Confident Karzai Looks Forward To Five More Years As Afghan Leader
KABUL -- In an interview with RFE/RL, Afghan
Hamid Karzai defended his record over the past eight years,
including his alliances with regional warlords, and said he is confident of
reelection to another five-year term on August 20.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai (right) speaks with Akbar Ayazi, director of RFE/RL's
Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul.
Despite being criticized as isolated from his
constituents, Karzai nevertheless exuded confidence and appeared to possess a
keen grasp of the issues facing his country during the August 15 interview.
Turning to foreign relations, Karzai mentioned the
difficulties he has had in trying to convince Iran's leadership not to look at
the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan as a threat, while at the same time
trying to convince Washington that Kabul needs a stable, friendly relationship
He was quick to note a recent poll in which 62 percent of Afghans said they
believe the country is moving in the right direction. Forty-four percent of
respondents said they intend to vote for Karzai.
The incumbent faces competition from a few dozen challengers, most notably
former Foreign Minister
Abdullah Abdullah, former Planning Minister
Ramzan Bashardost, and former Finance Minister
"Today, our savings in currency and gold is $3.7 billion, up from $180 million
[seven years ago]," Karzai said. "Afghanistan's trade, Afghanistan's production,
and Afghanistan's internal revenues have all increased three or four times. Not
even one kilometer of road was paved in the whole country. Today, we have 5,500
kilometers of paved roads.
"Yet again, Afghanistan is the proud owner of its identity and its flag is
flying across the world. And this battered land has once again turned into a
home for all Afghans," he said.
When questioned about his
alliances with warlords, Karzai said he has only acted in
the national interest, and that for Afghanistan's sake he will make such
compromises "a thousand times over."
"This is a great success. I will continue this process of participation so that
all Afghans have a stake in the Afghan government, so that every Afghan feels
that, 'I belong to this land and I am its owner and there is a place for me in
its government and its society'," Karzai said.
"This is not about power sharing among political parties. This is to promote
participation and national reconciliation, so that people from all ethnicities
and tribes can come here and work [together] and move their lives forward," he
Addressing his frequent criticisms of the way in which foreign forces are
conducting war on his country's soil, Karzai says most of his disagreements with
allies pertain to civilian casualties.
Karzai suggested that following years of disagreements and mostly
behind-the-scenes struggles, relations with the West are now on the mend.
"As a result of the agreements reached last fall on civilian casualties and on
house searches, the situation has improved. But we would like it to improve
further," Karzai said. "We are unwilling to accept civilian casualties.
"I repeat that the war on terrorism is not inside Afghanistan, as was the case
in the past. This war is not in our homes, in our villages, or [winnable by]
arresting our people. This war should be pursued inside terrorist sanctuaries
and training centers, and they are all outside Afghanistan, as is being proven
Karzai rejected the possibility of a postelection crisis as has been seen in
Iran. He urged all Afghans, including members of the Taliban, to cast ballots
and to work toward a peaceful, stable Afghanistan.
"Our children who are 5 years old now will be 25 years old in 20 years, and they
will have a more peaceful Afghanistan than today. It will be more developed,
prosperous, and progressive as compared to today," Karzai said. "It will be an
Afghanistan where nobody will have to travel abroad to seek treatment; an
Afghanistan in which people won't need to travel abroad to earn a livelihood,
and which will be self-sufficient."
Written by RFE/RL correspondent Abubakar Siddique
Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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