, and about what we want to lead into the future. This cannot be undermined by bombs, or suicides or by violence. In other words, we are morally correct. We are not cheating on our neighbors, and we will not cheat. We will be straightforward, as we were in the past. Very straightforward. At some cost for us.
Recently there has been a spate of civilian casualties. The Afghan Senate is trying to bring foreign forces under afghan law so they can be tried for civilian casualties. Is that what you want?
You cannot justify any civilian casualties. Look. Afghanistan is grateful to our allies for having brought us liberation from terrorists, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. And for having given Afghanistan its place back in the international community. Our flag is flying around the world because of what happened. We would be nowhere, we would be a miserable lot under occupation without the U.S. presence and the presence of the international community. Taxpayer money is spent here in Afghanistan. It is not easy money. It is money that the American and European people have worked hard to earn. The sacrifice in life by the men and women of America and our other allies — that is all recognized, highly registered, with immense appreciation by the Afghans.
But the Afghan people have given a lot too in this war against terrorism. Seven years on we still have people dying in our villages. Seven years on, on a daily basis we are losing our lives, whether the police, army, engineers, teachers and even our children. This the Afghan people understand. But they do not understand why for six years the Afghans have been saying to their allies, that the war against terrorism will not be won unless and until we go to the sanctuaries, to the training grounds, to the financiers, to the motivators of hatred that come across the border to kill us all.
And the allies have not heard us. We took the brunt of this war. Even now the Afghan people, even when badly hurt, when entire families have been victims, killed in bombings, they are still with us in this fight against terrorism. But they don't understand why they should be the victims. We asked for this a long time back. The war against terrorism is not in Afghan villages, it is not in the middle of Afghan civilians. It is not on the roads of Kandahar and Kabul where people die from soldiers shooting out of fear. It is correcting the problem at its origins.
I am speaking of doing the right thing. If Afghanistan is using a method, and that method is causing a problem in the rest of the world, then the rest of the world must come to me to stop that method. If Afghanistan is growing poppies, the rest of the world calls me every day on the reduction and eradication and removal of poppies. Every day in all my meetings, I face pressure on this. I know, and the world knows that it is not going to go away. I know and the world knows that if I could do it as the Afghan president, I would do it tomorrow. I know if President Bush could do it he would get rid of it tomorrow. But then a problem has been identified in Afghanistan, and that problem is being discussed with me every day. Have we done this with regard to sanctuaries, with regard to the training grounds, with those who have it? And those who cause it? Have we done enough to reduce the problem? What methods have we used to cut it short, to weaken it? This is my question. We have war here as a consequence of something else.
Even if you go after the problem in Pakistan tomorrow, you are still going to have war here for a long time to come.
For several more months, years, maybe longer, I agree. Or more. We understand. In that case [if the origins of terrorism are addressed], civilian casualties will be acceptable. But you can't have casualties, and no end in sight. As if the whole war in Afghanistan is because we are the ones producing terrorism. While we are not. We are the victims both ways. That is my point.
And the call in the senate to bring foreign forces under Afghan law?
It is a loud cry by the Afghan people, reflected by the Afghan senate, and they are right about that. And I have discussed the issues with our partners early on, many years behind us now. And we have to find a way forward, oh yes, I support the move in the senate.
At the risk of Americans pulling out?
Well, we have to win this war. The United States is here to win this war against terrorism. Are we doing it correctly? Are we winning this war? We defeated terrorism in less than a month-and-a-half in Afghanistan, but we are still suffering from it. The remnants are still there, killing American troops, killing Afghan, killing French, killing everyone else. What is it that we have done, what is it that we must do to bring an end in sight. Do we have a problem with the Afghan people? In that case the definition of what we are doing is very different. Do we have a problem with international terrorism, then what is it we are doing to address it? So far in my view, and in the view of the Afghan people, not much. Now if we see this as an effort aimed at the right target, spoken about with us, with a proper identification of the problem areas, then we can go along, and in that situation if we suffer civilian casualties, alright, we will accept it.
The senate says we must control the foreign forces, we must control and bring harmony and coordination against the forces of terrorism. We have worked on this for the past five years, we have brought about a reduction in casualties, and we have brought about a lot of improvements. Together in cooperation with the international community. They don't want to have casualties. [Head of NATO forces, U.S. General David] McKiernan doesn't want Afghan civilians to die. [Former NATO forces commander General Dan] McNeil didn't' want that, nobody wants casualties because it doesn't help, it isn't right. Therefore, McKiernan, everybody, should adopt the right mechanism where casualties will be down, where we will be targeting the right place with the right weaponry, and with an effect on the spread of terrorism.
Some of your closest aides are suspected of stealing land, drug smuggling and having illegal militias, Your military advisor, General Dostom, has been accused of kidnapping and resisting arrest. Yet you balked at arresting him. Why do you still protect these people?
Ah, Dostom. [Laughs]
He still has a militia, even if he denies it. So do several other former commanders. They just call them security companies.
If you call militias a security company, then we don't have them. it's all the internationals. For the past few years, one of our biggest sources of contention with the international community has been their use of security companies. Private security companies. That still is one of our very serious differences with the international community. We consider them as one of the reasons for insecurity on our highways. So this is something, that not do we not support, but we publicly and officially are very much against. It is something with which I have called on all members of the international community, I have called on all of the ambassadors.
But these security companies are militias run by former commanders.
And funded by the international community.
The commanders are still in your government.
They are not funded by us. They are funded by the international community because there is nothing we can do. We are against it , we are against it, we have been public, we have been officially clear about this, this is something that we must put an end to in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Interior closed down many of them.
But there are still many operating.
This is not our problem. This is unfortunately a consequence of this partnership [between the international community and commanders with militias].
But you do have Dostom as an advisor. He has broken the law. There are witnesses. And yet you have been unable to bring him to justice.
Warlords and their relationship with the international community is nothing I can do anything about. And their contracts, and the security firms.
Why will the international community not listen to you? What is the gain? I just came back from the north where the level of crime has skyrocketed due to the actions of some of these commanders. Rape, kidnapping. And nothing is happening.
I have taken action on some of these cases. I have removed a governor, some police chiefs and I will do more. And yesterday I investigated a matter of very serious importance in another province. Maybe Khunduz. I am very serious about that. there is something that I hope very much that our international backers will see the Afghan point of view, which they have not seen so far.
The Afghan point of view is cut relations, stop backing them [the warlords]. Stop giving them contracts, stop arming them, and stop using them as political tools. Absolutely they are using them as political tools.
Why can you not say stop then?
What does stop mean? Stop. Will you stop writing? Stop is not the solution. I have to run this country. I have to take it forward with all the problems that it has. If someone in the international community is backing the warlords, and I say stop, and they don't stop, what is the next option? I tell them to leave this country? Pack up and leave Afghanistan? Take their money away, take their troops away? Then what? Will we be better off? Or will Afghanistan be worse off?
Here it comes a point where as the leader of the country I must judge my distance in action. Will I go the full way? Or will I stop short of doing that? In other words, in order to have a warlord arrested, an offender, not just a warlord, arrested and put for trial, should I go to the extent of causing so much annoyance in an ally, for them to leave, or should I stop short and continue to make the best of the situation?
Are you speaking here about Dostom? Are you saying that he has international support? Do you extend that to mean that he also has local support, in terms of the Uzbek population of Afghanistan of which he is the leader? And can you afford to lose that following?
I am always very considerate. No Afghan people will go with offenders. Law has to be applied, and I have to think of the circumstances to which I can apply the law to the best interests of the Afghan people. that is something that I have to consider, and I have considered, and I have been criticized for, by my fellow Afghans, for being too considerate in these circumstances. And I have been too considerate. I think I was right. I have to judge.
See I came to power in this country when there was no government. No institutions, no laws were applied. There was a time when someone had taken two daughters of a man away — this was in 2002 — and the then chief justice [Fazl Hadi] Shinwari came to me, and said we have no police, we cannot take him [the kidnapper] by the force of the law. So I decided to persuade him. By persuasion we were able to take one of the girls back, and then the other daughter and deliver them back to their house.
There was a time in those years where we didn't even have law to deal with situations like that. Now six years down the line, we come to know of all that happens in Afghanistan. And in a lot of cases, we have the ability to act, for which we are grateful to the international community because of their presence, their backing and their resources, and the help we have been given. Otherwise we could not, unfortunately still, have been able to function the way we should. It will take some more time, and we will have to wait, and work towards that day.
in 2002, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said "we will not sacrifice security in the name of justice," talking about this very issue of warlords, who had been allied with western forces in defeating the Taliban. But six years on, we still have neither security nor justice.
At that point, that was the right thing.
Six years on, it is not like that. We have examples of justice sacrificed in the name of security, but the overall situation is not like that. The overall situation is where we act and we defend and we bring offenders to law, and we put them in jail. Even government offenders.
And then they pay a bribe and are freed.
Well, that is a different problem.
That is a big problem.
That is not the problem of the application of law, that is the problem of the system not being ready to handle the situation. That happens in many countries that have been here for a long time.
Ok, let me give you an example. Last week I went to Jowzjan province. I met a 11-year-old girl who had been raped about six months ago. Her family had to pay bribes to pursue the case in courts. And her sister told me, "Under the Taliban time, that man would have been executed. We want the Taliban back because they gave us justice."
The Taliban did provide that sort of justice. They were much better in that way. Yes, that is true.
So you are falling behind in a competition for hearts and minds with a regime that was one of the most horrific in recent history?
So how do you rectify this?
By improving, and by having the full backing by some of our allies, which in some cases has not been there. And if you give me the name of the girl who was raped, and her information, I will deal with the situation tomorrow.
General McKiernan has said that the Taliban are resurgent, and this is causing problems for Afghanistan. But one of the reasons they are gaining ground is because people are rapidly losing faith in your government. They see it as ineffective, corrupt and lacking justice. How do you defend your record in power?
I don't think the Afghan people would prefer the Taliban to the current government. They have reduced faith in the government, yes. Definitely. But if you ask them if they have an alternative to this government, they will say "No." The Taliban will never be in the eyes of the Afghan people an alternative to this government. There are areas in which we have done well. Like security. Corruption is a different case. And this government is doing its best on corruption. With the money that is coming in; with the presence of so many international players, with the NGOs, with the security firms, the contractors, the this, the that, it could have been, it should have been much worse.
It could have been much better.
I don't think so. Under the circumstances, no. Take the number of players into account. The Afghan government takes the responsibility for the money that comes through us. Not for the money that has come through the donors, the agencies.
But what about the corruption in the police?
Corruption in the police is not hurting Afghanistan as much as corruption in the contract process from the donors.
I don't see that. The police are the government's first contact with its citizens. That is the reason why the people are losing faith in your government.
I am sure of it. Look, these are the same police that are dying in heavy numbers every day, defending this country. And this police [force] was not paid more than $20 a month [each] until last year. It was an extremely poverty stricken country. On this the Afghan people warned me in 2004, they came to me and said president, we have no police, and I realized it with our partners in the international community right there, on a daily basis. And we didn't get the right answer. We only began to work with our allies on the question of police and its reform, and improvement, and proper payment in 2007. So from 2004 to 2006, our cries went unheard, but we kept talking. We didn't make it public, but we were talking. Therefore the police should not be blamed, they should be praised.
And the Ministry of Interior (MOI)? Another notoriously corrupt institution?
The MOI has done a lot to improve itself. It is a lot better than two years ago.
That's not saying much, look what it was starting from.
It's not their fault. Can we blame Afghanistan for having been so badly destroyed? And then say look where we started from? When we started in 2002 we had no roads, so should we blame Afghanistan for having had no roads?
But the MOI is different, they are your representatives. If the MOI is corrupt, you are perceived to be corrupt.
This is what we have. This is the environment we have. It is not acceptable, but we are systematically trying to improve it. Together with the international community. All of those heavy guys that are sitting now with the MOI have been checked by the United Nations before they were appointed, for the past two years. We have gone through all the steps of reform. I'm not saying all the steps were right. Some things done in the name of reform were not reform. They caused us a lot of troubles. Like throwing too many police away, police that were trained, that were kicked out by the reform process.
That is because they were illiterate.
So what if they were illiterate? Why not? We had in Helmand three years ago a police chief who was illiterate, and another district chief who was illiterate, and a governor that was not educated in a school, but Helmand was much better then.
Two years ago you had a corrupt governor in Helmand accused by the British of smuggling drugs: Sher Muhammad Akhunzada.
Yes, but do we have more drugs now in Helmand? Or then? Oh, come on, that is the problem. This is all western propaganda against him. That is where things have gone wrong in Afghanistan.
He was found with nearly a ton of heroin in his basement.
So what? Now there are hundreds of tons of heroin in basements across Helmand. Not the governor, but the whole system. So, when Akhunzada was there, all the girls were going to school. Schools were open. Shops were open. Reconstructon was going on, and poppies were three times less than what is being produced today.
So you blame pulling Akhunzada out for the increase in violence and poppy cultivation today?
Helmand was entirely in our hand. The whole province was firmly in our hand. What do we have now?
So you are willing to accept a drug smuggler as long as he keeps a firm grip on the province?
So, let's suppose he was that. First of all, we don't know. These days we are wiser, we don't believe everything that our allies tell us now. Akhunzada was the governor. Drugs were three times less than they are today. The province was in our hands. Schools were running; women's associations were running. Clinics were running. Hospitals were running. Girls and boys were going to school; there was peace. And we removed Akhunzada on the allegation of drug running, and we delivered the province to drug runners, the Taliban, to terrorists, to a threefold increase of drugs and poppy cultivation in the country. To the closing of schools, to women being killed in the street. To complete lawlessness, and complete lack of sovereignty in Helmand for Afghanistan. Which condition is better? What would you do in your country in a situation like that? In other words, a British or an American province would be happier with the first situation or with the second? Ismail Khan in Herat was accused of the same things.
So you are going to let these people, these smugglers...
You have to let Afghanistan determine its own ways. The methods and ways that are developed in offices in the West don't work here. That is the problem. Somebody sits there behind a desk, gets a few reports from English-speaking Afghans and they say, well that is what we want to do in Afghanistan. And then things go down the drain. That is what I am changing now.
So you are willing to allow a criminal to run a province as long as he keeps it under control?
No, who says he is a criminal? That is a wrong allegation from the press, motivated by our foreign allies. That is where things have gone wrong. Motivated. We don't even know what the allegations are. We don't' know if those allegations against Sher Muhammad Akhunzada were truth, or if they were made up to turn Helmand into what it is now.
But if we go back to Ismail Khan, the former warlord and governor of Herat, it is very clear that he was siphoning off customs funds from the border with Iran destined for the central government.
He used that money to rebuild Herat, he did a good job then and he is doing a good job now [as minister of power]. It is not that everything we do is wrong. It is not that everything that our allies are doing is right. They have made mistakes. We did not know then, because we didn't know how decisions were made, but we know now. So we are much more assertive today. Much more demanding, that is why we ask more questions. That is why there is more action. It's because of that experience. Especially Helmand.
You recently replaced Asadullah Khalid of Kandahar because of allegations of corruption...
No, not at all. He was there for three-and-a-half years. It was time for a change. He did a very good job.
The Canadian government accused him of corruption.
Well, they were wrong. When he was leaving Kandahar, the Kandaharis gave him a reception that none other has seen. Sometimes our officials are accused of corruption when they stand for their Afghan interests. When they stand up to our allies, they are accused of corruption. That we know now. In other words, unfortunately, our allies don't like a strong-headed Afghan. That is part of the problem in this country as well.
Ok, let's take another character that is facing allegations of corruption and drug smuggling from the International community, but more so, widespread accusation of drug manufacture and smuggling from Afghans in the country.
My brother [Wali Karzai] was accused. In 2004. He came to me and said this is the situation. I called the Americans, I called the British. I said this is a very serious matter. We are a family with 300 years of history. With a very respectable life. We are not rich people. I perhaps will be the poorest Afghan when I am no longer president. The state doesn't pay me. I will either be in the streets begging or trying to find a job as a teacher. And we don't have much property, we have nothing.
My brother was accused precisely after I refused to allow aerial spraying of poppies. After I had a very nice meeting with both the U.S. and British Ambassadors, subsequently the New York Times wrote an article about him. Also, my brother can easily be accused [so as] to put pressure on me. Regardless of that, I took this seriously. I called the Americans, the British and the Europeans, and I repeatedly said, anything you have, let me know. And once, twice, three times, four, five, six times... Nothing.
Equally he came to me and said I want to go to the court, and I said go ahead. He went twice to the DEA at the U.S. embassy, to see the Minister of Counter Narcotics, and he has gone to the judges who have officially written to the U.S. administration to give us in writing any accusation. But for the past five years, allegations have been there, but never have they come to me with proof. Privately they say, "President, we have nothing." Perhaps it was spread by your political opponents, perhaps it was spread by this or that.
Yes, there is a lot of corruption in Afghanistan. But in many cases, the most corrupt are never mentioned, because they are all buddy-buddy with the Western countries. They are given the contracts. They are given the procedures. They are given the money. They are given whatever there is. In our view now, the ones who have an Afghan point of view are accused of corruption.
But it is the perception among the Afghan population that is the problem.
It is created by the press.
But you are harmed by it.
I know I am harmed by it. I have been accused by American writers who I have never met who say I am totally corrupt. This trouble will be here as long as the International community is here.
But it is Afghans who are accusing your brother.
As I said, this problem will be here as long as the international community is here. Any other president of Afghanistan, if he is upright and straight, will be accused of the same, rightly or wrongly. Any Afghan president.
The Bactrian gold exhibit has been a huge success in the world, and has demonstrated the richness of Afghanistan's cultural heritage. Yet in the country rich archaeological sites are being looted on a constant basis. Shouldn't this be stopped?
Yes, there is so much in this country, but we don't have any money to support it. This country has been looted for a long time now, from our neighbors, from rich people around the world, from Afghans, and of course even from International forces going in and looting. We have no proof, but we know it is happening. The Afghans are doing it. Smugglers. We are trying to protect what we can protect. But it is beyond us. It is up to the Afghan population to protect it. There is so much in this country. Yes, we are losing some, but a lot we are keeping.
You are expected to run for a second term in office in 2009.
I have a job to complete.
Why do you think you are the best person to complete this job?
I hope there is someone who can do a better job than me. I very much hope so. One of my duties for Afghanistan is to find the next leadership of this country. So I am not going to be happy to be known as the only man. No, that is no good. That is a shortcoming, not a plus. I hope I can as soon as possible, work on the new leadership. Afghanistan will be a good, strong country if it has leaders. And that is my goal.
Some of the leaders stepping forward now are ethnic leaders, former commanders and warlords who have parties and their own TV stations.
But they are not leaders. They are rich people.
Is that not a problem?
Well, Afghanistan has to go through this. We can't stop people from aspiring to be leaders. Rich men can be leaders. Any one can aspire to be a leader. The country will be wise to decide on them, just like any western democracy. The freedom to vote for people and unvote.
And if they do so along ethnic lines?
That will be a reality in Afghanistan for a long time. That's the practice all over the world. The Afghan people are an extremely united people. There is a very strong sense of history. Of Afghan-ness. There is a lot of depth in this country that does not fade easily. I am not worried about this at all.
But ethnicity tore this country apart during the civil war.
Not at all. It was political parties backed by foreigners. They tried to use... ethnic [differences], but failed.
But won't those same powers try to regain power again?
They are doing it even now. But it won't work. To an extent it will impact us, but not deeply.
So given the situation of security we are seeing today, do you think things are going to get better any time soon?
Look, we must work very hard with the international community, with international forces to bring safe elections to Afghanistan, so Afghan people can come and vote. A month from now we will start the registration process. The elections will take place. The Afghans want to have the right to vote. Things will get better here. We have to make it work, period.
6 months ago