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Breakfast with Frost
Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan
"Afghanistan will not be an easy ride"
Interview with Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, on Sunday 8 June 2003.

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Now onto that rather sad country, Afghanistan. One of the world's poorest countries and 18 months after the brutal Taliban were expelled, still one of the most dangerous. Only yesterday four members of the international force which is trying to provide some stability were killed in a bomb attack in Kabul.

We discussed that with the man you are about to see and he says definitely Kabul, everyone who says Kabul are wrong. It was a sign of the huge problems Afghanistan still faces, well President Hamid Karzai was in London during the middle of this week putting the case, the urgent case for more international aid and support and I caught up with him at his hotel and I asked him first if he feared the world was walking away from his country.

HAMID KARZAI: I had a feeling like that before the war in Iraq - before the operations in Iraq. But today I met the Prime Minister here in London and my feeling is that - no, very fortunately, the world is not walking away from Afghanistan and not listening its attention to Afghanistan.

It will stay the course. We have rather asked the international community for more for the reconstruction of Afghanistan and there is a good chance that that help will be delivered.

DAVID FROST: You said in fact that in addition to the $5 billion that was originally granted after Bonn, that in fact you now need another $15 - 20 billion. I assume, although it was a very delightful lunch, that the Prime Minister didn't actually write out a cheque for $15 - 20 billion right there.

HAMID KARZAI: Well no, we didn't ask him to it right there. Afghanistan has difficulties in having a strong, fit reconstruction activity with the kind of help that's being given to us right now. But with the help that we will receive, which we've asked for - if we receive it - will be on a really strong proper course of reconstruction and we shall also enable the Afghan economy to produce on its own the kind of revenues that will make the country economically a very good viable state that will also be a very effective contribution to the fight against terrorism and the resurgence of it. So we may not stop but if that help doesn't come, Afghanistan will not be an easy ride.

DAVID FROST: And when you mention terrorism, someone said that the Taliban may have been routed but they haven't been beaten - or at least they didn't know they'd been beaten. Do you see a resurgence of the Taliban or al-Qaeda coming across that slightly porous border from Pakistan?

HAMID KARZAI: I don't see a resurgence of the Taliban, especially with the kind of reconstruction programme that we have in mind, there's no chance for them to come. But if Afghanistan does not recover from the economic difficulty that it has but if Afghanistan does not get the kind of reconstruction attention that we need, Afghanistan does not produce enough economic benefit to the Afghan people and the proper distribution of that benefit to the Afghan people, that kind of danger is always there.

As far as the defeat of the Taliban is concerned, they are defeated, they are gone - as a movement, as a government, as a structure, a political structure, a religious structure - they are not there. There are there as individuals in groups. As individuals in groups they have the capability to hit as terrorists, that too is being followed, is being seen to handle.

DAVID FROST: What does your intelligence Mr President tell you about Osama bin Laden? Has he gone, as you put it? Has he gone or is he nearby, do you know?

HAMID KARZAI: He's definitely not in Afghanistan. We do receive occasionally news that he comes across the border or in the border areas. For a while we thought that he was not there. We still don't have any evidence that he is alive. We don't have any evidence to the contrary of that as well. We don't know. But Osama, as an element of terrorism, as an organisation of terrorism, is defeated.

DAVID FROST: And what about security across all the regions Afghanistan? We were all very concerned when there was an assassination attempt on you in Khandahar. Can you, today, travel safely?


DAVID FROST: Anywhere, anywhere in Afghanistan?

HAMID KARZAI: Yes. There is a perception - I don't why that perception is there, especially in the media - that the security situation in Afghanistan is not good. Now let me put it another way. If you ask me, if I was satisfied with the security situation in Afghanistan, I would say yes. But if you ask whether we needed to do more, I would say also yes.

DAVID FROST: You are currently working on a new constitution that is hoped will pave the way for elections next summer. Is that on schedule, Mr President and will you be standing in those elections?

HAMID KARZAI: The process of constitution-making is on schedule fortunately - we're very happy about that. Since the beginning of Bonn, Afghanistan has been keeping the dates that we had in mind for the political process. And we are trying to reach the deadline which we've set up for June of 2004 for elections.

Whether I will stand for elections myself or not - let me say it this way - we have set for ourselves - that's this government - from the time the loya jirga appointed me - a target, the target is to make Afghanistan a better place for Afghans to live. I have made some promises to the Afghan people and I want to deliver on those promises. If I'm successful to deliver the Afghan people the goods that I have promised, I will stand for elections. If I am not - should I? I don't think so.

DAVID FROST: You said on one occasion because things hadn't gone right every day the people of Afghanistan lose hope and trust in the government if they don't get certain things. You've got to deliver certain things in order to have an optimistic sense?

HAMID KARZAI: The people expect us to do more for them. So by the end of this year, if I have delivered the Afghan people a new currency, if I have [given] a better economy, if I have delivered the Afghan people a better reconstruction of highways and dams, if I have given them a fair political process - and at the end of the year ask me Karzai are you satisfied - I would say no, I am not satisfied, I wanted to do more for the Afghan people. That's how I look at it.

DAVID FROST: Well we wish you well. Thank you very much indeed.

HAMID KARZAI: Thank you very much.


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