News / Asia

Karzai Speaks with VOA on Afghan Political Tensions, Relations with West

FILE - Afghan man shields himself from dust behind a billboard of Hamid Karzai.
FILE - Afghan man shields himself from dust behind a billboard of Hamid Karzai.

Voice of America interviewed President Karzai on July 14, 2014, in Presidential Palace, Kabul. Following is a transcript of the interview conducted by Shaista Sadat Lami:

Shaista Sadat Lami:

Thank you very much Mr. President for your time and your kindness to give us time to talk to you.

President Karzai:

Welcome.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

My first question is about elections. As a part of an agreement brokered by Secretary Kerry, both the candidates accepted that the winning candidate will form a new national unity government. But nobody has exact information about this new government named National Unity. What are your understandings of such a government?

President Karzai:

The idea of a national unity government is always welcome. It is something that all presidents and any president elected by the Afghan people must have in mind, must do. All the Afghan people must see themselves in the Afghan government. In the system of governance that represents this country. If by the national unity government, we mean a government that has the Afghan people in it, that is a matter of Afghanistan, it is a great idea, is welcome. But if it is an arrangement of a sort of coalition of political parties, well, that is a different issue. And if it is a division of posts, governmental positions, that is a different issue. But as far as the idea of a government representing the entire Afghan nation is concerned, the Afghan people is concerned, it’s a good idea and I support it. I have heard that there was talk of a government whereby the winner would accommodate also the runner up, the second vote winner. It’s not a bad thing. We should do that for the good of all of us.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

Is it true that the agreement also involves the creation of a new chief executive position followed by amending the constitution to create a parliamentary system in the country? You were against this in 2009.

President Karzai:

Yes I was.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

Do you approve of this notion?

President Karzai:

If we are speaking of a change of system from presidential to parliamentary, it is something that can be done. The Afghan Loya Jirga can change the constitution from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government. But in order for Afghanistan to have a parliamentary form of government, we must before that, make sure that we have strong institutions. The civil services of the country must be entirely and totally apolitical and protected by law where politicians and parliamentarians and those in government will not be able to intervene in appointments or have dismissals as they wish, have appointments as they wish, and we should have consolidated and institutionalized national security forces, the military, the police, and also the judiciary. So those four very important national institutions must be in place and sorted in place before we go to a parliamentary system. The parliamentary system itself is a colorful system. It doesn’t have the complications of a presidential system like we saw during the two elections in 2009 and 2014. Why not, yes.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

Again, about election, you were against foreign interference.

President Karzai:

Strongly,

Shaista Sadat Lami:

Yes, in the beginning, but now you welcomed the agreement between the two candidates, with the international community’s involvement and the U.S’s involvement. Are you not worried about?

President Karzai:

I did not welcome it. I simply accepted it as a bitter pill at this time in our life. I changed the Afghan election law to one that is now entirely Afghan-run and Afghan-owned. The reason I agreed to it is because of the particular conditions in which we were during this election where one of the candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, did not want any Afghan institutions working to correct if there is a problem in the election. He demanded the United Nations intervention and intermediary role to be played. I accepted it because I wanted to get past this stage very quickly because the elections have already taken a lot of time in this country. No country in the world has such a lengthy electoral process and this must be corrected as well, and the Afghan people are waiting very much, very impatiently, to have their new president. So to reach that objective sooner, I accepted it. Not accepting it would have caused more complications for the people of Afghanistan and I believe I did the right thing.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

With all ups and downs that happened in the elections, can the wounds of the election be healed? Especially through this new national unity government?

President Karzai:

There is no wound. The Afghan people voted. The Afghan people voted all over the country for the candidates that they liked. Dr. Ashraf Ghani got good votes in Badakhshan, got votes in Panjshir. Dr. Abdullah got very good votes in Nangarhar. He won over 91,000 votes. That’s great and he won tremendously good votes in Herat, Kandahar, and Faryab. So the Afghan people have voted across the country to the candidate that they liked regardless of where the candidate comes from or what affiliation the candidate has. We are a strong country in terms of unity, deeply rooted. These are the hiccups of election time. They occur in all countries around the world.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

Should America continue to care for Afghanistan, what America didn’t do that it should have, and what do you expect from Obama’s administration for the next government in Afghanistan?

President Karzai:

Well, from the U.S. administration I expect a true relationship as a partner. Where the United States, while looking after its own interests in Afghanistan and in the region. They’re here for their interest. They should also be mindful that we have an interest. No entity, especially no nation, is without an interest. Ours may be very small by measure to that of the United States, may be different in ways to that of the United States, but if the United States follows a wiser policy, with regard to the formulation of its pursuit of interests and also having in mind that other people also need to be respected and need to be given the right to have an interest. If this is understood in the United States, Afghanistan will be a great ally to them. So, to put it in short words, the United States of America will be an ally of Afghanistan, will be a partner of Afghanistan, if it sees that Afghans have an interest too and that they respect that interest.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

Once you were darling of the West, but now there is a huge gap in between [you and western nations]. What would you respond to that?

President Karzai:

Well, I was asked this question by the BBC as well. And I answered that in a way that did not make me happy afterwards. First of all, I would like to be the darling of the Afghan people rather than the darling of another country or the leadership of some other country. And then why was I the darling of the West? Did the West think that I would serve their interest as against the interest of the Afghan people? If it’s a compromise of interests, then I am sure there would be our darlings and there would be their darlings. It would be a two way business. But if it is coming from a viewpoint of reminding us of Kipling’s, Rudyard Kipling’s burden of the white man, that we need to look up to the West all the time and that they always will lead us, will provide us, and that without them, and if we are not their darlings, then we are bad and a failure. Well, that is a troubling thought if that thought is in the West then I am very unhappy about it.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

And one other important question: what would you tell American troops that are soon to be departing from Afghanistan?

President Karzai:

Well, I would show tremendous respect to the American people. They are hardworking people. They earn their daily bread and butter through sheer hard work. It’s an admirable society. It’s a compassionate society. The help that they have given to Afghanistan through collecting their taxes and then sending them to Afghanistan is highly appreciated. I have not only no complaints against the American people but I have tremendous regard for them and admiration for them. I have complaints and at times anger, very strong anger, at the U.S. government at the way they behave to Afghanistan and the interest of the Afghan people.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

Many think that you will be very active and will not go quietly into retirement. What are your future plans, Mr. President?

President Karzai:

I will be a retired president. I would stand firmly behind the next Afghan president. If ever the next Afghan president or the next government asks for advice, I will humbly come and provide that advice. I will be trying my best to be a factor of help and assistance in stability, and if the Afghan people would need my services as a citizen of this country, as a fellow citizen of this country, that will be there but I will be not at all involved in the issues of government. The next president, the next government, should have complete authority to determine how they rule and how they appoint.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

But some say that you want to be the power behind the next president. What would you tell them?

President Karzai:

No, no that’s not my nature. I did not exercise power even when I was President the way that any other president would have done. I’m completely disinterested in power, or in the idea of power, I don’t believe in the thing, ‘power’.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

And Mr. President, if you could go back in time, and change one thing. What would that be?

President Karzai:

I have an answer for that. But I will not give that answer now because I am still the President of this country. And I need to be very cautious with my words and my feelings. But I would do something if I were to begin again. There would be a massive change. And that I will tell you after I am no longer President.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

What would you like your people to remember you like, as a President, as a leader?

President Karzai:

Well, as a human being with the good and bad in the human being as I am, with faults, but with passion for the Afghan people, for human being itself, for our society, and for the well-being of the Afghan people that this country deserves better that suffered massively the Afghan people. No people suffered so much as we have and I want this suffering to end to be turned into happiness and prosperity.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

And what was the most valuable lesson you have learned from your experience as President of Afghanistan?

President Karzai:

That’s a very good question. The lesson is that the Afghans are a great people. They would give you all that you want to serve them and they would give you their trust and often, that trust has been betrayed by those to whom they deliver the trust. We saw it in the past 13 years. I’ve seen them extremely forgiving and wanting this country to do well. I’ve called people who lost children, very often, including today and the man that I spoke to today, and as I have all along, none of them ever have told me, ‘Why President? Why did I lose my wife? Why did I lose my child? Why am I suffering?’ Rather he says, ‘President, thank you for calling.’ And that’s a tremendous nation. That’s a tremendously courageous people to have.

Shaista Sadat Lami:

And let’s end it with that. Thank you very, very much.

President Karzai:

Thank you ma’am. All the best.

 

 

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs