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18 May, 2009 05:51

‘Some US operations in Afghanistan are based on false reports’ - Afghan VP

Afghanistan’s second vice president Mohammed Karim Khalili discussed the current situation in his country with RT.

RT: First of all, we will begin speaking about the goals of your visit to Russia.

KK: We came here on the invitation of the Institute for Demographic Migration and Regional Development – and, of course, to mark the 19th anniversary of the establishment of political and diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Russia. And, alongside this seminar, meetings with Russian officials have been made.

RT: Recently, there has been a lot of talking about the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan into Russia. How do the Afghan government and the Russian government cooperate in fighting drug trafficking?

KK: I agree that, to some extent, the flow of drugs from Afghanistan comes into Russia and from there may find its way to other European countries, but I’ve told my friends here in Russia that we need to address this issue comprehensively. I told them the phenomenon of narcotics is a global phenomenon, not restricted only to Afghanistan. It’s true that these people are misusing the poverty of the people of Afghanistan, forcing them to cultivate drugs. But it’s the international crime gangs that do the trafficking. So there is a need for a strong global will to fight narcotics. It’s mutual cooperation for the benefit of both countries. Russia has good experience and equipment for this.

RT: Mr. Vice-president, if we go now to Afghan and Pakistani issues, recently Pakistan has accused the United States of firing in the region. At the same time, President Hamid Karzai is calling for increasing the presence of US troops in Afghanistan. What’s actually going on there?

KK: In fact, we see that there is a big crisis in the region, like the recent events in Pakistan, and it is of great concern to us. As we have already predicted, and, as it has been reflected through Mr. President to the international community repeatedly, we are going to ultimately end the extremism and fundamentalism spreading out from certain parts of Pakistan to the region. The vision and understanding in Pakistan is close to that. But the leadership and the people of Afghanistan think that we need more coordination between Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight it. We cannot deal with this phenomenon alone. There is a bigger, global coordinated effort for fighting it in the United States, The European Union and Russia. All of them need to contribute to this fight. Mr. President has welcomed the increase of US troops in Afghanistan to make the fight against these two phenomena more serious.

RT: Mr. Khalili, recently the US troops in Afghanistan have targeted civilians, and dozens of Afghani people became victims of these American raids. At the same time, President Karzai has called on the US troops and the US administration to stop targeting civilians. The advisor for American national security has refused Mr. Karzai’s demands. Do you think there’s a contradiction between President Karzai and the Obama administration? Do you think the Obama administration is now thinking about getting rid of Karzai, about replacing him?

KK: I deeply regret that the war by terrorists continues in my country and in the region. I regret even more witnessing civilians losing their lives. I’m deeply upset about this fact. Mr. President has repeatedly spoken on this issue. On the other hand, we have to accept that civilian casualties are a consequence of war. We just want NATO forces and the United States to identify their mistakes and weak points and try to correct them. The wrong methods of fighting terrorism should be corrected. It should be revised and prevented. We and the allies should do our best to decrease civilian casualties in this war. Still, we aren't seeing the military operation progressing in the way we had expected. Sometimes, the operation is conducted based on false reports. This doesn’t mean that the US administration and Afghanistan are against each other. And this doesn’t mean that the Americans want to get rid of President Karzai, or find a replacement for him. That depends on the people. Five years ago, President Karzai was elected by the people of Afghanistan. This time, Mr. Karzai is running for president and Mr. Vice-president is on his ticket. But Mr. Vice-president believes that anyone who will be the winner of the election will represent the will and wishes of the people of Afghanistan. They are going to respect the choice and the will of the people. And they will expect the international community, including the United States, to respect the will of the people.

RT: Mr. Vice-president, recently there has been news about secret negotiations between the Obama administration and the Taliban movement. At the same time, President Karzai has said that the Taliban, as a movement, is over. Do you think there’s a contradiction between these two statements?

KK: In terms of the Taliban’s return, we’ve had a very clear policy. If they put aside violence and lay down their arms, accept the old and new values which have been introduced and accepted by the people of Afghanistan several years ago, accept the Constitution of the country, which is a very good one, at the regional level, we will welcome them back into the arms of the people. If the Americans or others will negotiate and convince them to accept the new values, put aside violence and lay down their arms, come back to peace, it will be very good. But, if the Taliban continue the violence, and ultimately, want to impose their Talibani vision and interpretation on the people of Afghanistan, I believe the people have come a long way, and they will not return to the past, to the darkness.

RT: Mr. Vice-president, why, do you think, America and NATO are putting obstacles in front of Russia in providing assistance to Afghani people and rebuilding the infrastructure of Afghanistan?

KK: I don’t agree with this statement – that they’re creating obstacles for Russia’s contribution and humanitarian assistance. There is an elected administration, an elected parliament in Afghanistan. They are the decision-makers in the country. During my visit, I have invited our Russian friends to come and contribute to infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. For the time being, I have not witnessed any problems or difficulties with NATO or the coalition forces in this respect. I’m pleased to see that they’re cooperating with each other. Recently, when there’s been difficulty in transporting equipment supplies for NATO forces through Pakistan's territory, there has been a discussion about transporting these supplies through the Russian territory. So I’d like to thank our Russian friends for providing this cooperation. They are contributing to the fight against terrorism. These are some examples of cooperation between countries, between Russia and NATO. We don’t see any obstacles for Russia in providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. Recently, it has sent a cargo plane to Kabul. We ask our Russian friends to get more involved in humanitarian assistance, in the reconstruction activities and fighting terrorism. We believe that Russia has the power and capability to do so.

RT: Mr. Vice-president, can we say that the United States are sinking in the Afghan swamp, as the Soviet troops did in the past?

KK: You have this belief, and I have my own beliefs. I believe that the United States and the whole Alliance came to Afghanistan on a joint mission, based on a decision made by the UN Security Council, and also on the wishes of Afghanistan, which were reflected by the Bonn Conference. This is a joint mission. We accept that there have been some weak points, and we have to correct the mistakes and make the weak points strong. I hope the mission will be completed in the near future, and we will not be in this state much longer. It’s true that there have been some difficulties, but we’re not talking about “sinking”. I have to say that the presence of the world community is based on the will and wishes of the people of Afghanistan. In the past seven years, whenever there have been public opinion surveys, above 80% welcomed the presence of the world community, and they have insisted on the continuation of the fight against terrorism and extremism in the country. There is a big difference between this state and previous wars in Afghanistan, but we have to accept that there have been some weak points. We have to revise them and correct the mistakes. We should not let these mistakes turn into a big crisis.

RT: Mr. Vice-president, my final question. There have been a lot of summits and conferences on Afghanistan which took place in order to help solve this conflict. In you opinion, what is the way out? Is it military, through the use of force, or is it political, through all Afghan political forces sharing and taking part in political life?

KK: It’s natural that any war, any conflict, is ultimately solved by talks. I believe we need fundamental talks to come to an understanding. As I have already said repeatedly, terrorism is not an Afghan phenomenon. The one that is in front of us is only the front. It’s a global phenomenon. We have misused factors which already existed in Afghan society and imposed terrorism on society. We have to resist and fight. As far as we’re talking about Afghan geography, we need to find and discuss an acceptable and suitable comprehensive solution, but it also needs a big comprehensive plan. It is not such a simple thing to talk and find a solution. One is the elimination of poverty in Afghanistan. Poverty is one of the issues which terrorism and the international crime gangs have exploited, forcing people to get involved. For example, if a member of a family dies because of poverty, a young member of the family will be prepared for suicide attacks, or getting paid to smuggle drugs, to save the lives of the rest of the family. I’ve said this during my visits to Europe, America, and here in Moscow. Elimination of poverty is one of the main factors which can address the root causes of narcotics and terrorism, which are interlinked. We cannot eliminate poverty simply via humanitarian assistance, by providing foodstuffs to the people. There is a lot to be done, especially in infrastructure projects. These plans are not an issue we can discuss in the restricted short time that we have during this interview.