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Le Monde Interview with Afghan President Karzai

Interviewee: Hamid Karzai
Published December 10, 2013

The French newspaper Le Monde interviewed Afghan President Hamid Karzai on December 10, 2013. He discussed the U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement about U.S. military assistance in Afghanistan after 2014 and his conditions for signing it.

Excerpt:

While the United States and its Nato allies have started to pull out from Afghanistan, there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the bilateral security agreement (BSA) your government and the USA agreed to on November 20th. Why won't you sign this agreement which is meant to provide military assistance to Afghanistan after 2014 ?

My position has not changed for the past 8 years : the war on terror can't be fought and must not be fought in Afghan villages, in Afghan homes. If there is a war on terror, it has to be taken to the terrorist sanctuaries, where they are trained and nurtured.

This has been my constant position and the main source of tension between myself and the United States. There are also other issues, but as far as I'm concerned, Afghan civilian casualties are the main problem.

There is also a lack of visible and genuine effort on behalf of the USA to help us with the peace process. Neither myself nor the Afghan people are opposed to having a good relationship with the USA or Nato. The Afghan people approved the BSA at the recent loya jirga [Assembly of personalities, on November 24th ]. I'm in favour of the BSA. But I want this agreement to bring peace to Afghanistan and to put an end to attacks on Afghan homes. And the Afghan people must notice that these attacks have stopped.

You recently met James Dobbins, the American special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, on December 5th in Kabul. What was the substance of his message on this agreement ?

I had a long conversation with Mr Dobbins, whom I've known for ten years. He said that without the BSA, there will be no peace.

His remarks can be interpreted in several ways. In a positive way: once you sign the BSA, there will be peace. If they can reassure us, provide the trust we need, this is a good thing. You can also interpret his comments in a different way : " If you don't sign the BSA, we will cause you trouble and provoke disturbances in the country".

Either way, Afghanistan will remain committed to its demands, that the BSA must bring peace to Afghanistan. And before it is signed, we must have visible movements towards peace in Afghanistan. That means launching negotiations between the High Peace Council (HPC) and the Taliban. I understand that peace can't be delivered in one, two or three months. But what I want is the launch of a genuine peace process.

What role do you expect the US to play in the peace process ?

Given my experience and the information I have, I believe the USA can considerably help launch the peace process. When I was in Washington one year ago to negotiate the terms of a peace process with the US, I realised the Americans were speaking on behalf of the Taliban.

Are you saying that the Americans have been keeping secret contacts with the Taliban ?

Indeed, these secret contacts exist. But when I say the Americans can help with the peace process, it's because they have many other connections. They are friendly with Pakistan and Pakistan is definitely in contact with the Taliban. The USA has the ability, through Pakistan and directly as well, to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

If I summarize, you want to see an end to attacks on Afghan homes and a verifiable launch of the peace process ? And once you have these guarantees…

In that case, I would be willing to sign the BSA.

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