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3 Mar, 2014 13:41

US-led Afghan war for 'Western interests' - Karzai

US-led Afghan war for 'Western interests' - Karzai

Expressing “extreme anger” with the US, outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the US-led 12-year military operation in Afghanistan was never designed with the interests of his country in mind.

In an interview described as “unusually emotional,” the Afghan leader didn’t pull any punches in assessing US behavior in the course of the protracted Afghan war, begun by then-US President George W. Bush following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an interview Karzai gave to The Washington Post.

“Afghans died in a war that’s not ours,” Karzai told the Post in a candid interview.

He then described a heartbreaking moment that occurred around the same time he was attempting to negotiate a security pact with the United States, under which US troops are scheduled to withdraw from the country in December 2014, when he visited a 4-year-old girl who had suffered severe facial wounds in a US airstrike.

“That day, I wished she were dead, so she could be buried with her parents and brothers and sisters,” 14 of whom had been killed in the bombing, Karzai said.

He remarked that Kabul’s feeling of “common cause” with Washington had deteriorated due to such casualties.

During a visit to the White House in 2010, Karzai showed US President Barack Obama a photograph of a family that was “gazing with fright and fear” during a US-led nighttime operation.

“I said, ‘President, this is what I’m trying to end, the intimidation of Afghan families at night, in the name of fighting the Taliban.’ ”

“So we are really an angry people,” Karzai admitted.

War for ‘Western interests’

In many regards, Karzai is in the epicenter of the Afghan tragedy, as he meets regularly with people from all walks of life who have been adversely affected in one way or another by the ongoing turmoil.

“People do come to me, a lot of people, every day rather. Groups of people, individuals — they ask me” for support, Karzai said.

It has been these types of ongoing tragedies that Karzai, who assumed the presidency in Dec. 2001 after US forces ousted the Taliban from power, that have left him with a feeling of bitterness and “extreme anger” for US actions in his country.

The Afghan president is of the opinion that Al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization that the Taliban was allegedly harboring, is “more a myth than a reality” and that the majority of individuals arrested were innocent of any crimes.

Moreover, he expressed the opinion that the war was “for the US security and for the Western interest.”

Afghan president Hamid Karzai (AFP Photo / Javed Tanveer)

Recently, Karzai has become increasingly outspoken not only about the amount of civilian casualties he has witnessed in the course of the war, but also his own theories as to who may be responsible for some of the suicide bombings that are continuing to this day.

Karzai, according to an Afghan official quoted by the Post, reportedly thinks that US forces were behind recent insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, such as a bomb blast earlier this month that killed 21 people, including three Americans, in Kabul.

US Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham expressed surprise over the remarks, telling the Post that Karzai's reported assertions are "a deeply conspiratorial view that's divorced from reality ... It flies in the face of logic and morality to think that we would aid the enemy we’re trying to defeat."

Since October 2001, the United States has lost more than 2,000 troops, while spending more than $600 billion in an effort to rid the country of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and plant the seeds of democracy on troubled soil.

Despite Washington’s efforts in Afghanistan, it has failed to strike a deal with Karzai over a security agreement that would a residual American contingency force to remain beyond the 2014 withdrawal date.

The Obama administration, however, appears willing to wait until after April’s presidential elections to restart negotiations with Afghanistan’s new leader.

“It’s good for them to sign [the security agreement] with my successor,” Karzai said.

Public criticism as ‘diplomatic tool’

Karzai’s public criticism of US actions in Afghanistan has led to a noticeable drop in the number of civilians killed by US forces. The downside, however, is that “Taliban-inflicted casualties have increased.”

The outgoing Afghan leader has also been successful in getting the United States to hand over the keys to Bagram prison, thereby permitting Karzai last month to set free “dozens” of detainees over US objections

Through these types of hard-fought victories, Karzai came to the conclusion that public criticism of the United States was his “most effective diplomatic tool.”

“I had no other weapon to resort to, no other means to resort to, but to speak publicly and get attention that way. In other words, I was forced to yell,” he said.

Now that his presidential term is drawing to a close, does Karzai think the war in Afghanistan was worth it?

“I am of two hearts here. When I see good, I am in approval. When I see the losses of Afghan people, our children, maimed and killed, I’m in disapproval,” he said. “Maybe I can give you an answer of yes or no two, three or five years from now, when my emotions have subsided. Right now, I’m full of emotions.’’

As much as Karzai has accomplished for the people of Afghanistan, he says he has no intention of continuing as president.

“I’ve done enough; it’s time for me to move on,” he said.

But he had some words of advice for his successor, who will be forced to keep the country afloat on a tighter budget.

“Foreign assistance brought an expensive way of life to Afghanistan,” Karzai said. “This way of life is not sustainable. Afghanistan has to live by its means.”

In concluding the interview, Karzai asked his departing interviewers to send a message to the US: “To the American people, give them my best wishes and my gratitude. To the US government, give them my anger, my extreme anger.”