KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai was in a candid mood ten years after the US launched ground and air strikes to oust the Taliban from his country. In his first interview with the foreign media for several months, Karzai admitted that his government and the US-led Nato mission have failed in Afghanistan to deliver the most basic duty of government: security for its citizens.
US President Barack Obama chose instead to honour those killed in the decade-long war, and saluted those who have served in the US military. He added that the US was “responsibly ending today’s wars from a position of strength”, though he warned that “enormous challenges” remained in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan and beyond, we have shown that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam and that we are a partner with those who seek justice, dignity and opportunity,” said Obama.
The president also claimed the US was “closer than ever to defeating Al-Qaeda and its murderous network” after the killing of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Karzai admits failure to give Afghans security
“We’ve done terribly badly in providing security to the Afghan people and this is the greatest shortcoming of our government and of our international partners,” President Karzai said in an audio clip of an interview released by the BBC.
“What we should do is provide a better, more predictable environment of security to the Afghan citizens, and that the international community and the Afghan government definitely have failed (to do),” he added.
The Afghan president, who took office shortly after the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime, said the Taliban insurgency could not be defeated unless its sanctuaries in neighbouring Pakistan were eliminated.
“That problem, the sanctuaries in Pakistan, will not go away unless the government of Pakistan cooperates with Afghanistan, unless the international community cooperates in a meaningful, effective way to have it removed,” he said.
Karzai also stated that the president and prime minister of Pakistan wanted good relations with Afghanistan, though he did urge further action from his country’s neighbour. “On the overall policy of Pakistan toward Afghanistan and towards the Taliban, definitely, the Taliban will not be able to move a finger without Pakistani support,” he said.
In Afghanistan, the anniversary passed without public commemoration by either the Afghan government or Nato. On the frontline it was business as usual for the 140,000 foreign troops stationed in the country.
Ten years on, some US officials see a political settlement with the Taliban, the very people they bombed out of power, as the answer to resolving one of its longest wars in history that today outstrips the 10-year Soviet misadventure in Afghanistan.
Pakistan warns US pressure will backfire
President Obama’s warning to Islamabad over suspected ties to militants will hurt efforts to stabilise Afghanistan and fuel anti-Americanism, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee chairman said on Friday.
“This is not helping either the US, Afghanistan or Pakistan,” Salim Saifullah told Reuters. “There will be pressure on the [Pakistan] government to get out of this war,” he said, referring to the US war on militancy.
Obama warned Pakistan on Thursday that its ties with “unsavory characters” had put relations with the United States at risk, as he ratcheted up pressure on Islamabad to cut links with militants mounting attacks in Afghanistan.
“This will create more tension and what the Americans want is not likely to happen in the near future,” said political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2011.