FAREED ZAKARIA: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for coming here. We have a unique opportunity with one of the most distinguished political figures in the world. It is the fifth year anniversary this week of the U.S. intervention and, some would call it, myself included, the liberation of Afghanistan.
So my first question to our distinguished visitor, who needs no introduction—President Karzai—is: Do the Afghan people still regard it as a liberation?
PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI: Yes, sir, very much. They do regard it as a liberation. And you can find the reasons easily as to why a liberation when you compare it with five years ago.
Five years ago, we were a country ruled by al Qaeda, ruled by their associates, the Taliban, and their sponsors from outside. Five years ago, we had more than 5 million of our people living outside of Afghanistan, living the political leaders of our country outside of Afghanistan; the former king of Afghanistan, His Majesty, the father of the nation today, living outside of Afghanistan. I was outside of Afghanistan. All these ladies and gentlemen from Afghanistan who are with me today were outside of Afghanistan.
We had no schools in Afghanistan. We had no press in Afghanistan. We had no television in Afghanistan. People could not listen to their radios in their homes, in the privacy of their rooms to radios in Afghanistan. If you were caught listening to the BBC, you could be punished.
Today we have Afghanistan once again as the home of all the Afghan people. Any Afghan can come and go. Those who were fighting each other five years ago in the form of communists and non-communists, and Taliban and non-Taliban, are back in the country somewhere in the parliament. Four and a half million of Afghan refugees have returned. We have Afghanistan’s flag flying all over the world over our embassies, and we have 60 embassies represented in Afghanistan, some resident, some non-resident. We have the United Nations. We have the U.S. building a huge embassy there in Afghanistan. We have the Russians back, by the way, in Afghanistan, they’ve reopened their embassy. (Laughter.)
So for all good reasons, we are a liberated country with democracy, with having no media at all five years ago, today we have five or six private television channels—all of them critical of us. (Laughter.) Five. Ah, where is the media man here? How many, five or six?
MR. : Six.
KARZAI: Six television channels, private ones. And we have over 300 newspapers, all of them critical, by the way. (Laughter.) And we have over 30 radio.
So what do you call us, liberated or not? (Laughter.)
ZAKARIA: You and President Bush will have a lot to talk about in your common experience of the media! (Laughter.)
KARZAI: (Laughs.) Yes. Well, sometimes we share things, yes. (Laughter.)
ZAKARIA: So you describe a stark difference between rule under the Taliban and rule today. Why, then, is the Taliban making a comeback? And I don’t mean—we can get to the military part of it, but politically, what is the appeal of the Taliban in the Pashtun community that is allowing it to develop a greater political strength?
KARZAI: No, there is no political strength for the Taliban in Afghanistan. If they had a base in Afghanistan, a popular base in Afghanistan, they would have not been defeated in less than a month and a half. I don’t know what you feel here in the United States, there wasn’t much fighting there five years ago.
When I went to one of the provinces in Afghanistan, the province of Oruzgan, central Afghanistan, before the U.S. intervention, we were only 11 people and we were living in a village. And the Taliban and their al Qaeda associates and foreign backers were in charge of the country with troops, with forces. They were not able to come and get me, after having stayed a month in those villages close to the provincial capital of that province. If they had a popular base, why wouldn’t they come and get me? So if they could not get me, what was the reason that they could not come? Because they’re afraid of the population.
Now, they are there in the form of killers of teachers, killers of clergymen, killers of school children, destroyers of schools, destroyers of clinics, destroyers of reconstruction activity, and harassment to the population. Is that strength? No. Is that popular base? No.
This is one side.
The other side is, why can they do it, why can they come and burn an Afghan school, why can they come and burn an Afghan clinic, why can they come and burn another building, or kill a clergyman or an imam of a mosque, or blow a bomb? It is because we are not able to provide better protection to the Afghan people because of lack of a proper police force, because of lack of a properly spread military force, and because of the general inability of the country, as having been weakened by years of war and destruction, to provide that kind of protection to the population.
Add to this the question of narcotics, the question of poppies growing in Afghanistan, there’s a massive poppy/narcotics-related mafia interest in Afghanistan, both international and local Afghan. Now, the drug dealers, as we attack them, as we go after them, as we eradicate, of course have reasons to bring whoever they can to cause us trouble. There is that association between the terrorists, the Taliban, if you like to call them, and the drug dealers, that does provide a base somewhere in the country to operate.
ZAKARIA: What happened to the Taliban’s denunciation of drugs? One of the achievements they always trumpeted was that they had reduced poppy production. Now, they are—are they—they are willing to deal with drug dealers and use drug money.
KARZAI: The—it was the year 2001 that they imposed a strict ban on poppies, and that was because their profit from selling drugs was going down. The drugs were—plenty in the world markets, and they wanted to raise the—what is that finished product called? Heroin?
ZAKARIA: Yes. Yeah.
KARZAI: Heroin. The heroin price was perhaps not as much as they wanted so they raised, and from what we know in Afghanistan, the profits of those who were dealing this suddenly went a hundred percent, sometimes 300 percent. So they did that because they wanted to raise the price of heroin. For next year, the poppies would have come back in full strength as they would have needed.
Now too their biggest associates are drug dealers and those who benefit from poppies.
ZAKARIA: You said, I think a couple of years ago, maybe a year and a half ago, either Afghanistan will destroy opium or opium will destroy Afghanistan.
ZAKARIA: The U.N.—the chief U.N. person in Afghanistan quoted your assessment and said, “the latter is happening.” In other words, opium is destroying Afghanistan. General Jones says the trend line on this issue is going in the wrong direction.
Is that true, and can it be reversed?
KARZAI: I did say that either we destroy poppies or poppies destroy us, and I will say it again because it is true. But it is not yet poppies destroying us; we are destroying poppies by eradicating it.
Now, what is it that we have not done well that poppies are still there? Was it that our expectation was too high? Was it that we were naive in thinking that we could destroy poppies in a year or two? Or is the strategy that we are implementing flawed? Perhaps all the three.
Our expectation was too high. We did not go deeper into the reality that it had in Afghanistan. Poppies are 30 percent of the Afghan economy. There are people that I know who in the past 20 years destroyed their pomegranate fields to replace them with poppy fields, destroyed their vineyards to replace them with poppy fields. And years of desperation and lack of hope for tomorrow have forced thousands of families to grow poppies because it’s easily cultivable and easily sold in the markets.
So we have to look back and think, “Well, how deep is the problem and how long it will take to destroy, and how are we going to do it?”
First, the problem is deep, as I described. It will take more than two or three or five years. It took 20 years in Thailand, it took about 15 years in Pakistan, it took about seven—5 to 10 years in Turkey. In Afghanistan, we should give it at least 10 to 15 years of very dedicated work.
What is dedicated work? Dedicated work is proper law enforcement, strong Afghan Police, very able non-corrupt Afghan Police, good alternative livelihoods, and cutting the links from outside to the—(word inaudible)—growers inside; that is cutting the international mafia links. All these three things turn in time properly. With a time limit of, say, 10 to 15 years, we will probably get rid of it. Anything short of that, anything in a hurry, anything with emotions will get us into deeper trouble.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you a question about the military challenge you face with regard to the Taliban. As you said, it may be a greater military problem than a political one. There are military officials in Afghanistan and those who have been there who make the following the case: The Taliban is developing a much stronger base in Kandahar, and they—some of them say you are—seem unaware of the problem, or if you are aware it, are not energetically focused on it and that this a large part of the problem.
So if they were sitting here, what would you tell them?
KARZAI: The Taliban?
ZAKARIA: No, no, the military officials—U.S. military officials. (Laughter.)
KARZAI: Okay. Okay. Okay. (Laughter.) Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. I know the problem. Perhaps the Afghans know the problem more than the international community would know the problem. It is, after all, our problem, but it is not a problem that has come to us from inside of Afghanistan. It’s a problem that has come to us from outside of Afghanistan. It actually started outside of Afghanistan with our war against the Soviets, when we became refugees in Pakistan and Iran, and when the rest of the world began to help us.
The radicalization and the arrival of radical movements, the arrival of radical elements from outside of Afghanistan began then. And when the Soviets left and when the West also left, this country of ours was left all alone to the wishes of the neighbors. And the neighbors brought in massive radical influence into Afghanistan. The result was the Taliban movement and the subsequent events that followed.
Now too the problem is external. It has an internal symptom. The symptoms are inside Afghanistan, but the roots are outside of Afghanistan. And when I was talking earlier this morning, I said it’s not so much of a military problem as it is a political problem, in the sense that we must concentrate on the sources of training and financing and equipping and motivating and all that outside of Afghanistan if we are to be able to defeat terrorism forever in the region and beyond.
Now, I have become critical of the military action, for which, of course, the military would not like my words. Bombings in Afghanistan are no solution to the Taliban. You do not destroy terrorism by bombing villages. You do not destroy terrorism by launching military operations in areas where only the symptoms are emerging. I’ve said that. And as a human being, I don’t like anybody to be killed. Two months ago I said that—there was an announcement that 500 Taliban were killed, and I said, “Well, I’m sorry.” The Taliban are also people. Maybe they don’t like us, but a lot of them are not terrorists; they don’t like me, maybe they don’t like others. They’re not terrorists, they’re just people who are misled.
Now, we should go to the handlers of them, to the source where they are trained and equipped. There is a 15-year-old boy, there is an 18-year-old boy, extremely poor, extremely desperate, extremely unaware of the rest of the world, in a Pakistani madrassa. And in that madrassa, the teacher tells him, “Go to Afghanistan. The country has become Christian. The country has become Jewish. There are Americans and all other—(inaudible word)—there in Afghanistan. Go kill them, and you will be in heaven straightaway.”
Now, does it solve the problem by killing this young, ignorant person, or by going and closing that madrassa in Pakistan? That is what I’m asking for, and that is what is not properly understood.
ZAKARIA: I saw President Musharraf two days ago, and I asked him the question about whether or not there existed within Pakistan important sources of support. And his answer was, you will not be surprised to hear, exactly the opposite of what you said. He said, “Yes, we have a problem with the Taliban, but the source is across the border, the source is in Afghanistan.” And he says—and I asked him, “Well, what would you say to President Karzai?” He says, “Well, I would say to him, do you agree that Mullah Omar is largely plotting a military campaign against you? But he is in Kandahar and that therefore the center of gravity of this movement is in Afghanistan.”
KARZAI: No, Mullah Omar is not in Kandahar. Mullah Omar is for sure in Quetta in Pakistan. And he knows that and I know that. And we have given him information. We have even given him the GPS numbers of his house—(laughter)—of Mullah Omar’s house, and the telephone numbers—(laughter). Just about—when was it when we had a nasty meeting that day? Four months ago? (Off-mike response.) March. In March, and subsequent to that as well.
Look, we know.
ZAKARIA: He says the phone numbers you give him don’t work. (Laughter.)
KARZAI: Well, if somebody calls Mullah Omar (and says, switch off your phone ?), of course it will not work. (Laughter.) But there was a phone number and we gave him the phone number and the GPS. So he’s truly there. Not that we have a competition. No. Terrorism is a problem for Pakistan, as well.
ZAKARIA: So why would he not want to kill these people? And after all, they’ve tried to kill him five times.
KARZAI: I think it goes back into the history a little bit. I think unless we decide in our region to stop relying on extremism as an instrument of policy or the use of extremism for political purposes, the question of terrorism, the question of destruction of the rest of us around the world will not be resolved.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that some of these regimes have used terrorism as a way of supporting the—
KARZAI: Some of these regimes have definitely used extremism as an instrument of policy, and that’s why Afghanistan has suffered. And by the law of unintended consequences, you have suffered in Iraq.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that American troops will be in Afghanistan 10 years from now?
KARZAI: We want the international community to stay in Afghanistan till Afghanistan is firmly on its feet, meaning till time—till a time that Afghanistan has its own army, its own police, its own institutional strength and the ability, economically and otherwise, to defend the country, within and outside, and that we also provide protection to the rest of the world. So if that takes five years, if that takes 10 years or more, good enough.
But we in Afghanistan are in a hurry to relieve the rest of the world soon of this pressure and take more of the responsibility on our own.
ZAKARIA: I want to ask you to tell the story that you told this morning at the Clinton meeting. President Karzai and I—I had the honor to share the stage with him at the Clinton Global Initiative this morning. In fact, if we have to do this one more time, we’re going to charge admission.
KARZAI: Mm-hmm. (Laughter.)
ZAKARIA: But I asked you whether American troops were still welcome in Afghanistan, and you told a story about your experience.
KARZAI: Well, that’s a very touching story. I told that story in the context of the story of morality that I related to you then. I’m not going to repeat it here now too. The audience—they will hear it from that audience.
KARZAI: It was early November or late October of 2001. I was in a mountain area of the country with a few people. One day a shepherd comes and tells me that the provincial capital has been taken by the population, and they’re looking for somebody called Karzai, and they’ve looked for him in—back in Pakistan. They want to—they want him to go there.
So we said, “That’s good news. Let’s go and find out.” We sent somebody there, and the person came back in the evening, saying, “Yes, that’s true. The provincial capital is taken.” And we moved in the next day to that place.
Within that night, the American Special Forces also arrived in the provincial capital. The next day, over—it was the month of Ramadan. The next day, over breaking of the fast, over iftaar, I was with some local elders. One of the local leaders had just lost seven of his family, children and grandchildren, to a coalition bombing that was pursuing some Taliban who had run away from their headquarters, who had gone to somebody’s house, and the planes followed them there—you have fast planes, by the way; they can chase people quickly around—and well, were followed to that man’s house. As the Taliban entered the house, the family was running out of the house, the planes came and bombed and hit the family, which lost seven of its children.
And when the Americans came, I did not know if I should introduce this gentleman to them or them to the person. But I said, “Well, let me do it.” And I told the man—I said, “Mr. So-and-So, these are American soldiers who have come here to help us.” And he said, “Well, great,” told that “just about 10 years ago, in a bombing, I lost seven people of my family, and I have three more children—grandchildren left. And if the three are also killed in a similar bombing, I wouldn’t mind, if you truly liberate my country from terrorism and the Taliban.” That was the strength of the feeling then in Afghanistan.
Today it is again the same strength of feeling. Today the Afghans say, “What is going on? How come we are still under attack? How come, with the presence of the United States and the rest of the world, there is still somebody that can come threaten our schools, kill our teachers, kill our school children, destroy mosques?”
So that question is still there, with some frustration, of course.
So, to give you a precise answer, the Afghan people want the international community in Afghanistan, but the Afghan people are frustrated that security and protection from terrorism has not been given to them yet.
ZAKARIA: I’ll ask you one last question before turning it over—
KARZAI: And therefore, and therefore, they want action where it should be taken;, that’s on the sources of terrorism.
ZAKARIA: In order to solve this problem, clearly Pakistan and Afghanistan are going to have to work together.
ZAKARIA: Are you and President Musharraf going to meet tomorrow?
KARZAI: We met about 15, 20 days ago in Kabul. He was there as our guest, and we were honored to have him there. I’ve visited him so many times in Pakistan. And I’ll be meeting with him and President Bush together in a few day’s time, five to six days’ time.
Afghanistan knows that Afghanistan cannot be peaceful, cannot prosper without the best of relations with Pakistan; that Afghanistan cannot have a good future without the best of trade with Pakistan. We have this realization out of an experience of the past so many years, and because we are very interested to have a good life, and that good life can only be there for us if we have the best of relations with Pakistan. That is our side of the story.
ZAKARIA: Let me open this up to questions. I should have mentioned this meeting is on the record, and the usual council rules apply in terms of identifying yourself and the organization you represent.
QUESTIONER: President Karzai, you mentioned a little bit ago—
ZAKARIA: Could you identify yourself?
QUESTIONER: Ralph Buultjens, New York University. President Karzai, a little bit ago you said that—you criticized the bombing in your country and that you were against it.
QUESTIONER: And you gave us very humane reasons for that.
QUESTIONER: You criticized it, but are you unable to stop it? Does it mean that you’re not in full control of your country? And are you satisfied to be in that—this partial control? And what are you doing to increase your control so that at some time you’ll be able to stop it?
KARZAI: Well, if you speak of the means of it, then of course we have no control. Planes are not ours, and fuel is not ours, pilots are not ours.
But if you speak of the need for it as we wage a war against terror from time to time, then that’s something that we all need.
Now, sometimes the coalition has a lot of trouble with me in Afghanistan because I rarely prevent them from going more persuasively against the targets that they seek.
I was in the United Arab Emirates visiting that country when there was a bombing in Kandahar called Panjawyi, where some 17 civilians were also killed. I had just, a few days before that, warned the coalition, that “Look, I’ll be very angry if there is another bombing in which civilians lose.” So I was furious, and I wanted—I ask my press spokesman to issue a very strong statement of condemnation. And then I called the province where the bombing had taken place and spoke to some of the tribal chiefs and the elders there. They told me, “Mr. President, we understand your anger, but please do not criticize because we need tough action.”
So we are between a rock and a—what is it?—a hard place?
ZAKARIA: “Iraq” and a hard place. (Laughter.)
KARZAI: “Iraq” and a hard place. (Laughter.) Yes, well, that. We are between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, our people want security; on the other hand, nobody likes to be bombed.
There was an operation during the past two or three weeks by the Canadian forces, the coalition forces, in a place called Panjawyi. The people came to the coalition and said, “Please, show that you can do something, show that you’re strong. Show that you care. Show that you are real here. Show that you don’t have a deal with the Taliban or with these bad guys. Throw them out.” They began a series of bombings. I was uneasy about that. But then the population said, “No, Mr. President, we need tough action.”
So, on the one hand, we want security and peace, and that cannot be there without taking action against terrorists. And when we take action against terrorists, there is collateral damage and we feel hurt. So the desire is that we will soon get to the source of it so they don’t come for Afghanistan, so we don’t have to work in our villages, so we finish it there and have stability and peace both in Afghanistan and in the rest of the world.
ZAKARIA: Over there, the lady.
QUESTIONER: Lindsay Howard (sp), the Dilenschneider Group. Mr. President, looking back, what would you do differently? And more specifically, would you make different compromises with local commanders, and would you change the allotment to the drug interdiction between policing and the military? Can the police force take care of such problems?
KARZAI: It’s basically, ma’am, a police problem, it’s not a military problem. It’s a community’s problem and that has to be the police.
Looking back, when we were studying political science, there was a famous phrase “Politics is the art of possibilities.” Looking back, if I had the same possibilities as I had five years ago, I would do the same thing. If I had different possibilities in my hands, I would do differently. It depends on what you have in your hands. I have the means that I had, and I used those means to put the country together and to bring it to today. Now, I could do it differently, but perhaps with a higher cost. Should we pay that cost? No. Should we take more time? Yes.
QUESTIONER: Felice Gaer, The Blaustein Institute. President Karzai, we all laughed with you as you told us about the 300 newspapers all critical, but there is something we don’t laugh about and that is the real appearance of some of the practices that people associate with the Taliban and with religious repression in your country.
To be specific, earlier this year the world’s attention was focused on the case of Abdul Rahman who was sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. We have seen a series of cases, blasphemy cases, brought against individuals either for questioning Shari’a punishments, the role of women or other issues. And we have recently read that the religious police are going to be reconstituted in a somewhat different format.
I wonder if you could clarify for us, are these—first of all, is the death penalty the appropriate penalty? Do you think it should be the appropriate penalty for changing religion in Afghanistan? Do you think you should continue to have a blasphemy law? Perhaps you and Mr. Musharraf may have discussed that. And third of all, what is this religious police going to do to enforce morality?
KARZAI: On the question of Rahman, there was no death penalty given to him. He was let go by the judge because the case was incomplete. So it didn’t work that way. The—this is a religious question, and if I go into it, it will really take a lot of our time and raise emotions. So I’ll go to the religious police part.
The religious police story is not true. Nobody asked us whether this was true or not. They just kept fighting about it—“Karzai has instructed the religious police—“ nobody bothered to come and ask me whether I had really instructed the re-creation of the vice and virtue department. No. It so happened that one day we have a council of clergy there that come to us from month to month, every month, and on a certain Friday they have lunch with me. And they have a statement every month during that lunch with me. They criticize us; they back us. They criticize us; they back us. They say “We like this system, this government, but these are the things that you are doing wrong.”
In one of those meetings, the clergy council told me, “Mr. President, there’s a lot of corruption in the government, and no strong action is taken against this. There’s a lot of—(inquiring to someone off-mike).
MR. : Immorality.
KARZAI: “Immorality” is too strong a word. No, something else. A little lower than that. (Laughter.) Anything less than immorality?
MR. : (Inaudible.)
KARZAI: “Unethical” is a little different as well.
MR. : Bad social behavior.
KARZAI: Well, maybe. (Laughter.) But there’s a lot of bad social behavior that law is not enforced. So why did you apply a rule not through police, but through preaching in the mosques by the clergy that people should not do things that they are doing—social ills. The youth getting affected by lots of other things. There was never a request by them to have a vice and virtue police the way the Taliban did or by me instruction to create that police. It was simply an advice that we should preach morality, not enforce it with the stick or with the lash or the gun. But nobody asked me about that, and I kept waiting, in all my interviews, if they would ask me. They didn’t. I’m glad you asked today.
ZAKARIA: You obviously haven’t mastered the American art, which is to answer the question you want to, not the one you’ve been asked. (Laughter.)
KARZAI: We keep learning from America, yes. (Laughter.)
ZAKARIA: Right at the back. Sir.
QUESTIONER: Yes. Rory O’Connor from Globalvision and the Media Channel. Mr. Karzai, the other night at the Asia Society, you asked, “What is the source of terror? If we are to be safe in London or America or Afghanistan, we must answer this question.”
And you then went on to denounce those who play—and I quote—“the double game of cooperation and subversion in the war on terror”—
QUESTIONER:—clearly referring to Pakistan—
QUESTIONER:—and its ruler, Mr. Musharraf. My question is this. If Mr. Musharraf only cooperated and didn’t subvert the war on terror, wouldn’t he be deposed or, worse, assassinated? And if he were, wouldn’t the alternative be even worse?
KARZAI: Well, I don’t think, if we cooperated fully with the war on terror, that we would lose. I think we would all gain.
Terrorism has no boundaries, no friends. It has only enemies. And we all are enemies to terrorism.
Any innocent life is the enemy of terrorism. In other words, terrorism sees us all as enemies. Therefore, we have only one approach, one cause, one direction, one objective: to fight it, period.
Playing with it is like trying to train a snake against somebody else. You don’t train a snake. You cannot train a snake. It will come and bite you.
Therefore, there’s only one way: to fight terrorism, to fight extremism, in whatever form, wherever it may be, and to not use extremism as an instrument of policy. These are evils that the world has to get rid of. We have no choice there. If we adopt a complacent approach of having a choice there, you will see more destruction all around the world, without knowing when the next target would be.
ZAKARIA: Sir, the—
QUESTIONER: My name is James Tunkey. Mr. President—
KARZAI: Sir, can I have a minute, please?
QUESTIONER: Of course, sir.
KARZAI: And I’d like to remind you here—this is a good audience; I’d like to speak about Afghanistan in this regard. We, the Afghan people, pleaded with the world while terrorism was hurting Afghanistan; while they were killing our people; while they were burning orchards; while they were destroying vineyards full of grapes; while they were burning mosques, putting women behind doors, not allowing them to work, closing schools, brutalizing families. It did not matter to the world, because we were so poor, because we could neither sell nor buy from the rest of the world. So (I said help ?)—so what if there is al Qaeda killing Afghans?
But you saw that it did matter, that al Qaeda did originate from where it did, arrived in Afghanistan, made a base there, made a place for itself there, and from there they launched attack against you in the destruction of the twin towers and London and Madrid and Indonesia and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Therefore, it does matter for us to fight extremism, terrorism, wherever it may be. There is no compromise. We simply can’t do it. I’m getting more and more fixated on this and demand it totally.
ZAKARIA: To fight terrorism in Afghanistan, do you think you need more troops?
KARZAI: We need to strengthen the Afghan capability. We need to strengthen the Afghan police. We need to strengthen the Afghan army. We need to strengthen the Afghan institutions. We need to pay Afghanistan more money. And we need to focus on the sources of terrorism.
ZAKARIA: But do you need more coalition troops?
KARZAI: I don’t think by going around and fighting the symptoms in Afghanistan you are going to win the war against terror, no. If more troops come, welcome, but I will not ask for it. I’ll ask for strengthening the Afghan regime, the Afghan institutions, the Afghan society.
KARZAI: Now, don’t misinterpret that. I didn’t mean “No.” (Laughter.)
ZAKARIA: Well, but you’re getting 2,000 from Poland. You’re not—(chuckles).
KARZAI: What—I’m trying to get more money for myself, so that’s why I tried—
ZAKARIA: Well, you’re getting 2,000 more from Poland, right, so—
KARZAI: That’s good. They’re welcome. They’re welcome.
QUESTIONER: With your permission, Mr.—
QUESTIONER:—my name is James Tunkey, and I’m with a company called I-OnAsia. My question for you concerns the new term that we’re finding here in the United States, “Islamofascism.” I’m wondering if you could comment on the sense that there is a—such a thing as Islamofascism and if you could speak a little bit more about what you consider to be the sources. They’re clearly not for terrorism and not just clearly your immediate neighbors; they’re elsewhere. And if you could describe what those causes are.
KARZAI: Wherever they are, the sources of terrorism, we should get after them.
ZAKARIA: No, Islamofascism. That’s what he said.
KARZAI: I got that. (Laughter.)
Now, Islamophobia—(laughter)—is something that we must really fight. Extremism in any country, any society, any part of the world is not representative of that society. The mistake that we are making today is we—misrepresentation to a group of violent people of the whole society—that’s why we are in trouble. I wish the—Archbishop Desmond Tutu was here with us today. He would have explained this very well to you, as he did this morning. I think there’s a greater, greater majority of people—the people everywhere in the world who are kind, who are good, who are all good—and that should be taken as a representation of the people, not a few extremists who are there for politics or who are there for games or who simply are bad people full of hatred.
ZAKARIA: So your fear is that using a term like “Islamofacism” suggests that there’s something about all the people who are Islamic?
KARZAI: That is definitely wrong, and you should not use this term.
ZAKARIA: I’m trying to make sure I get some representation. Sir, in the back there.
QUESTIONER: Mr. President, my name is Eissen Jordan (sp). I’m with a company called Predict. You seem to believe you have very good intelligence on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar. I’m wondering what your intelligence tells you about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri, and could you share their address and phone number with us? (Laughter.)
KARZAI: Well, sir, if I told you he was in a Pakistan prison, Musharraf, my friend, would be mad at me.
QUESTIONER: (Laughs, laughter.)
KARZAI: But if I said he was in Afghanistan, that would not be true.
QUESTIONER: (Laughs, laughter, applause.)
KARZAI: So now you judge.
ZAKARIA: Ma’am, right there.
QUESTIONER: Chloe Breyer, St. Mary’s Manhattanville. Mr. President, thank you so much for being here today. And I had the honor in June of participating in the delegation to go to Afghanistan this past year, where we had again the privilege of meeting with one of your ministers who had served her country for a long time both before and after the Taliban, and talked to us about—
KARZAI: Who was that minister?
QUESTIONER: I wish to preserve her name for—
KARZAI: Oh, okay, her name, okay. (Laughter.)
KARZAI: There’s only one her—
QUESTIONER: Yes, right. (Laughter.)
ZAKARIA: I think you’re giving it away.
QUESTIONER: Anyhow, she talked to us about how she had to go to her friends in the private sector to ask for money to pay for bills, including fuel for the ministry cars.
KARZAI: My God.
QUESTIONER: Yeah. And we asked her about this, and it seemed that there was a lack of money for basic functioning, and—
ZAKARIA: And your question is?
QUESTIONER: The question is, what will the impact of USAID’s cutting its budget for Afghanistan by more than 50 percent be this coming year?
KARZAI: Now, ma’am, one thing that’s plenty in Afghanistan is money for fuel for minister’s cars. (Soft laughter.) I know, because I’ve (signed ?) it. There’s no limit. Oh, you have a limit? But there’s plenty, plenty, plenty. So there is a lot of money, especially in that ministry that you’re talking about—(laughter)—available by the—(inaudible)—and by the Afghan government.
With regard to cutting of funds by AID 50 percent, I don’t know if that’s—(who is ?) very angry with the AID. It shouldn’t take place. There should be no cuts; rather, we should have more money. Right?
ZAKARIA: Sir—right there, yeah. No, you, yeah.
QUESTIONER: Lester Wigler, Citigroup. You indicated that poppies are a major part of the economy in Afghanistan, and I was wondering if you could comment on what will eventually take the place of that to provide prosperity to your people.
KARZAI: Very good question, sir.
Afghanistan was, before the Soviet invasion—it had become a self-sufficient country in agriculture. We produced our own food, and we were among the biggest of exporters of fruit in that part of the world. We were the biggest exporter—among the biggest, I should say—exporter of raisins to the world—not only in the region, but to the world. Afghanistan has tremendous potential, and the production of the best fruits that, if marketed properly, can—(inaudible)—and get us a lot of money, that—a country that has industrial potential as well, a country that has natural resources.
If all of that is developed and developed promptly with the provision of better power to produce it excessively in the country, we would definitely make it much easier for all our farmers to go away from poppies into these more productive areas, and that is in the inclination already in the country.
We experimented—this is an important question—excuse me, ladies and gentlemen—we did that in one of the provinces of Afghanistan, called Nangarhar, which was among the three biggest provinces producing poppies. We implemented a good plan of alternative livelihood and economic assistance three years ago. That province is now among the least poppy-growing provinces of the country. So if you implement it elsewhere in the country, it will have the same impact.
ZAKARIA: In the back there. Ma’am? Wasn’t there a lady—yes, you.
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.) Wonderful. Thank you for choosing me. My name is Shirley Velasquez. I’m a reporter at Glamour Magazine. And we—
ZAKARIA: At Glamour Magazine?
QUESTIONER: Glamour Magazine, yes. (Laughter.) It’s a—
KARZAI: Finally the right question! (Laughter.)
ZAKARIA: She’s going to ask you about that cloak, Mr. President.
KARZAI: Let’s see. I hope.
QUESTIONER: No. It’s a national—
KARZAI: No? I hope it’s not poppies that you’re asking about.
QUESTIONER: No. We were concerned about the conditions in which a lot of women are living in Afghanistan. According to a U.N. report, when it comes to education, not a day went by—or barely a day went by in 2006 when a school house had been put on fire or a teacher had been killed. We also—according to Human Rights Watch, figures estimated that fewer than 5 percent of secondary-school-age girls are going to school. And when it comes to physical and mental health, according to the U.N. again, 70 percent of women—married women in Afghanistan are suffering from domestic abuse.
KARZAI: Seventy percent?
QUESTIONER: One of the reasons being that their daughters are being exchanged between families in forced marriages as compensation for debt or crime.
ZAKARIA: (Inaudible) --question?
QUESTIONER: My question is, why do you think these are the conditions that women are still living in even under your administration? And secondly, what is your government doing—
KARZAI: Whose statistics was that, the U.N.?
QUESTIONER: The United Nations, yes. UNICEF.
KARZAI: That’s why they are so much in trouble. (Laughter.)
ZAKARIA: (Laughs.) You’re on the record, Mr. President. (Laughter.)
KARZAI: That is not true. That statistic’s not true. Forty-two percent are girls, 35 percent are girls in schools, Minister of Education?
MR. : (Off mike.)
KARZAI: Thirty-five percent of 6 million children going to school are girls. Thirty-five percent. The universities, even higher. The administration (is almost ?) that percentage made of women, especially the Minister of Education, and Health. Health services have improved from 9 percent, to the population of 2001, to 80 percent of today. Vaccination, similarly.
And 70 percent abuse of married women? That’s absolutely wrong. Very wrong. I think abuse of women is perhaps the least of any society in Afghanistan. There is immense respect for a woman in the country, in the way—not to the political sense that you see it in the West, no; in the traditional way in Afghanistan. So that is not true, ma’am.
We should do a lot more. We should be a much better country in that regard. But the past five years have produced a lot of result, and a lot more will take place into the future.
Out of 249 members in the Afghan Parliament, 68 are women. That’s 27 percent of the Afghan Parliament. People have voted from them. From Herat, which has—it’s a province with 17 members in the Parliament. The top vote-getter was a woman. It’s very different. We have ambassadors now around the world that are women; two ambassadors, or three. Two ambassadors. And in the bureaucracy, in the government, it’s a lot different.
Whoever gave you that statistic, it was not true. Schools get burned, but not every day, ma’am. If they get burned every day, we will be out of schools in the whole country. Not every day. In the past two years, maybe 150 schools were burned or damaged partially.
ZAKARIA: And mostly intentionally by the Taliban?
PRESIDENT ZAKARIA: Intentionally by the Taliban, and mostly at the borders with Pakistan, in those provinces bordering Pakistan. The rest of the country is perfectly peaceful. The further away from that border, the better life is.
QUESTIONER: Andrew Wong (sp)—(affiliation inaudible)—University. Mr. President, you just spent a lot of time talking about Afghanistan’s love and hate relationship with their neighbor on the east. Could you spend some time, talk about the—Afghanistan’s relationship with your neighbor on the west; that is, Iran?
KARZAI: Well, if (there you describe it ?) as love and hate, on the other side is love and love. It’s a good relationship. Both America and Iran have contributed to Afghan stability and peace-building. They have cooperated in Afghanistan. And I hope that we can extend that cooperation between the two countries to other areas as well and to relations between themselves. We’ve had both the countries showing a lot of wisdom in relation to Afghanistan.
ZAKARIA: How does President Ahmadinejad strike you as a leader? (Laughter.)
KARZAI: I know him very well. I’ve met him several times. I visited him in Iran. He’ll be visiting me in Afghanistan very soon. We met yesterday in the United Nations. He’s been elected president of the country, and I hope that there will be an opportunity for the two countries to make—to have a better relationship between the two.
There is tremendous potential for both nations in that part of the world, and we should use it for the benefit of that part of the world and the two countries.
ZAKARIA: Do you think the United States should talk to Iran—
KARZAI: Well, I don’t know the—(that is theirs ?) to require conditions. But I yesterday told Ahmadinejad—and I’m also going to tell President Bush—that we do very much recommend a dialogue between the two. I’ve been trying this for a long time now.
ZAKARIA: You think he’s a man we could talk to?
KARZAI: Absolutely. Why not? Yes. Absolutely.
ZAKARIA: I think we have time for one last brief question. Yeah.
QUESTIONER: Mr. President, it’s certainly good to see you here again. My name is Roland Paul. I’m a lawyer. As you know, recently the government of Pakistan entered into an agreement with—
ZAKARIA: I think this is going to have to be a brief question.
QUESTIONER: All right. But what do you think your agreement with—
ZAKARIA: No, sir, I really mean that. I’m going to have to—
QUESTIONER: Well, then, how big is the Taliban force in Afghanistan, to the extent you can tell us?
KARZAI: Difficult to say how big the force is. Individuals, sometimes a big group, has come and attacked and go back. I hope it’s as small as possible. We can’t say. If we had figures, things would be easier. But not to worry about.
ZAKARIA: Well, I think you can all see why President Karzai is such an important, impressive world figure.
The only thing I can say is I would love to be a fly at that meeting that you will have with President Musharraf, and I wish you well, both at that meeting and through the long struggle you’ve been through.
Thank you so much. (Applause.)
KARZAI: Thank you, sir.
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