Afghan president laments coalition use of ‘thugs’


Kabul : Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants a proper police force, not militias, Chicago Tribune said.

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The leader of Afghanistan faults US-led forces, saying they have hired warlords who have then been sent to mistreat ordinary Afghans.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticized the American-led military operations in his country and called for focusing the fight against terrorism more on neighboring Pakistan than Afghanistan.

What do you think about being described by then-presidential candidate Obama as weak and spending too much time in a bunker? “Bunker? We are in a trench, and our allies are with us in the trench. We were on a high hill with a glorious success in 2002 [after ousting the Taliban regime following the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S.], backed fully by the Afghan people. . . . And the Taliban and the Al Qaeda were defeated, without a fight, especially in southern parts of Afghanistan. . . . We must now look back and find out as to why are we in a trench, or if you’d like to describe it, as a bunker.

“Why are we in a bunker? Thousands of the Taliban went back to their homes. They began a normal life.

“The coalition forces began to employ thugs, and went with those thugs to the homes of hundreds of elders and community people, frightened them into running away from Afghanistan. I’m surprised that the Afghan people still have so much trust in what we are doing. I’m surprised that people, after having been bombed many, many times over, with their children and families killed, torn to pieces, still come to me as their president. . . . And we can be easily out of the bunker, or as I describe it, the trench, if we begin to correct our behavior.

“The international community should correct their behavior, and the Afghan government should begin to be helped to do more. . . . For years we’ve been saying that we need concentration on the
[insurgents’] sanctuaries. We were ignored.

“For years I’ve been saying that the war on terrorism is not in Afghanistan, that it’s in the training camps, it’s in sanctuaries [in Pakistan]. Rather than going there, the coalition went around the Afghan villages, burst into people’s homes and . . . [has been] committing extrajudicial killings in our country.

“The latest example was the day before yesterday in Khowst, where a man, a woman and a 12-year-old boy were killed. Were they Al Qaeda? And even if they were, was there a court order to shoot them down in their homes? And if they were, was the 12-year-old boy Al Qaeda too? “Or the woman? And if this behavior continues, we will be in a deeper trench than we are in today. And the war against terrorism will end in a disgraceful defeat.

What do you mean, the coalition hired thugs?
“They hired [Afghan] thugs . . . thugs or warlords or whatever.

They created militias of those people who had no limits to misbehavior and who were sent to people’s homes to search their homes, to arrest them and to intimidate them. And we’ve been trying to tell them for seven years now that that is wrong. We’ve tried to control it. There has been some improvement, but still it continues to happen. . . .

This has to stop if you want to succeed. Only then we can begin to build the Afghan government. If they go to the Afghan homes and burst in and arrest or kill, does that leave the Afghan people with the feeling that they have a government?
“No. That is actually the destruction of the Afghan government. If Afghanistan is a sovereign country, if Afghanistan has an elected government, if Afghanistan has a constitution, if Afghanistan has laws, and if there is the slogan of strengthening the Afghan democracy and institutions, then the Afghan sovereignty and the Afghan laws must be respected, and not violated in such an extreme manner as it is being done today.

“Therefore my plea to the international community and to the American government is — and I will do this with them, we have already sent them some documents and reports on this — that we want to sit down and redraw the map of relationship in which we take responsibility for what’s gone wrong in my government, whether it’s corruption, whether it’s narcotics, whether it’s inefficiency . . .

but we are committed to improving, as we have improved already, and I would like the international community also to commit strongly to respecting the Afghan sovereignty and Afghan laws in conducting the war on terrorism with the right tools and the right attitude.

“But the West is now talking about doing some sort of Awakenings movement [the mainly Sunni Arab fighters in Iraq who now serve the government] in Afghanistan, which would do precisely what you’re talking about — empower these tribal groups.

“That’s wrong. If we create militias again, we will be ruining this country further. That’s not what I want. I have been talking for a long time first of all about raising a proper police force. For a long time now, which didn’t happen, which is only beginning to happen.

And then I was talking for a long time about regaining the trust of the communities, meaning, in the first stage, to stop harassing them, to stop bursting into their homes, to stop arresting them at will and to stop bombing villages.

“Once that happens, then we begin the recovery process of getting in contact with them, bringing back and giving them the trust that they need and enlisting them to cooperate, as they did in 2002. The Taliban were defeated with the help of the very people who are now under attack by the coalition forces. And this attack must stop.

How will more troops solve the problems in Afghanistan? “Sending more troops to the Afghan cities, to the Afghan villages, will not solve anything. Sending more troops to control the border is sensible, makes sense. Sending more troops to help the Afghans regain the territories that we had, in that by making terrible mistakes we lost to the Taliban, makes sense. That is where I need help. I don’t need help anywhere else.”

But the U.S. is talking about sending the bulk of 4,000 troops to Wardak and Logar provinces, just outside Kabul, next month. What do you think about that?
“I don’t think we need forces there. I think we need them on the border , and I think we need them especially to bring [the southern province of] Helmand back under the control of the Afghan people and the Afghan law.

There are supposed to be presidential elections next year. Are you planning on running, and why should people vote for you, given the situation in the country right now?

“I was not planning to run again, but I’m determined to do it now, because I’ve gained a lot of experience, because I have a relationship with the international community that’s based on truth-telling and sincerity, because in that sincerity I tell them the harsh truth that sometimes annoys them but is good for us. It’s like a bitter medicine, because I raised my voice for the protection of the Afghan people, and the Afghan people must continue to have this service. Because I’m committed to an Afghanistan that is not a burden on the international community, because I want to complete this journey and this mission for the good of Afghanistan and the international community. I want them to succeed in Afghanistan; and by them, the international community, succeeding in Afghanistan, Afghanistan will have a better life — and that’s what I want to deliver to the Afghan people.

Is there a deadline for foreign troops to leave Afghanistan? “No such thing as a deadline. No, we don’t want that. We want a success line, not a deadline. We want time for success. We want time for mission accomplished. And mission accomplished is defeat of terrorism and a prosperous, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan.”