Full Transcript of President Karzai’s Interview with BBC Newsnight

3 Oct, 2013

 Yalda Hakim, BBC INTERVIEWER:

   Mr. President, thank you very much for your time.

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Thank you.

INTERVIEWER:

   In what's been an extraordinary journey – you've been President of Afghanistan for almost 11 years – what was the single darkest moment?

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, if you put all the dark moments together, it all becomes one dark moment. The darkest moment was the civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the blind bombardments of the US forces in Afghanistan, and also exactly in the same manner the losses that the Taliban caused to the Afghan people and [to] their property.

   INTERVIEWER:

   11 years ago you took over a country that was almost pre-modern. It was decimated by decades of war, there was not much of an economy to talk of, women's rights there, there wasn't, wasn't any. What's changed?

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   A lot has changed in that regard. We have now, millions of women in universities and schools, girls and boys. We have women in the workplace. We have a better economy, a country that now competes on international stage in sports and in all other areas of human activity.

   We have our flag all over the world, we have a vast varied relationship with the world; we are friends with China, we are friends with the United States, we are friends with Iran and with Pakistan, India and Russia, the Arab world. So the country is again on the world stage and within it's growing, developing.

  

   INTERVIEWER:

   There's no doubt that the country has grown, developed and come a long way in the last 12 years. Why then do the Americans, President Obama, call you an unreliable, ineffective partner?

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   They call me an unreliable partner because where they want us to go along we don't go along. They want us to keep silent when civilians are killed. We will not, we cannot. This is our country and it's my job to defend the Afghan people.              They want us to agree to their terms for relationships. We have our own interests. So naturally in a situation like that they would call us not an ally, as you would call them not an ally.

   INTERVIEWER:

   Isn't it the case that your relationship with President Bush was better than your relationship with Obama, because his main focus has been the exit strategy? How has that been for you?

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   It's not personal. I had a very good relationship with President Bush and at those beginning years there was not much difference of opinion between us, and we had not experienced what we experienced later on with the two administrations.

   The worsening of relations began actually in 2005 where we saw the first incidents of civilian casualties, where we saw that the war on terror was not conducted where it should have been, which was in the sanctuaries, in the training grounds beyond Afghanistan, rather than that the US and NATO forces were conducting operations in Afghan villages causing harm to Afghan people, that we were speaking behind the doors and speaking through diplomatic means and through a quiet language.

It was in 2007 when my repeated pleas for years, two or three years at least with them and – the Afghan people coming and meeting with them, I would bring the Afghan people to them to tell them that they need not go to the Afghan villages, when they began not to pay attention and when they took us for granted... This poor country needs us, so they felt the freedom to do whatever they wanted.

   INTERVIEWER:

   It does get personal...

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   It was in 2007 that I had begun to speak publicly and the relations began to deteriorate then. In 2008 President Bush's term ended and the new president came, so the tensions of that administration carried on to this one, and the US administration began to raise a voice against me and their media began to raise voices against me. Not personal, more substantive and issues.

   INTERVIEWER:

   But don't you think it does get personal when they, you know, call you personally an unreliable leader?

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, they tried to  attack me in their media and also in their politics to weaken me and to weaken my resolve and to render me helpless in Afghanistan. It didn't happen. The Afghan people thought otherwise. And but it's not that we don't want to have a relationship.

   We want to have a relationship with them. A relationship where Afghanistan is respected, the Afghan people are respected, the interests of the Afghan people are taken in mind and the dignity of human life is considered worthy of attention. That's what we want. We are not trying to do things that run counter to their interests.     But their interests, the US- Western interests, the pursuit of that interest in Afghanistan must not be at the cost of the interest of the Afghan people.

   INTERVIEWER:

   You've often been criticized for talking the tough talk with your own audience here in Afghanistan and appearing in public to talk the tough talk with the Americans, but at the end of the day they'll do what they want.

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Yes, [clears throat] they are able to do that because they have the means to it. We don't have the means to it. The only thing that we have is a voice, our voice. And that we use. Beyond that we have no other means. And that means, the means of our voice to speak out against atrocity, against the, should I put it mildly, neglect of Afghan interest or views, is what we do. And we have put our view across and we have brought them to agreement with us, for example on the issue of prisoners, on the issue of Bagram Prison, on ending bombardments, on the transition that I demanded, and on all other questions we have had our voice heard and our demand put in place, but when they decide to violate our sovereignty, they have the means to do it. And we can only wait for the country to grow stronger and better to have our voice and our policy implemented.

INTERVIEWER:

   As you said, relationships did reach rock bottom a number of times and you have made some extraordinary claims against the Americans; just earlier this year, you said in fact – after an attack – in fact, those bombs set off yesterday in the name of the Taliban were the service of Americans to keep foreigners longer in Afghanistan. What were you thinking when you said that?

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   I was thinking exactly the same thing. I was thinking exactly the words that I said. I meant what I said.

               INTERVIEWER:

   what are you implying?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   This means that you see, let me put it this way so I can explain it better. When we began to speak of 2014, when we began to speak of the transition, when we began to speak of the strategic partnership and the security agreement with the United States. And when 2014 became the dateline for that, the Western media began to undermine confidence in Afghanistan. They began to tell the Afghan people that if the US is not here you will be at daggers drawn with each other. If the US and the West is not there, you will be suddenly dying of starvation. If the West is not there you will be in civil war and all things will go wrong. That was wrong. They were doing that in order to force us to agree to the terms and conditions that they set for their documents.

               INTERVIEWER:

   But it wasn't just the Western media though, you know, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan said Afghanistan is already in a state of war, civil war.

  

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, he was wrong. And I wrote to President Obama about that. If Afghanistan was in a civil war then the United States was conducting a war in Afghanistan with one Afghan against the other Afghan. And the Afghans would never allow a foreign power to come and play one Afghan against the other.

   Therefore, the whole state of the United States and NATO and Afghanistan in the past 12 years becomes illegitimate and an interference in Afghanistan's internal affair. If this war is not a war on terror, if this war is not a war against Al-Qaeda, and if they are here to side with one Afghan against another Afghan, then this becomes an interference in our internal affairs.

   While the US President – from President Bush to President Obama – and other Western leaders have been repeatedly and constantly saying that they are here to defend their interests and security  

INTERVIEWER:

 And you claim that maybe otherwise

PRESIDENT KARZAI:

which they – which they say it was, which they say it was, and the war against Al-Qaeda and terrorism. So suddenly because they have eyes set on now other objectives, they're trying to turn the war on terror into an Afghan internal matter, which is not true and which we know we will not allow for them to implement.

               INTERVIEWER:

   What are those other objectives? What objectives do they have other than fighting the war on terror?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, if, if they say that – if they characterize this war now as an Afghan internal war, this means that they are not in Afghanistan to fight terrorism but to expand their influence in the region, economic or political, whatever.

   Then that's the only explanation we can give to it. And in that case too we are not against them. We will not chase them away. In that case too, we will sit down with them [clears throat] – excuse me. We will sit down with them and we will draw the lines of our interests and their interests.

               INTERVIEWER:

   But when you say that statement that you know, in the name of the Taliban, they're working in the service of the Americans, are you implying that the Americans are supporting the Taliban?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   It would be a very serious statement if I said that directly. But I can tell you this; that in the country, in the villages of Afghanistan, a lot of people believe that supplies are given to the Taliban by the foreign forces...

   INTERVIEWER:

   Are these conspiracies or are they...?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

Well, this has been coming to us for a long time, and I have raised it with US government officials and with other Western countries. In the countryside, people believe that the Taliban are being helped by, of course from across our borders, but they're also – for example yesterday, the day before yesterday, I received a report from the Governor of Zabul province close to Kandahar between Ghazni and Kandahar that in the district of Mizan near a village called Khaatam or Takham, the NATO helicopters dropped containers in an area which is beyond the reach of the Afghan government. Now we are investigating this.

               INTERVIEWER:

   To potentially support the Taliban?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   What else could it be if there are drops of such containers in that area, if the containers are dropped from helicopters or if helicopters land there and bring in things where the Afghan government is not present, where the Afghan forces are not present, what else could it be?

   In any case, we're not saying that this is exactly how it is, we're not saying that this is, that they are doing this in order to support the Taliban. We are just bewildered, we are confused. The Afghan people don't know what it is that is happening here, whether there is really a war on terror or whether there is an effort to create instability so to find reason for continuing to have presence here.

               INTERVIEWER:

   So, after billions of dollars have been spent and, and thousands of US and NATO troops have been killed, the intention could be something else?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Probably!  We're not saying that it is something else. We simply are not clear about the intentions. It’s lack of clarity that drives you different directions. Direction one, this is generally a war against terrorism. Direction two, it is not. What it is, can only be a broader, bigger international game.

   For example, in the peace process when we bring the Taliban to Afghanistan in our pursuit of peace, suddenly we find them taken as prisoners. When we recruit those Taliban who are militantly violent against us and we try to neutralize them, they are taken prisoners by the US forces. Why?

               INTERVIEWER:

   Are you talking to the Taliban, yourself personally?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Yes, we are. Yes, we are. We have our whole system engaged in several directions to bring stability and peace to Afghanistan by the official declaration of Afghanistan, the peace process, the High Peace Council, the local government, the Afghan intelligence has its own activity.  At times we find our allies, at the end of our efforts, opposed to it. That is something that we really don't like, and that causes us to be of a second opinion.

               INTERVIEWER:

   What are you discussing at the moment with the Taliban? I mean, what's up for negotiation, what's at stake?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   We have a clear view that the Taliban, those who are Afghans, are welcome to come back to their country, be part of this country's prosperity and peace, and participate in rebuilding this country.

   Now, in this if the Taliban have reasons for which they cannot come, they must spell this out as to what it is that prevents them from coming. If it is the Afghan constitution, they must come and talk to us, and then allow the Afghan people and through the mechanisms that we have, to amend the constitution. Other than that we see no reason for them not to be in their own country.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Is the goal to bring them into some kind of power-sharing deal in government? Would you, you know, is it the idea to bring them to be part of the government?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Absolutely! They are Afghans. Where the Afghan President, where the Afghan government can appoint the Taliban to a government job, they are welcome, we will do that. But where it's the Afghan people appointing people through elections to state organs, then the Taliban should come and participate in elections according to the Constitution of Afghanistan, wherever they want.

               INTERVIEWER:

   One of the things which...

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   So to clarify this, yes as Afghans they are welcome to the Afghan government, like all other Afghans. Yes, as Afghans they are welcome to participate in elections as all other Afghans.

               INTERVIEWER:

   A British audience or an American audience watching this would wonder what was all this for then; twelve years of fighting, lives lost and the Taliban would just walk back in and be part of government?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, the Americans have told us themselves in Washington on my last visit that the Taliban are not their enemies, that they will not fight the Taliban anymore, and we welcome that. And our question then was well then who is your enemy? They said it's Al-Qaeda and the affiliates and that they're here to fight Al-Qaeda and their affiliates, and that they are trying to stay here in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and have bases here in order to continue their fight against Al-Qaeda and their affiliates. So the Taliban are not anymore in an enemy’s book for them. So, the West is saying to us now that they were here to fight the Taliban and Al-Qaeda for the past 12 years that now they are not here to fight the Taliban, that beyond 2014 they will not be fighting the Taliban, that they will be only, and only, concentrating on Al-Qaeda and their affiliates who are very few in number, they say, in Afghanistan.

               INTERVIEWER:

   So Al-Qaeda is not a threat in Afghanistan, or may not return to Afghanistan or its borders?

  

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, we have asked this question that if you say you are here to fight the Al-Qaeda from 2014 onwards and nobody else, then how strong is Al -Qaeda. They tell us that they are less than a hundred in number in Afghanistan. So if they are less than a hundred in Afghanistan that is a very insignificant force. It's individuals, it's not a force.

               INTERVIEWER:

   One of the things of which you boast in your legacy if the progress made by women. There is a palpable sense here though that the progress is being undermined by bringing the Taliban back.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   The return of the Taliban will not undermine the progress. This country needs to have peace. You know, you were in the villages of Afghanistan, you went to Panjway [district], you saw that, witnessed the area, the village, the people who were killed by the US soldier last year.

There are daily losses every day to the Afghan people, everyday in our villages and our highways people are killed – children, women, either by the Taliban or in attacks against them by the Afghan government or the US forces.

               INTERVIEWER:

   But you know where they stand with women's rights, I mean, are you willing to sacrifice their rights. 

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Yes.

               INTERVIEWER:

   The rights of women?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Not, not to sacrifice the rights of women, I am willing to stand for anything that will bring peace to Afghanistan and through that, to promote the cause of the Afghan women better. Right now we have women in the cities benefitting from the freedoms and the opportunities that the new government has created.

   In the villages of Afghanistan, the Afghan women suffer like hell. Don't those women also have the right to be part of a better future? Don't those little girls in Afghan villages also have the right to go to school and to have safety and security or should part of our country be in peace and prosperity, and the other part of our country, little girls under bombardment?

               INTERVIEWER:

   But I have spoken to women in Kabul and MPs, who have said that it hasn't been a priority for the government, women's rights. You know, your recent endorsement of a statement by the religious council describing women as secondary and, and attempting to segregate them in employment, in education, in public, you know, 400 women are apparently in jail for moral crimes.

Wouldn’t you say that this is going back to a situation where, when the Taliban were in power?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   It is not. No, it is not. No, we are a Muslim country. We are still very much a tradition-bound country. And you can't change that overnight. The religious leaders in Afghanistan allow women in Afghanistan to have the gains that they have.

   The society allowed that. Other than that we would not have the gains that we have today. I have no doubt that the right of women in Afghanistan will continue to improve. I have no doubt that the progress women have gained, their achievements, will expand, will not shrink.

   I have no doubt that there will be more Afghan young girls and women studying and – getting higher education and better job opportunities. There is no doubt about that, even if the Taliban come that will not end, that will not slow down.

               INTERVIEWER:

   But if the Taliban want a hardline form of Sharia Law as a compromise for them to come and be part of the peace process, is that something you're willing to sacrifice?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   The Afghan Constitution is already Islamic. The Afghan constitution says that no laws will be against the instructions of Islam. So the gains of the past 12 years are already under an Islamic Constitution.

               INTERVIEWER:

   So women in Afghanistan should not have the fear of a return of the Taliban?

  

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   None at all.  None.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Let's talk about –

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   And I can speak with absolute confidence on that on behalf of the Afghan people.

               INTERVIEWER:

   The bilateral security agreement Mr. President, let's talk about that. That defines the US and Afghanistan's relationship beyond withdrawal. At the moment you're negotiating. What's your bottom line?

  

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

This is a very important document. In this document, we are to provide the United States with nine bases in Afghanistan, with certain arrangements in Afghanistan.       And those arrangements and the presence of the bases in Afghanistan should not run counter to the sovereignty of Afghanistan.

               INTERVIEWER:

   What do you mean by the sovereignty?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   And to the safety and security of the Afghan people. And also that such an arrangement of the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan must also bring to Afghanistan better security and peace.

  

   INTERVIEWER:

   Address those issues; sovereignty and security?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Sovereignty, security, peace. 12 years, we were together. If you divide the 12 years into good and bad, on social economic front, we have gained a lot and with the help of the international community, the United States, our neighbors and others, for which we are immensely grateful.

   But on security, on the provision of security for the Afghan people, we have not gained. The Afghans continue to suffer. The reason the Afghans will allow the United States to have bases in Afghanistan, this is a country, you know, that has always fought foreigners.

   Go back to Afghan history. It is the first time in our history that the Afghan people have accepted the presence of foreigners in order to gain what they lost in the past 13 years, peace and security. So if they ever will allow the US and NATO to have a presence in Afghanistan, it will be first and most important for security and peace.

   Therefore the bases must guarantee for the Afghan people security and peace. Second to that is the strengthening and support and training and equipping of our armed forces and security forces. But all of this must take place under the umbrella of Afghan sovereignty where Afghanistan's sovereignty and its rights and its Constitution and the rights of its people are respected and not violated.

               INTERVIEWER:

One of the things you've asked for is the protection of Afghan borders. Does the protection of Afghan borders mean taking the war against the Taliban into Pakistan?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   We don't say that. We don't say that there. There is a clause that we are still working on in this document- the BSA, the Bilateral Security Agreement, that says Afghanistan will be given support or protection in case of foreign aggression on Afghanistan.

   We're trying to find the definition of aggression. But the United States says and NATO says that they will provide Afghanistan support in case of aggression. What do we mean by aggression? Do we have the same definition of aggression or do we have different definitions for aggression?

   We know that Afghanistan's neighbors, if ever they want to come to Afghanistan, will not ride into our country with the tanks and airplanes. They will be sending the fifth column, the undercover people under different names that one can find; the Taliban or this, or that, or that.

   Is that also an aggression or not? Is a terrorist attack in Afghanistan aggression or not an aggression? Is the killing of Afghan children in Afghan villages and homes by a bomber an aggression or not? So these definitions are important for the security of Afghanistan. We are, we are not concerned about a neighbor sending in tanks, they are welcome.

   If they decide that , we know how to deal with that. But what we want from the United States and NATO is to have an agreement with us where every possibility of transgression, of violation of Afghan life and territory is understood between us clearly so later, there is no confusion.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Another crucial thing in this is immunity- the legal protection from Afghan law for any remainder American soldiers who stay here beyond withdrawal. The Americans will never leave their soldiers here if they don't have that immunity.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   If the immunity does not run counter to Afghan sovereignty  and if does not provide them with the rights to go and violate Afghan homes, launch attacks against Afghan homes, the Afghan people will consider how to grant that with them. But in order for that to happen, the Afghan people must be sure that the BSA brings them security and peace and that the BSA does not bring to the forces present in Afghanistan a violation by them of Afghan homes or Afghan property or Afghan lives.

               INTERVIEWER:

   So it's possible for an American soldier to go into an Afghan village, kill an Afghan family – as has happened in the past, as you and I both know.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Yes.

               INTERVIEWER:

   And they may not be prosecuted here in Afghanistan.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   That is impossible. That is – that, that will be considered a premeditated murder, and nobody can provide immunity to that.

  

   INTERVIEWER:

   So they – they will have immunity or not?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Immunity can only, if it is provided, if it is provided, it can only be provided when an American is on his official duties and during the performance of those duties by accident...

               INTERVIEWER:

   Who determines this accident?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, this has to be thought of, this has to be cleared out. These are issues that we still are working on.

               INTERVIEWER:

   You know, I mean because they could be on tour of duty, they could shoot an Afghan, you know, who determines then that, that you know, that was a mistake, an accident or it was a deliberate act?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Exactly, these are issues that we are still working out, and that's why we have not reached an agreement yet.

               INTERVIEWER:

   So I know you're in a difficult position, so you can't formally tell me whether American soldiers will have immunity from Afghan law.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   They cannot have immunity from Afghan law if they deliberately go and violate an Afghan right. And all these issues, all the elements concerning immunity are still under discussion. We, we have not yet reached an agreement.

 

 

   INTERVIEWER:

   So say for example, hypothetically speaking now, that you know, whether it's a question of sovereignty or immunity, at the end of the day,  Americans will do what they want. And, and if you push too hard they may not stay. Is that something that worries you?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, if the agreement doesn't suit us then of course they can leave. The agreement has to suit Afghanistan's interests and purposes. If it doesn't suit us and if it doesn't suit them then naturally we will go separate ways.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Would that be to the benefit of the Afghan people?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   When we decide that it's not in our interest, then we have made a decision.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Let's look at Britain's military –

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Then, we will face the consequences, of course.

               INTERVIEWER:

   So, if you're not – to get this clear, if you're not satisfied on the issue of sovereignty, immunity?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Peace.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Peace?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Peace and security.

               INTERVIEWER:

   You may not sign this bilateral security agreement?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   If this agreement does not provide Afghanistan peace and security, the Afghans will not want it. That's very clear. If this agreement does not provide Afghanistan security and peace, the Afghans will not want it. That's the only reason that the Afghans will agree, will ever agree to the presence of foreign forces beyond 2014.

               INTERVIEWER:

   And the Americans are anxious to get this signed.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   They are very anxious, yes.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Are you going to sign it soon?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   We will sign it when we have our interests secured.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Chuck Hagel has said by the end of October.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   No, we don't have such a deadline on our part. We're trying to have an agreement that suits the Afghan people and suits means all those conditions, I described earlier.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Their concern is that it needs to be signed before the election. Is that something that you ?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   That's not our concern, no. If we do not reach an agreement now, during my term in office, they can discuss it with the next government. In any case now or later, even if agreement is reached, the Afghan people, the Afghan Jirga will have to decide on it.

  

   INTERVIEWER:

   Let's look at British, British military contribution post 2014. What would you like to see them do here?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Britain does not want to have a large presence in Afghanistan. Britain wants to stay in the form of training our forces and especially our military and police. They have already began to build a nice Sandhurst-type institution for us, for which we are grateful, and that will be a good contribution to Afghanistan.

               INTERVIEWER:

   And on a military capacity, will they continue  to be risking their lives here?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   They have not intended – they have not told us that yet, no. They will not do that.

               INTERVIEWER:

   So it's not part –

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   And I have asked them specifically whether they will have a military presence here, they've said no. Military presence for training, not for military activity.

 

               INTERVIEWER:

   Let's talk about British military contribution post 2014. What would you like to see them do here?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   We would like them to stay in Afghanistan, train our forces, provide us the good training that they have provided to other countries. Pakistan and India is the best example. they have told us that they'll be building a Sandhurst-type institution here, they're already constructing a building for it, and for which we are thankful.

   They have not indicated to us that they will be staying here in any active military form or in the form of a base here in Afghanistan.

               INTERVIEWER:

   So militarily – you know, they'll still be putting their lives at risk or –

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   No, they will not be doing that. They will not be engaging in any military activity, nor that we want that.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Britain has made a massive contribution already. Can you tell the British public, you know, what all their sacrifices were for? Because they don't understand why they're still here.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, they what the British government, all the Prime Ministers that came – were in office in the past 12 years, have clearly stated that they are here in Afghanistan in order to provide security to the West, in order to prevent terrorism from reaching the West, in order to fight extremism here.

   So they were here for a British, for a Western and an international pursuit. Now which part of that or how much of that has been achieved is a question that the British government can answer it alone.

   INTERVIEWER:

Could you assess for me what went right and what went wrong for the British here in Afghanistan?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   What went wrong for them was, of course, the casualties of their forces, for which we are sorry. And that's also exactly what went wrong for Afghanistan. We had so many casualties of our people as well. What went right for them was that they spent their money more accurately in better places and through the Afghan government. So their contribution was directly to Afghanistan.

  

   INTERVIEWER:

   And the criticism and failings that were experienced in Helmand?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   It's not only Britain, it's not only Britain.  On security front, the entire NATO exercise was one that caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering and a lot of loss of life, and no gains because the country is not secure.

I'm not happy to say that, well there is partial security. That's not what we are seeking. What we wanted was absolute security and a clear-cut war against terrorism. so if there was politics played in it, it was by the whole lot of NATO and the United States, so Britain was not alone in that.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Let's talk about corruption. And let's go back to your legacy. Some people would say that your legacy here in office has been tainted by the corruption in this country, that Afghanistan is the third most corrupt country in the world. Is that a legacy you want to leave behind?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   No, not at all. Of course not, of course not. But it is a fact that there is corruption in Afghanistan. And the Western media has more often played it out of proportions. And they try to blame all the corruption on Afghanistan.

   Afghanistan has petty corruption no doubt, like any other third world country. And our government is weak and ineffective in comparison to other governments, we've just begun. But the big corruption – the hundreds of millions of dollars of corruption, it was not Afghan. Now everybody knows that.     It was foreign. The contracts, the subcontracts, the blind contracts given to people, money thrown around to buy loyalties, money thrown around to buy submissiveness of Afghan government officials, to policies and designs that the Afghans would not agree to. That was the major part of corruption.

   And here something that I have not seen before, or something that has occurred to me recently is really the Afghan government has grown in spite of that corruption; to improvement, to better standards, to better capacity. So initially I was not very clear about this.

   In 2005/2006, when I would hear in the Western media, corruption, I would look around myself into our own country and government to see this corruption. But the more I looked into it, the more we researched and the more we tried to find out, the more deep it becomes foreign and at times deliberate.

  

   INTERVIEWER:

   But there's no denying or ignoring the Kabul bank scheme for example, where almost a billion dollars were stolen.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Absolute, absolutely.  Major corruption. Major corruption.

               INTERVIEWER:

   What was done to curb that sort of thing, you know, escalating?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Major corruption there too on the Kabul Bank. We received reports that it was, you know, involved in serious wrongdoing. And I called the Central Bank Chief of that time. He told me no, Mr. President, those reports are not right.

   And he put before me a study by Price Waterhouse Cooper who are their auditors giving them, all the best, you know, grades. And our other indicators showed to us that the international community was supporting this bank. The US government decided to pay all their salaries to this bank, to the Afghan forces, to the police and the army, and to civil servants.

   So this bank was promoted to where it happened to be and it was covered up and helped. No doubt there was Afghan corruption in it, greed of some people in it to get rich and get rich through the money of the Afghan people.

   But, no doubt, that the Afghan government was also deliberately misled into believing that the bank was doing well.

               INTERVIEWER:

   The US military for example has said that almost 360 million dollars has fallen into the hands of the Taliban and other militia groups. How that has happened? through power-broking, they say.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Who gave them that money? Did the Afghan Government issue those contracts? Did we create the security firms? Did we issue contracts or did all that 350 or so million dollars in the hands of the Taliban went to them through the contracts that the US government and other governments provided to individuals that they chose, Not us?

  

   INTERVIEWER:

   Most recently you responded to a New York Times...

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   And that is why the Afghan people suspect a hand in promoting, the promotion of the Taliban. This is one way of promoting them.

               INTERVIEWER:

   What about, though – I mean, how do you think it looks most recently you responded to a New York Times article, where they said that you had – your office had received, you know, bags of CIA and MI6 money. How do you think that is – you know, how did the Afghan people respond to that?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, that is true. That is true. The Us intelligence agency did provide the National Security Department with the resources, as it provided also the Afghan intelligence and other departments with cash money, which was very useful, which was an open account. MI6, I don't know. I don't have any knowledge of them supporting.

   Yes, they, they are supporting the peace process, they are supporting, the British government I mean, also some other activities in Afghanistan and they may provide resources through various departments of the British government. But the National Security Office, if you're speaking of the CIA monthly allowance to that office, yes that is true. There's been an open account.

               INTERVIEWER:

   And do you know what they get in return?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   I don't know what they want in return, they've not asked for any returns. We've used that money as we've seen fit and good for the country.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Let's talk about the election process. There are a number of, you know, very good and capable candidates. Who do you see as a likely successor?

  

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   I can't say that. The only thing that I have done so far is to arrange an election scene that is national, that brings the Afghan people together, that brings various candidates cooperating and joining hands with one another. So we can have a national scene of candidacy for president and vice-presidents, and that they go to the elections and let the Afghan people decide.

               INTERVIEWER:

   So on Monday you won't support a name that comes out of the registrations?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   It will not be right for me to do that, no. I will stay with my hands absolutely tied behind me and let the Afghan people decide their next president and vice-presidents.

               INTERVIEWER:

   What advice would you give to your successor?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Continue with the tolerance that I have shown internally for the good of Afghanistan, bring the Afghan people together, stand tough against foreign behavior in Afghanistan and protect Afghanistan's interest at home and abroad.

               INTERVIEWER:

   People who know you well, who are close to you, often talk about the Hamid Karzai who loves long walks, reads lots of books.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Yes, yes.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Will you ever become that man again? What will you do next?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Sure, I would love to be out of this office very soon and to go back to my long walks and reading and listening to good music and all that.

  

   INTERVIEWER:

   And finally, there isn't a single living Afghan leader. They've all been killed in a very violent way. Are you concerned about your safety when you leave office?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Not at all, no, no. I'll be safe, and when the time comes I'll not be there, so it's not a concern.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Will you stay in Afghanistan?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Sure. The government is building a house for me. Just behind this office. Better house than the one I have now.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Mr. President, just one more thing. I wondered, we spoke about Bagram last time extensively. Are you happy with the way it's being handled at the moment or are Americans still conducting interrogations against the Afghan people?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   We are relatively happy. We are able now to release our people, there's a commission working on those releases and we are a lot more in-charge there now. Not full satisfaction but better than the past.

               INTERVIEWER:

   And  anything coming out on abuse or torture?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   I haven't heard, the Head of the Afghanistan Constitution Commission is looking into the prisons and he will have a report on it. Mr. Qazi, Professor Qazi is doing that.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Great, great.

  

   PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   All right then. Thank you very much.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Thank you very much, it was great, it was really lovely to talk to you again.

  

               INTERVIEWER:

   The gains that women have made in this country are tenuous. Surely by bringing the Taliban back you're compromising those gains?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Not at all. Definitely not, because the Afghan people will not allow those gains to be reserved. So those gains will stay. We will have more educated Afghan women on the scene. They are increasing by the day. That will not happen.

               INTERVIEWER:

you said that the Americans are not an ally. After everything that's happened in the last 12 years how can you say that?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   I didn't say that. your question was that the Americans said that Karzai was not an ally. And I believe that I am here to serve Afghanistan, not the United States. So if we are not allies to their demands, definitely they are not allies to our demands.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Sir, are you aware of the number of British soldiers who have died in Afghanistan?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   More than 450.

                           INTERVIEWER:

   Do you intend on prosecuting people who have committed war crimes over the last 35 years?

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Well, Afghanistan has pondered over that very deeply. We like to keep the country's harmony and security and if the Afghan people decide that prosecuting offenders is their top priority, then of course the Afghan government will heed that.

   But if the Afghan people decide that they would like to forget the past, then that's what should happen.

               INTERVIEWER:

   Thank you sir, I really appreciate those –

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Thank you.

                           INTERVIEWER:

   Thank you so much for your time.

               PRESIDENT KARZAI:

   Thank you ma'am, good to talk to you, thank you.