KABUL, AFGHANISTAN —
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai sat down Thursday with VOA Afghan service reporter Rahim Gul Sarwan in Kabul to talk about incursions of the Islamic State, as well as relations with the U.S., China and, most vociferously, Pakistan.
The current Afghan government and Pakistan are trying to move past the animosity that characterized Karzai's time in office, and have signed a controversial memorandum of understanding between their intelligence services.
The move comes as the U.S. winds down its military mission in the country and China has shown increasing interest in boosting trade and other relations in the region, despite small but apparently growing support for the Islamic State there.
Rahim Gul Sarwan: How big a security concern does Daesh [the Islamic State group] present to Afghanistan? Are you concerned that Daesh is taking root in Afghanistan? Is Afghanistan prepared for the challenge.
Hamid Karzai: Daesh is not an Afghan-born body ... it is not indigenous to Afghanistan. It was created out of the circumstances and because of foreign interference on a very massive scale in Iraq and Syria.
If there is any Daesh element or elements in Afghanistan, if they are making progress in Afghanistan, it means they have clear foreign backing behind them. It means it’s a foreign intelligence agency providing support to Daesh for purposes beyond Afghanistan.
If Daesh ever grows in Afghanistan this means somebody from outside of Afghanistan is trying to create these forces in order to harm China, Russia and Central Asia.
RGS: Both Pakistan and India say they don’t want to engage in a proxy war in Afghanistan. Who is to be believed?
HK: We should not believe anybody as a nation, as a people. We should take matters into our own hands on this and not allow a proxy war in Afghanistan. And not allow it.
And we must not give an excuse to any of these countries to point the finger at the other country in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been doing this. We must tell Pakistan that they cannot blame India’s work in Afghanistan or India’s work against Pakistan from Afghanistan.
That Pakistan has created enough mischief! And when I say Pakistan, I mean the Pakistani military and intelligence, not the people. They ‘re as much victims as we are — the Pakistani people — in the hands of the same agencies in Pakistan. So not the Pakistani people. The Pakistani military and intelligence must stop creating excuses for the promotion of terrorism.
You must have heard Admiral [Mike] Mullen of the United States, the retired admiral [and former Joint Chiefs Chairman], who a few years ago said that the Haqqani network is a veritable arm of the ISI [Pakistan's intelligence service]. It’s proven.
ISI’s work in creating radicalism, in promoting radicalism, in using radicalism as a tool of terrorism, as a tool of foreign policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan and also vis-a-vis India and other countries. It should stop it. It should engage in a civilized relationship with Afghanistan. Then we will respond.
RGS: What role can the U.S. play to end war in Afghanistan?
HK: Well, if it is sincere in the war on terror, if it is sincere in the war on terror, then it should begin to be concerned with the countries in the region, especially the big countries of the region — China, India and Russia — and see it as a threat to all and begin a true international and regional cooperation.
That also means redrawing their plans in Afghanistan, focusing more on the Afghan people and the development of Afghanistan, focusing more on the economic upliftment of Afghanistan and less and less on military means in Afghanistan.
RGS: You recently visited China. What role do the Chinese want to play in Afghanistan?
HK: The Chinese can play an extremely important role. The Chinese want to play a very important role. The Chinese are truly desirous of a peaceful Afghanistan of a stable Afghanistan and we in Afghanistan must provide all the help, all the tools, all the support for Chinese engagement in Afghanistan, for Chinese efforts in Afghanistan, for peacebuilding and for bringing economic development to Afghanistan.