Accessibility links

Karzai: Afghanistan Needs Long-term Commitment - 2002-01-29

The head of Afghanistan's interim administration has pledged to create an honest and democratic government in his homeland. But, he says the international community must be more generous.

At a news conference in Washington Tuesday, the Afghan government's interim chairman, Hamid Karzai, said the grand council, known as a loya jirga, that will decide his country's future will be open and democratic.

"It will be free and fair," he said. "We are committed to a democratic process in Afghanistan. We are committed to letting the Afghan people determine their own future. Now, if that is a Loya Jirga, it should be a proper election in two year's time, and beyond."

But, Mr. Karzai stressed, Afghanistan needs an immediate infusion of cash. The country is in tatters from the years of war and Taleban rule and it is broke.

"Afghanistan is like a good sportsman [athlete] that is very ill," Mr. Karzai said. "Now if you want this good sportsman to go back to the field, you must help it recover. Give it medicine, give it care. And once this good sportsman is on his own or her own feet, you will see that he or she is a strong, running vibrant person. That is what Afghanistan will be very soon."

Mr. Karzai is in the United States to thank the Bush Administration for its help in dislodging the Taleban government and its al-Qaida terrorist allies, and to secure more pledges of international help in reconstruction. He met President Bush Monday, who assured him of aid as well as technical assistance in rebuilding the Afghan army. But the administration would not commit to a U.S. role in any expanded international peacekeeping force.

Mr. Karzai was also invited to attend Mr. Bush's State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday. The president is expected to talk about the U.S.-led war on terrorism in his address.

Mr. Karzai lashed out at the Taleban and its al-Qaida allies, calling them not prisoners of war, but "criminals" who brought what he termed "killing fields" to his country. But he said he believes the Taleban and al-Qaida detainees should be treated humanely.

Mr. Karzai said U.S. soldiers have been welcomed in his country, but added that Afghans are afraid they will again be abandoned by the international community, as they were after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

"Wherever Afghans met them, they said 'you are welcome. But will you leave us again? Will you neglect us again?' What happened in Afghanistan was the neglect that Afghanistan had after the Soviet withdrawal from the international community," Mr. Karzai went on to said. "So the Afghans, while welcoming help to oust or remove terrorism from Afghanistan were also worried if this is just a short span of attention or if this an attention that goes beyond the immediate activity."

Mr. Karzai pledged that Afghanistan will root out corruption and eradicate cultivation of the poppy, from which opium is extracted. Afghanistan is one of the world's largest producers of opium, the drug from which heroin is synthesized.