'Once Afghanistan achieves stability there will be no need for US & int'l forces' - Afghan Deputy FM
RT: Reports emerged last month that the Taliban’s former leader Mullah Mansour had been killed by a US airstrike. The US had decried Mansour as being a hindrance to the peace process. How have negotiations with the Taliban been since his death?
Hekmat Khalil Karzai: As you may know, Afghanistan together with China, the US and Pakistan established what is known as the QCG or Quadrilateral Coordination Group. This group met several times and invited the Taliban to the table. Quite sadly, the Taliban did not accept our offer to come to the table. In the QCG we had very specific language and we had a specific road map that was established. The key objective was that we will sit down with Taliban and negotiate and work out the differences. However, those individuals who do not come to the table, all four of the countries will deal with them by all necessary means. There was a feeling on the part of the US that Mansour was not going to negotiate and they took this action against him.
RT: Was the American-led coalition ever going to defeat the Taliban, given Afghanistan’s key strategic location in the region. Of course you share borders with India, Pakistan and indeed Russia. Do you think they actually want to leave?
HK: I think for us the presence of the US and particularly NATO and some of these other partners is a necessity. We feel the security sector and particularly our security forces still need assistance and support from the international community. Once there is stability we see no need for either the US or any of the international forces. So for us, we see this in a different context as compared to some of the other outside regional players.
RT: Previously, Russia had allowed for the transfer of NATO military equipment into Afghanistan from within its territory via the ‘Northern Corridor’. With the souring of relations between Russia and NATO in recent years, Russia closed that supply corridor last year. NATO is now relying on its passage into the country via Pakistan. What impact has the closing of the Russian corridor have on the fight against the Taliban?
HK: I am not sure how to evaluate the impact, but at the same time we were hopeful that there would be a better relationship between the two partners that we have. We want to make sure that particularly Afghanistan is a point of collaboration; that Afghanistan is not seen as a contentious point. But at the same time we have always asked both of our colleagues and friends to see how we can work these issues in a manner that benefits both sides.
RT: Last month, we saw reports of opium farmers celebrating a bumper harvest which some took as highlighting the failure of the West’s war on drugs. How was this able to happen under the watchful eye of NATO? Have they been fulfilling their agreement to assist in the combating of narcotic farming?
HK: At this stage, NATO, or particularly Operation Resolute Support, operates within the mandate of counterterrorism and also training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces. I think if you look at the scheme of priorities, dealing with counter-narcotics is a very high priority for Afghanistan, but not really for the international partners. I think, to us it is very clear, it’s a division of labor – they focus on specific issues, we focus on specific issues. For us, we have developed a comprehensive strategy that looks at various different elements of dealing with counter-narcotics. And it is in this context that we are moving forward. In certain areas we have reduced poppy cultivation. In many provinces the cultivation has been reduced because alternative livelihoods have been introduced. But sadly in other places we have had a little bit of growth.
RT: Seddique Mateen, the father of the US gunman behind the attack on a Florida gay club on Sunday, is reported to have left Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war. At that time, America was actively helping the Mujahideen to fight both the Soviets and the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Do you have any information as to why the older Mateen left to America?
HK: I think there were thousands of people who became refugees. We had about almost close to six million Afghans who became refugees; about 2.5 million went to Pakistan and two million went to Iran. Also 100,000 went to Europe and the US and they settled there. Once they settled there I think they started a new life and immersed themselves in those societies. I think Mr. Mateen was one of the many thousands of individuals that left because of the conflict that was ongoing in Afghanistan. What his son did was tragic, barbaric, and I think our senior leadership has condemned this attack. Our sympathies are with the American people. We as Afghans have really gone through many of these terrorist attacks. We share and understand the pain.
RT: What do you think Mateen’s role has been in America? He has claimed to have held meetings with American officials. He also was pretending to be the president of Afghanistan in his internet shows.
HK: I think he has an imaginary world where he acts like a president and gives these sermons. But the reality in Afghanistan is completely different. I don’t think that many people recognize him. I think the fact that there was an incident which has brought him into the light, many of us until a few days ago didn’t even know about him, who he was, his engagement or even his show. One thing is to have these shows in the West preaching to people and another thing is to have impact on the ground in Kabul, in Afghanistan. This is something that sadly he has not been instrumental in.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.