Karzai blames the US for Afghan corruption

Hamid Karzai (AFP Photo / Shah Marai)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday criticized US tactics in Afghanistan, accusing American and NATO forces of contributing to the violence and corruption in his country.

In an interview with NBC at the presidential palace, Karzai, who is serving his second five-year term, voiced his concerns with the US presence in Afghanistan at a time when tensions are high and the Obama administration is preparing to withdraw US troops in 2014.

“Part of the insecurity is coming to us from the structures that NATO and America created in Afghanistan,” Karzai said. The Taliban has regained some of the land and power it lost after the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and many US officials have begun to view Karzai as a president who leads a corrupt government. However Karzai has his own take on the issue.

"The bigger corruption is the corruption in contracts. The contracts are not issued by the Afghan government. The contracts are issued by the international community, mainly by the United States," he said. "Now whether this corruption in Afghanistan is an accident, a byproduct of the situation in the past 10 years or is it perpetrated also on purpose is today my main question."

The Afghan president, disappointed with America’s refusal to hand over Afghan prisoners held at the Parwan detention facility, also said he wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama about his concern on what he previously called “a serious breach of the Memorandum of Understanding”. A US-Afghan deal signed in March gave the US six months to transfer control of captured Afghans to the Karzai government, but Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi told reports that US troops are illegally holding more than 70 detainees whose release was ordered by Afghan courts.

“I have written to President Obama that the Afghan people will not allow its government to enter into a security agreement while the United States continues to violate Afghan sovereignty,” Karzai told NBC on Thursday.

We signed the strategic partnership agreement with the expectation and the hope… the nature of the United States’ activities in Afghanistan will change,” Karzai said, adding that American behavior has not changed.

The Afghan president also noted that US uses ineffective methods of fighting terrorism. “By attacking Afghan villages and Afghan homes,” terrorism will not be defeated, he said. Additionally, Karzai believes al-Qaeda does not have a presence in Afghanistan.

“I don’t even know if al-Qaeda exists as an organizations as it is being spoken about. So all we know is that we have insecurity,” he said.

US officials believe al-Qaeda has strong links with the Taliban and other Afghan insurgents.

Karzai’s criticism of the US comes after the start of bilateral talks on the role of the US after its troops are withdrawn in 2014.  The Obama administration is in the midst of negotiations with the Kabul government to establish a security pact to allow some US troops to remain in the country past 2014. These troops would train Afghan security forces and conduct counterterrorism missions.

Afghanistan has not yet made a decision on whether these Americans would receive immunity.

“We can consider that question. I can go to the Afghan people and argue for it,” Karzai said. “But before I do that, the United States of America must make absolutely sure that they respect Afghan’s sovereignty, that they respect Afghanistan’s laws, that no Afghan is hurt or his or her rights violated by US soldiers.”

While Karzai referred to US-Afghan tensions as “businesslike” and “not based on sentiments”, his further criticism of the Obama administration and US tactics in Afghanistan are sure to bring more uncomfortable feelings to the table of negotiation.