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EDITIONS
Friday, 10 May, 2002, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Hamid Karzai: Talking Point Special

  Click here to watch the special edition of Talking Point from Kabul.  


  Click here to watch the special edition of Talking Point from Kabul (broadcast quality).  


Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, was our guest in a special edition of Talking Point - the BBC's interactive phone-in programme-presented by the BBC's Lyse Doucet from Kabul.

Mr Karzai was selected to head the interim cabinet at a UN-sponsored meeting last December.

He is a powerful Pashtun tribal leader from the Taleban's political stronghold of Kandahar and a member of the same clan as the former Afghan king, Zahir Shah.

When the Taleban took power in the early 1990s, Mr Karzai initially supported them.

However, by late 1994 he had become suspicious of the movement, fearing it had been infiltrated and was controlled by foreigners, including Pakistanis and Arabs.

The assassination of his father, a former politician, in Peshawar two years ago hardened his stance against the Taleban, who were widely believed to have carried out the murder.

In the past week he accompanied former King Shah back to Afghanistan after almost 30 years in exile in Italy.


The topics discussed in this forum were:

  • Security
  • Tourism
  • Prosperity
  • Outside help
  • Refugees
  • Exiles
  • Women
  • Current situation
  • Tribes/warlords
  • Foreign troops/casualties
  • Taleban/al-Qaeda
  • Drugs
  • Religious tolerance
  • Personal



    Lyse Doucet:

    Hello and welcome to Talking Point from Kabul. I'm Lyse Doucet and I'm in the Gul Khana, the flower palace which sits in a complex of palaces in the heart of the city. It used to be the home of Afghan kings but now it's the seat of power for Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai. He came to power at the end of last year after the collapse of the Taleban.

    Thousands of Afghans have returned to their country since the interim government was established. But this is a country still full of guns and rival commanders prepared to use them. It's a nation in desperate need of international assistance to rebuild and the political stability to make it happen.

    All eyes here are on the Loya Jerga, the grand national assembly that takes place in early June when Afghans will choose their new leaders - will they do it peacefully this time?

    But there is still a war continuing in Afghan - the unfinished international campaign against the remnants of the Taleban and the al-Qaeda network. Who is winning this war?

    Is Hamid Karzai still confident that Afghanistan will achieve the stability and prosperity that it's lacked for so very long. He's here to answer this and many other questions.

    Security

    Hamid Karzai welcome to Talking Point here in Kabul. We've received thousands of e-mails and telephone calls from around the world. People wishing to ask you questions. But if I can ask you the first question - you've been in power now for about four months. When you first came here to Kabul you talked of security being the main priority. Do you think Afghanistan has achieved much since then?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Afghanistan has achieved security since then. As you mentioned, thousands - more than 200,000 refugees have returned to Afghanistan from where they were staying in Pakistan and Iran and also Afghans who lived in Europe and America have returned to Afghanistan. But security is not complete. The desire and the objective is to have full security for the Afghan people. The desire is to give the Afghan people their right to have security from the use of guns and warlords. For example yesterday, in Gardiz we had one of the warlords send rockets to the middle of the city and kill and wound children and women - that has to stop. Today I am very, very angry at that. I want to have that banned - I want to have that stopped.


    Lyse Doucet:

    How do you stop it?


    Hamid Karzai:

    I asked the Minister of Defence and Interior, then I called people around and told them I am not going to accept this any more.

    Return to the top of the page


    Tourism


    Lyse Doucet:

    You're the man in charge - people want to ask you questions. We have a caller who is on the line from Mauritius. Irshad Muttur, what is you question for Hamid Karzai?


    Irshad Muttar:

    Mr Karzai, we all know that Afghanistan is not really secure and it's not a very good place to live, even for Afghanis. But in the medium and long-term, I think tourism has a lot of potential for your country. Is tourism part of your vision in the construction of Afghanistan and to what extent does it form part of your socio-economic reconstruction plans?


    Hamid Karzai:

    That's a very, very good question. Afghanistan had a lot tourism 20 years ago or so before the Soviet invasion of Afghan. As I teenager I remember lots of tourists coming to Afghanistan, especially from Europe and America. It's a very, very beautiful country - it's a country with variations of all kinds. It's a country that has mountains, snow, deserts, forests, lakes and wonderful rivers. It's a country that's full of tremendous treasure of various stages of history. Yes, tourism is part of our plan and we are very much working on that. But it will take time and more stability and the means to provide facilities for tourism to take place.


    Lyse Doucet:

    Irshad Muttar, does that convince you that this is a country to visit?


    Irshad Muttar:

    Mr Karzai, in how many years do you foresee a return back to the tourism potential Afghanistan had maybe 20 years ago?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Well probably it will take a year or two - we have to build the hotels . We are working on rebuilding the hotels - there is plenty to see around here but we have to have the services that have been destroyed. We are working on restoring the services. As a matter of fact we are working on the reconstruction co-ordination body on the question of hotels, tourism and industry to Afghanistan.

    Return to the top of the page


    Prosperity


    Lyse Doucet:

    Feroz Khan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates asks: What will you do now to achieve prosperity in the country?

    Victor, Amsterdam, The Netherlands asks: Aid is only a short-term measure. What steps will be taken to convince governments and businesses to invest in Afghanistan, in order to gain some measure of economic independence?


    Hamid Karzai:

    We have already had of businesses from Afghans and the international community to take interest and show interest in coming to Afghanistan. We have worked a policy statement to regulate investment to Afghanistan - both Afghan and international. Afghanistan has always been a free trade country - that's the best means for Afghanistan's income and generation of income. So we are very, very keen for the need for private investment and of Afghanistan's own business activities so that it can stand on its own feet - it's a vital, vital sector of our economic reconstruction activity.


    Lyse Doucet:

    One Afghan asked me earlier today in Kabul whether you were convinced that all the promises you got around the world would actually be met because Afghans are asking where is the money that was promised?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Well the money is very slow - part of the money is coming. Yesterday I had a meeting with the principals of girls' schools - of women's schools - some of them told me that work was going on - so some money is coming through, especially for education and health and reconstruction of electricity projects. But the flow of resources to Afghanistan as pledged by the international community is not as quick or fast as we demand - as we desire. They have their own compulsions and administrative problems - we are respectful of that. Let's hope we can have a middle ground where money will move a bit faster and we will be less expectant.

    Return to the top of the page


    Outside help


    Lyse Doucet:

    Ruth Sherman, Dallas, USA asks: Do you believe the US Government and others governments genuinely want to help the people of Afghanistan?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Yes, yes they do.


    Lyse Doucet:

    They've let you down before but this time they'll keep their promises?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Yes, I trust them - I trust them. They've already helped us a lot. We have opened so many things in four months - we have several missions in Kabul from countries, the UN is fully here, the businesses and the World Bank.

    Return to the top of the page


    Refugees


    Lyse Doucet:

    We are going to take a caller from Pakistan - Nasser Khan - what is your question to Hamid Zarzai?


    Nasser Khan:

    May I ask you how do you wish to deal with Afghan refugees? Are you going to wait for the reconstruction to take place and then invite these people back to your country or are you going to make them participate in the reconstruction? Because back here in Pakistan we quite fed-up - they have been a strain on our environment, on our economy and the labour market - there's a glut. So there are so many problems that we are facing because of these refugees.


    Hamid Karzai:

    I must first of all express my thanks to the people of Pakistan and also in the same manner to the people or Iran for having looked after our refugees for so many years and looked after them very, very nicely - especially in Pakistan - the Afghan refugees were looked after very, very nicely. The return of Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan is a natural thing.

    If you were following the beginning of this programme you heard Lyse Doucet and you also heard my confirmation that over 250,000 Afghans have already returned voluntarily from their place of stay in Pakistan and Iran. So the refugees are returning in large numbers to the country. I assure you that the Afghans will come back to their country within a reasonable period of time. In Afghanistan there is activity for them - they will be part of the Afghanistan reconstruction. They are Afghans - they left this country in order to protect this country so they are probably a very dignified part of Afghanistan and their return is welcome.

    I am sorry to hear that they are a burden on Pakistan's economy. We do not wish Pakistan to have trouble because of Afghan refugees - we wish the people of Pakistan very well and we also reassure them that the Afghan refugees will come back to Afghanistan.

    Return to the top of the page


    Exiles


    Lyse Doucet:

    This, Hamid Karzai, is an issue that has been raised by many, many of the people who sent us in emails and telephone calls from around the world - especially Afghans who want to know whether there's a programme - if it's safe for them to come back to their country and whether they'll be welcomed.

    We had an email from Wajma Popal, San Diego, USA: My family and I have been out of Afghanistan for more than 20 years and I am interested in going back soon. How safe is it for me as an American Afghan female? What can I do to help once I am there?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Well, Afghanistan is her home - she can come here any time she wants like all other Afghans. There's plenty for all Afghans to do here to rebuild the country, to reconstruct the country. Those Afghans living in countries in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan or in Europe and America, we have already announced that they can benefit from dual citizenship if they have by now taken passports and citizenship of those countries. They're welcome in Afghanistan with their new passports and they'll also benefit from the citizenship of Afghanistan. Afghanistan will be happy, glad and honoured to have them back in this country to help.


    Lyse Doucet:

    An email from Ahmad Hakimi, United States: What would be the role of academic Afghans who live abroad?

    I ask that because when I went to Kabul University, one of the university professors said to me - why do we need Afghans to come back, we already have enough educated Afghans here? Do you feel that when people - like those who've been sending us messages - come home, there is resentment here?


    Hamid Karzai:

    No, there's no resentment at all - they're welcome in Afghanistan. There is tremendous demand for them to come and work in this country. We are very short of manpower - we are very short of technical manpower. We want the children of Afghans and Afghans to come back and rebuild this country in education, health, economic sales and in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. It is a vital segment of Afghanistan, those living outside of Afghanistan and their return is of immense importance to us. When they would like to come back, it is up to them - but they are welcome here.


    Lyse Doucet:

    A call now from Shahram Dindar, Kiev, Ukraine: Shahram what is your question for Hamid Karzai?


    Shahram Dinar:

    I am a civil engineer - a PhD and I'm interested to help in reconstructing and rebuilding Afghanistan. I'm an Iranian and I've always been interested in Afghanistan's problems and I want to know how can I have this opportunity to take part in this process?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Well Sir you are most welcome from our neighbouring country - a country with which we have thousands of years of sharing cultural and a linguistic heritage. You're welcome to come to Afghanistan - you can get in touch with the Minister of Reconstruction, you can get in touch with the Minister of Planning and lots of other ministries and you're return to Afghan is very good for us - so please do come. If we do not have an embassy in the country where you're staying, you can get in touch with our embassy in Moscow or Uzbekistan or Tajikistan or wherever you like.


    Shahram Dinar:

    Thanks a lot. So I can refer Moscow or Uzbekistan?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Wherever you like to go. Where are you staying right now?


    Shahram Dinar:

    In the Ukraine.


    Hamid Karzai:

    Of course you can travel around - you can travel west towards Europe or east towards Russia and get your visa.

    Return to the top of the page


    Women


    Lyse Doucet:

    We're going to have a question from Belquis Habib who is on the line from Washington DC - welcome to Talking Point. What's your question for Hamid Karzai?


    Belquis Habib:

    Mr Karzai, I'm very happy I have this privilege to ask you this question directly. As an Afghan American woman I am very concerned about the future and the attitude towards Afghan women in Afghanistan. As an Afghan woman I have a great passion about my motherland and my dream and goal has been always to bring changes for the better.


    Lyse Doucet:

    We seem to have lost the line from Belquis Habib. She was reflecting the view portrayed by a lot of Afghan woman about whether the time is right for them to come back. I hope we can get Belquis back on the line but what are your thoughts?


    Hamid Karzai:

    I think she should be sure about the future of Afghan woman - our children - girls and boys are already going to school. There were women participating in the Loya Jerga council and there are women coming back to do private enterprise. Even in the province of Helmand in that part of Afghanistan a few days ago there was quite a big gathering of women who were taking interest in the Loya Jerga of Afghanistan and the reconstruction of Afghanistan. So with regard to the future of women in Afghanistan, the questioner can be quite confident and she can also come here and see it for herself.


    Lyse Doucet:

    An email from Eamon Scrabley, London, UK who asks: Is there going to be a greater role for Afghan women in politics?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Yes, of course. There will be women in the Loya Jerga in Afghanistan.


    Lyse Doucet:

    What about the role of Afghan women in the government? You have a number of very high profile ministers - when talking to them, did you feel Afghanistan really was saying it's important to have them in?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Well they were always there - 20 years ago they were in the Afghan parliament - 25 - 30 years ago they were in the government and now we have some very active ministers. Our Minister for Health, Dr Sohila Sediq, was up there in earthquake stricken area for over two weeks. She's one of our most active ministers - so they have a real role.


    Lyse Doucet:

    What about the younger women - the new generation? Misha Taylor sent us an email from Bristol in the United Kingdom asking: Can you promise that you will provide for the universal rights of women and especially young girls for a proper education in Afghanistan because it was well known around the world that it was largely denied during the Taleban rule?


    Hamid Karzai:

    It will not be denied any more. There will be education for them - they are half of our society. If we want to grow and if we want to have a society that's wealthy, that's good - it has to work and women are an important part of the working people of Afghanistan. They will definitely have work - they must get education, they must be educated - this must be allowed and they are.


    Lyse Doucet:

    I will ask you a question now that has been asked by many people around the world. When they saw the interim government come into power and the flight of the Taleban, they said why aren't the Afghan women taking off the burkah - the all encompassing covering? How can you explain that to people - the part it plays in Afghan society?


    Hamid Karzai:

    It's up to them. If women want to retain their burkahs and wear them - it's up to them. It's been in Afghanistan for years - for centuries - it's part of our life as well. But those Afghan women, the educated ones that live in the city and they want to have their burkah removed and have another form of hijab - they're most welcome. But in the countryside, if you visit the countryside, our women don't wear burkahs - they have their big Afghan chadari or paronai - it's a big cloak that they wear round them - this is very nice.

    Return to the top of the page


    Current situation


    Lyse Doucet:

    Let's now talk about what's been happening in Afghanistan - there was a big military parade today to celebrate the victory of the mujahideen forces in 1992 over the Communist government here in Kabul. You came to Afghanistan then as part of the mujahideen forces. Just before I walked into the presidential palace in Kabul, one Afghan stopped me and said could you please ask Hamid Karzai what he thinks about this celebration - whether there is much to celebrate?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Well there is much to celebrate, yes because we defeated an invader. The invader was the former Soviet Union. The Afghan people waged a war against that - a war of liberation, a war of independence. We gave one-and-a-half million martyrs for that - we lost one-and-a-half million people and got wounded. So that is something to celebrate.

    Now we must differentiate between the heroic struggle of the Afghan people against the former Soviet Union and what happened afterwards in the form of interference that occurred - the internal fighting, the Taleban and terrorism - the suffering of the Afghan people was there - but jihad or the war against the Soviets is something and the strife often raises another question. We were celebrating the victory against the former Soviet Union and for our liberation and that's welcomed.

    Return to the top of the page


    Tribes/warlords


    Lyse Doucet:

    And what do you say to Afghans who say that also they are worried now that that same kind of fighting will still continue? We have received an email from Hafez Mayar, Melbourne, Australia who says: You have said war-lordism is finished in Afghanistan, but aren't the new army and police forces being recruited from different warlord groups? Why can't you recruit young men with no such connections?


    Hamid Karzai:

    That's a good question. I never said that war-lordism is finished in Afghanistan - I said I will finish it in Afghanistan. So we are working to get rid of these people who have guns illegally and cause trouble to the Afghan people. For his information I must say that just a few days ago we had a major with meeting with the Minister of Defence and other members of the Afghan cabinet and then some governors from across the country in which we discussed the formation of the new Afghan army and we discussed the question of volunteers as well. So he is right, we are looking at the recruitment for the Afghan army through voluntary recruitment.


    Lyse Doucet:

    Edward Palmer is calling us from California, USA and I think he wants to talk to you about this very issue. Edward Palmer what would you like say to Hamid Karzai today?


    Edward Palmer:

    Good morning, Mr Karzai. I am a member of a native American tribe here in the United States. Native tribes in the United States have relied upon self-determination, their tribal sovereignty and self-government to maintain their stability and ensure the survival of the tribe. Unfortunately this right of self-governance and self-determination often leads to an isolated stance taken by the tribe - basically what's best for the tribe is what's best the tribe without regard really to the issues of other tribes. My question is how do you plan to unite your tribal groups and clans on the national level or will the conflicts between the tribes affect Afghanistan and possibly lead to another Taleban-like group emerging?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Afghanistan's history is slightly different than the natives tribes of America were and what they experienced. Afghanistan has been a country where the tribes played a very significant role in the prediction of the nation unit of Afghanistan and the independence of Afghanistan and in the promotion of the Afghan nation state as it stands now.

    For us at times the tribes are part of the strength of Afghanistan. Afghanistan was never threatened by any ethnic group of Afghans or by any tribes in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was threatened by political groups or rivalries from countries or interference from outside. It was actually these people - the various ethnic groups of Afghanistan and the Afghanistan nation as a whole that protected Afghanistan.

    Right now the strongest element in Afghanistan in favour of peace, security and stability and the continuation of the Afghan state is the people of Afghanistan who are from various ethnic groups. So that is the strength in our case and not a weakness - that actually is the foundation of legitimacy for us here.


    Edward Palmer:

    Thank you. I'd like to apologise then because we're not getting a very clear picture through our media of the conflicts in Afghanistan. Our media displays it as a split between the tribes.


    Hamid Karzai:

    I think you're right, I think the media simplifies things in Afghanistan and they say ethnic groups are tribes as elements causing trouble while it's the other around. The trouble was always caused by political parties that were formed during our years of struggle or by interference from outside. It was the common man who was a tribal entity, who was an ethnic entity and in the end an Afghan entity that actually protected and helped Afghanistan. Otherwise this country would have been in serious trouble a long time back. The reason we are still here is because there is a nation here.


    Edward Palmer:

    Thank you for your time and I appreciate the chance to talk to talk to you.


    Lyse Doucet:

    A man named Abdul here in Kabul - he is not on the internet and is not on the telephone - he has a message for you and it's on this very issue that we've been discussing. He says, Mr Karzai, who do you think is responsible for the hatred and divisions that still exist among the poor people of Afghanistan.


    Hamid Karzai:

    Among the poor people - what is that?


    Lyse Doucet:

    Meaning to say - who's causing, what he sees still as hatred and divisions among the people of Afghanistan? Poor because they've suffered so long as you well know.


    Hamid Karzai:

    I don't think there is hatred and division among the people of Afghanistan. I have been to various parts of the country - I was in the central Afghanistan when I was organising to do something against the Taleban. The first helper that I received was somebody from the Hazaras - that's not from my ethnic group. He came to help me and I've had the most extraordinary welcome in all other parts of Afghanistan.

    The most remarks about the unity of Afghanistan from all the Afghan people - when you go Bamiyan, you find the people in Bamiyan more patriotic than the people in Mazar-e-Sharif. If you go to Mazar-e-Sharif, you find them more than Khandahar - if you go to Khandahar you find them more patriotic than Kabul and so on. So the common Afghan man has an Afghan element - they dress the same all over, they have the same turbans, they have the same clothes, they have the same way of life. It's the problem of interference - it's radicalism that's made our people suffer. It was not the decision of the Afghan people to fight - it was only a tiny percentage of the Afghan population that was holding guns and that were causing trouble to the Afghan people.


    Lyse Doucet:

    Abdul's other question was - he noted how many photographs there are around Kabul of Ahmed Shah Masood, the famed mujahideen commander who comes from Pansheer, a Tajik. Many people here ask why there's still these divisions betweens Tajiks and Pashtoons and why there's this show of strength by the Tajiks manifested in these photographs of Ahmed Shah Masood. Abdul wanted to know when would the photographs be taken down?


    Hamid Karzai:

    These photographs are not a question of Tajik and Pashtoon. Ahmed Shah Masood was the prominent commander and a man that stood up against the Taleban. He was martyred by some foreign suicide bombers or whatever you call those people - just before September 11th. His people - they love him and the mujahideen that fought alongside him - they love him and they display his photographs. A lot of people like those things and if somebody doesn't like that - it's a choice.


    Lyse Doucet:

    And you as chairman - it doesn't undermine your authority?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Not at all - why does it? It's rather good - I like that man. We must celebrate our heroes from all of Afghanistan. When I went to Bamiyan - Mr Khalile, the leader of Hazbi Wabat made some a minaret for the martyrs of Afghanistan. On the one side of the tower they had the portrait of Ahmed Shah Masood and on the other side they had the photograph of Commander Abdul Haq and the other side they had the photograph of Musavie. It was a display of national unity of the model of all the people. Photographs don't indicate anything other than the love of some people. If Mr Abdul likes to display somebody's photograph, he's free to do that.

    Return to the top of the page


    Foreign troops/casualties


    Lyse Doucet:

    Peter Bolton, also sends us a message from the United Kingdom asking about this issue about overcoming factionalism in your country.

    Sean Bowen, also sent an e-mail from the United Kingdom talking about the requirements for peace and security in Afghanistan .

    Of course winning peace and security is partly now the task of the international forces that are now in Afghanistan and we are going to take some callers on that. We have a call from the United States - from Austin Texas. Jackson Dodd is on the line. Jackson what would you like to ask of Hamid Zarzai?


    Jackson Dodd:

    Are you frustrated by the seeming lack of concern the American authorities have for the claims of Afghan citizens allegedly made homeless by US military action? Do you foresee this creating tensions between your government and the United States?


    Hamid Karzai:

    Oh no - no tensions of this nature at all. Those Afghans that were accidentally bombed - there is an American charity or something that's looking after that question. They were here in Kabul sometime back. They met with the US Embassy - they met with some Afghans. It is not an issue - if those Afghan families are helped by the US Government or some private US entities it will be a very nice gesture.


    Jackson Dodd:

    The impression we are getting here is that even though the United States is trying to do the right thing, the families that are at the US embassy aren't being heard - that they're basically being shut out by the US Government.


    Hamid Karzai:

    That's not true. There's an inter-action between them. Just a few days ago, I met some ladies who came from the United States for this reason and they informed us what they were doing and they were in contact with the US Embassy as well as those Afghans that have lost their homes as a result and those ladies were Americans.


    Jackson Dodd:

    Thank you very much - it's possible we're not getting the full picture here then.


    Hamid Karzai:

    Well the newspapers report only a tiny portion of things and not the whole picture. So that's probably the reason.


    Lyse Doucet:

    Let me put to you a question that's come to us from Malaysia - Arbibi Ashoy has asked you: why do you allow foreign troops to continue to be deployed in Afghanistan? Some bombs in the past have hit civilians and they may well do in the future.


    Hamid Karzai:

    Afghanistan is a country that is extremely aware of its independence. I think no people in the world, with all due respect, have given so much sacrifice for the independence of their country as the Afghans have done - over centuries. We were taken victim by terrorism and interference and radicalism mainly brought into Afghanistan from outside after the Soviet Union left and the Afghan people suffered massively as a consequence of that.

    We lost thousands of homes, orchards, vineyards, cities, lives - the destruction of Afghanistan as a consequence of that. We needed outside help to free our country from that scourge, from that menace. We could not do that on our own - we kept going to the international community to seek their help. The international community came and helped us. You'll be surprised that these people who are so heroically independently minded - the Afghans - they keep coming to me whenever they come and see me, which is very, very often. Almost every group that comes to see me - not all the groups - almost every group that comes to see me asks for the deployment of more international troops in Afghanistan because the Afghan people want to be saved from the use of guns or violence that was perpetrated upon them by these terrorist elements. They want to have the guarantees that the international community will not allow Afghanistan to go again through that kind of chaos and until we can stand on our feet.

    We are beginning to form our own national army. We are beginning to reorganise our national army with the help of the United States and Europe countries - France and others and the UK. Germany is going to see to our police forces. Once you have done that - once you are able to again as a nation state defend our borders, to protect ourselves against terrorism and chaos, definitely then they'll be no need for the international security forces or the American forces to stay here. At that point, these forces will leave our country on their own. There is a co-operative understanding between us and we are glad these forces are here to help our people.


    Lyse Doucet:

    Hamid Karzai, we've seen you going around the world to western capitals, pleading with western governments to expand the international security forces - they haven't said yes to you. How frustrating is that for you?


    Hamid Karzai:

    They haven't said yes because they say they already have enough forces here committed to Afghanistan and they want to help Afghanistan stand on its feet as far as security forces are concerned so that they can go back to their country as soon as possible. Now we have begun - with the help of the United States and Europe to train - or in other words, retrain, the national Afghan army. Have proper recruitment, have it country-wide, have it in a politically correct way and transparent way so the whole Afghan nation trusts this Afghan army and it's trained well and then they will go back. The question is that the international community does not seem to have resources or personnel to commit in a massive way to Afghanistan. What I have been telling the community of nations - the world community - is simply here is the petition of the demands of the Afghan people. As a representative of these people, I have to tell the world what the Afghan people are saying.

    Lyse Doucet:
    What are the consequences of that refusal? What do you fear for your country without peacekeepers across Afghanistan?

    Hamid Karzai:
    So far things are fine. There are just one or two places where these incidents occur where war-lordism is hurting our people - killing our people - there are one or two incidences around. But generally the country is quiet.

    Lyse Doucet:
    But since you've asked so much for these forces, you must believe they're absolutely essential. So what are your fears?

    Hamid Karzai:
    No fears. I am simply repeating the demand of our people. I am simply telling the world what my people come and ask me in this other room. They come and ask me, Kazai, we need more international security forces, we need more Americans, we need more this or that. And I tell them, alright I will ask those countries to come and help us more. They say ok, thanks. So I have to repeat that demand and tell the world what our people are asking for.

    Return to the top of the page


    Taleban/al-Qaeda

    Lyse Doucet:
    Hamid Karzai, of course the war that the international forces are still involved in - not simply to maintain security but they're still hunting down remnants of the Taleban and al-Qaeda network. We're going to take another caller now on the line from Oslo in Norway. Aneisdeen Raufeen is on the line. Welcome to Talking Point. What's your question for Hamid Karzai.

    Aneisdeem Raufdeen:
    Hello Mr Karzai. When the Taleban took power in the early 90s it seems that you supported them, what made you to change your politics towards them and who controls them now and what might be their future role?

    Hamid Karzai:
    When the Taleban took power in 1994 - yes I supported them, rather I supported them from the very beginning. I knew them from the years of jihad against the former Soviet Union, they were good people as they were. But within five or six months of their coming to the scene of Afghanistan we noticed that they were more and more getting alien to the values and reality of Afghanistan, they were getting alien to what we perceived they would do for Afghanistan - for the unity of the country, for the progress of the country, for peace in Afghanistan and for bringing dignity and respect to Afghanistan.

    Contrary to our expectations, contrary to what we had thought of them they began to work the exact reverse of the unity of the country, of the independence of the country, of the economic points of the country, rather they became a killing machine in Afghanistan, they began to wage war against all Afghans and they began to bring in massive interference from outside into Afghanistan and they began to associate closely with terrorism in Afghanistan. And they became the cause of misery and disaster in Afghanistan. So I turned against them and began the struggle against them.

    Aneisdeem Raufdeen:
    Who controls them now and what might be their future role?

    Hamid Karzai:
    Well I don't know who controls them now. The Taleban are no longer there, they have gone away as a government, as a military machine, as a movement, they're no longer there. As individual Afghans they are part of the Afghan society, we have nothing against them. The problem will be - the pursuit will be only of those Taleban who are clearly bound to the criminal and associating with terrorism. The common Taleban are common Afghans, they will live with respect in their societies, there's nothing with them.

    Aneisdeem Raufdeen:
    Thank you very much for your time on this.

    Hamid Karzai:
    Thank you sir.

    Lyse Doucet:
    Hamid Karzai the kind of issues you were just discussing have been raised by many people. Rob Bridgett sent us an e-mail from the United Kingdom and asked: "What do you propose to do to track down the remnants of the Taleban and bring to justice those who have slipped across the border?" The same question has been asked by Michael Madeley, also in the United Kingdom, who says: "Do you believe the Taleban are now a spent force?" You said they were finished as a government, do you think they could still one day reappear - that is the fear of Michael Madeley, he told us in an e-mail?

    Hamid Karzai:
    Well the Taleban will be pursued. The Taleban, the terrorists, who have hurt Afghanistan there will be no let down in our operation against terrorism or al-Qaeda. It will go with the strength that began the first day. So unless and until we have completely made sure that they are no longer to threaten anybody this struggle against them will continue. When the president of Pakistan, President Musharraf, visited us here in Kabul I spoke with him the question of cross-border terrorist activity and we agreed with each other that we would not allow sanctuary to any such enemies - either this side of the border or on that side of the border.

    So there is a joint cooperation going on with Pakistan in the pursuit of terrorism in trying to find them and eliminate them wherever they are. The struggle against terrorism will go on, even if the rest of the world walks away. Even if the United States stops fighting terrorism we will not because they have made us suffer so immensely and no Afghan wants to go back to the days of the killing fields in Afghanistan. And those killing fields were caused by terrorism and by the Taleban's association with them.

    Lyse Doucet:
    But do you fear it gets in the way of your other priorities - there's much talk now of a spring offensive by the remnants of Taleban and al-Qaeda, Donald Rumsfeld said this war will continue for as long as it takes - surely it's destabilising for your country?

    Hamid Karzai:
    It is not, it is not. The other way round would be destabilising. If we stopped fighting terrorism we will be destabilising the country again. We must continue to fight them and fight them relentlessly to finish them in Afghanistan so as our people can rest peacefully, can sleep peacefully, can work peacefully. We must bring peace and stability and work to this country and we cannot do that unless we have made sure that these elements, these terrorists, are finished or removed completely. It is for the sake of Afghanistan this thing will go on. Also it is for the sake of the world.

    Lyse Doucet:
    Indeed and the world and many of our callers and people who've sent e-mails asked: Do you know where Osama bin Laden is? When was the last time you had credible intelligence about his movements?

    Hamid Karzai:
    Well if I knew where he was I would arrest him.

    Lyse Doucet:
    When was the last time you had credible information about his whereabouts?

    Hamid Karzai:
    Well I have never had really any credible information about his whereabouts. At any point of time when we get credible information he will be taken and arrested. He's caused so much suffering.

    Lyse Doucet:
    And do you worry about a spring offensive - you know how Afghan fighters move ahead in the spring?

    Hamid Karzai:
    They will probably try to reorganise as individuals or groups - terrorism is terrorism, it can appear in any form. We will continue to chase them and fight them. But they will not be there in massive ways or in big numbers, they will be here in groups and we will continue to chase them and fight them.

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    Drugs

    Lyse Doucet:
    And when you've addressed the world community you talk not just about terrorism but also the war against drugs and there are many people who asked us about what Afghanistan is doing to stop the production of opium poppies. We have a caller now from the United Kingdom, Brad Thomas is on the line, Brad Thomas your question for Hamid Karzai.

    Brad Thomas:
    Hello Mr Karzai. My question is: how will you help to reduce the export of heroin from your country and do you believe you'd have a greater chance of success if Western nations took more action to reduce the demand for hard drugs first?

    Hamid Karzai:
    Well sir we have already begun, some three weeks ago, a very strong campaign against the cultivation of poppies in Afghanistan and that campaign has fortunately been very successful. I found the Afghan people very, very cooperative in this campaign with us. The international community is helping, Britain especially is helping a lot with the campaign against narcotics and we are paying the farmers some amount of money in return for the destruction of the poppy fields. It's going on well and we will continue to fight this scourge, this menace - it's a horrible thing, it hurts society and it hurts families, it's anti-Islamic, anti-social, anti-everything that mankind stands for as a moral being. So we will continue to destroy and try to stop the cultivation and the production of heroin.

    Lyse Doucet:
    Brad Thomas just stay on the line because the kind of question you ask is also being asked in e-mails. We had one from Inken who's in Minneapolis in the United States and Hamid Karzai this caller wants to know specifically how you plan to turn Afghanistan away from opium. What, he asks, cash crops you hope to plant instead?

    Humair Junejo in Karachi in Pakistan, as you know a place which is also awash with drugs, is asking what specific measures are you considering to curb the smuggling of deadly drugs? You've expressed your determination but what measures?

    Hamid Karzai:
    Well I did speak about the measures as well. We are actually going in practical terms destroying poppy fields right now but we are talking maybe in some part of Afghanistan, in Ningrahar in Helmand or in Orzgan compared against the destruction of poppy fields that is going on. A few days ago 2,000 kilograms of poppies were confiscated, the finished product was confiscated and they are still there - we have sent some of them to laboratories in the UK to find out what kind of thing it is.

    We will destroy the poppy fields, we will work against drug dealers, drug smugglers, the manufacture and the spreading of it but we will also begin to work with Afghan farmers on crop substitution, on help with the reconstruction of their areas, on help with the promotion of better agriculture in their areas and help with the labour and all that. So we will have formidable substitute work in those areas to help the farmers have another form of cultivation and make a good living.

    Lyse Doucet:
    Brad Thomas does that do anything for you?

    Brad Thomas:
    Yes I mean the things he mentioned sound like they're going to make a great difference to the production of heroin in Afghanistan. My concern mainly is that I think we need to do more to detain desperate drug addicts for rehabilitation in this country. It would reduce demand and make Mr Karzai's job much easier and it would also help the addicts themselves and protect society from crime, Aids and the spread of addiction. So those are all main points from our side.

    Hamid Karzai:
    We must work on both ends - in Afghanistan and in your own country as well this problem is there. I agree with you.

    Lyse Doucet:
    Let me just put to you an e-mail we've received from Bob Hope in Los Angeles in the United States, he came up with a radical suggestion, he said ...

    Hamid Karzai:
    Is this the actual Bob Hope?

    Lyse Doucet:
    I don't think so, if he was here we'd bring him in right into the studio. "Why not legalise," he says, "and tax the biggest industry to help rebuild the country?"

    Hamid Karzai:
    Tax on industries?

    Lyse Doucet:
    Legalise the opium production. In some Western countries they're now legalising soft drugs to try to bring it under control, would that work in Afghanistan?

    Hamid Karzai:
    No it will not work in Afghanistan, it's too massive to legalise, too huge a production to legalise, it will just turn the whole economy into a very criminal economy. We cannot do that, we will have to destroy it and have a substitute form of agriculture because if we legalise poppy cultivation it will destroy our agriculture base. We have to have food, we have to live, and have agriculture that provides us with food.

    Lyse Doucet:
    James Burke has a radical suggestion as well, again from the United States. He says: "Why doesn't the Afghan government purchase the entire opium crop so that they purchase it, give the farmers an income?" Because he believes that the eradication programme is simply not working?

    Hamid Karzai:
    It is working very well. And buying the poppy crops is actually rewarding the drug dealers and smugglers, we cannot do that. We must have an honourable, good agriculture to which our people can earn and live well. This is against our religion - the cultivation of poppy - against our moral values. So we cannot allow something that's against our religion and moral values.

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    Religious tolerance

    Lyse Doucet:
    Hamid Karzai you've raised a question that many people are asking, it's about religion - religious tolerance - in your country. We're going to take a caller now, from Detroit in the United States, Khalid Sekander was born in Afghanistan and now lives in the United States. Welcome to Talking Point, what would you like to ask Hamid Karzai?

    Khalid Sekander:
    Thank you, good morning or good afternoon Chairman Karzai. I do have a comment and a question to follow up. Let me first say Chairman Karzai that Afghanistan will require the continued leadership of selfless and compassionate individuals like you. I am a native of Afghanistan who emigrated to the United States at the age of 7 in 1970. I am currently a practising attorney in the US and my objective is to humbly offer my skills, knowledge and training in any way towards the redevelopment effort.

    However, I also clearly recognise the conservative traditional elements within Afghanistan may resist the introduction of truly democratic and constitutional legal doctrine, some of which I have learned in my training and employed in my practice including the separation of religion from state government functions, freedom of religion and speech, as well as roles of civil and criminal procedure in which democratic ideals, I may add, many potentially repatriating Afghans have embraced. I am concerned the conservative traditional element will foreclose the introduction of these inherently democratic values which are so needed in Afghanistan.

    But in order to keep the possibility of helping in the redevelopment effort open do you envision the creation of a programme, such as an Afghan peace corps, comprising of young Afghan professionals, similar to the return of qualified Afghan programme to the ILM, to permit individuals like myself, that were raised and trained outside of Afghanistan but have a desire to contribute, to bridge their mostly democratic views and practices with those of the conservative traditionalists? And I thank you for your answer.

    Hamid Karzai:
    Well thank you sir. I don't think that you'll have in Afghanistan any problem coming to you from the traditional elements of Afghanistan. The traditional elements of Afghanistan are coming from the countryside of Afghanistan where the tradition of consultation is very vital and surviving. As some form of democratic interaction between people that has been part of Afghanistan's rural areas for centuries. So that is in many ways an asset to a society that would like to have representation and people participation in decision making.

    I think the challenge to democracy or of the practice of people's right of presentation and participation has in the past 20 years in Afghanistan come from the radical element - the radicals of the right, the radicals of the left, religious radicals and people like that. I think it is these elements that will challenge Afghanistan's return to people's rule.

    With regard to religion in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a deeply religious society, no doubt, it has been for centuries. But it's also is, sir, a very moderate society, the common Afghan man is a very moderate man, is a very tolerant man and that tolerance is very much reflected in the daily life of our people, that sees Jergas, meetings or councils in villages and in towns. So we have to promote that, that's very much in keeping with the values, universal values, of the right of people's decision making. With regard to the young Afghan peace corps - yes why not and most welcome and we always cherish and love the sight of young Afghans returning to Afghanistan, to help this country. That's the future of Afghanistan. And it helps to come back and be here and bring this country together with the other Afghans a better good future.

    Khalid Sekander:
    May I follow up with a question?

    Hamid Karzai:
    Please.

    Khalid Sekander:
    How may I participate in the redevelopment efforts? I do speak the language, I have been trying to make certain contacts with individuals and again I do desperately want to help my homeland - I'm trying to find an avenue in order to do that. And again my background as an attorney is not as practical as say a medical doctor or an engineer.

    Hamid Karzai:
    We need people in all walks of life. An attorney is very good. We need a lot of legal improvements and restructuring here in Afghanistan where your expertise are required considerably. You're welcome to get in touch with the Afghan embassy in Washington or you, as an Afghan, can straightaway take a plane and come to Kabul and I'm sure you have relatives, friends, families here, get in touch with them and get in touch with the Minister of Reconstruction, with the Minister of Justice. By the way we have a very good Minister of Justice that can entertain you intellectually very much as well once you're in Kabul. So do visit us and please do call on me here at my office, together with all Afghans I very much like the moment of talking with Afghans like yourself.

    Khalid Sekander:
    Chairman Karzai I look forward to contacting you in the future and best wishes.

    Hamid Karzai:
    Thank you.

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    Personal

    Lyse Doucet:
    Let me just ask you that again about your hat. Tell us a little about - it's a qaraqul - sheep fur, tell us about it, put it on for us so we can see how you look with it.

    Hamid Karzai:
    You have seen me before? Well you like it.

    Lyse Doucet:
    It seems to be the hat of rulers, we noticed that the Afghan - former Afghan king who's returned to Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, has taken to wearing it again.

    Hamid Karzai:
    Yes, yes it's something that was mostly used by elderly Afghans because an elder Afghanistan has a tremendous place of respect in the society so their dress - their attire was respected by all. This was an elite hat, a hat that was used by elderly Afghans all over the country, by tribal chiefs, by local chiefs, by teachers, by civil servants, by everybody. It's a good thing. And also by lots of other people.

    Lyse Doucet:
    Well we had an e-mail from Charlie Grace in London who said: "Mr Karzai do you agree with Tom Ford of Gucci, the fashion house, that you are the chic-est man on the planet?"

    Hamid Karzai:
    I don't know, I don't think so but he is very kind and if he's chosen that it's an honour for me and for my country and I'm grateful to him. As a matter of fact somebody should help me get his address, I've been looking for his address, to write to him and to thank him for introducing Afghanistan so nicely to the rest of the world and for liking our dress.

    Lyse Doucet:
    So you have attracted the world's attention and you're now the interim chairman of Afghanistan. Afghans are asking do you hope to be confirmed in the Loya Jerga in early June, do you want to continue to lead Afghanistan?

    Hamid Karzai:
    I'm not going to campaign or do anything like that really in a way that other people might do or put any extraordinary effort in that. But if the people of Afghanistan, at that Loya Jerga, choose me again to lead Afghanistan in the 18 months that come after the Loya Jerga I would be honoured, I will accept it with tremendous honour and happiness. And if they don't, if they choose somebody else I'll be very happy to respect that decision and I will just relax and watch and let this country go forward.

    Lyse Doucet:
    But it's only several months since the fall of the Taleban, it's very difficult to establish a new order in that time, Afghans are talking about commanders and politicians spending dollars to try to buy support for the Loya Jerga, there's concern about the fighting. Is there a great risk it could all go badly wrong?

    Hamid Karzai:
    I hope people will not do that. I hope money will not be used to buy votes by force or use guns to buy votes by force. Campaigning is alright, people can do that, they can campaign, they can go to people and ask for votes, if they want to use money it's up to them but I hope they will do that with an understanding that if somebody doesn't take a vote that is not a shame, that it's alright and to be elected or not elected is a practice that's going on, on a daily basis in the rest of the world, it is part of democracy, part of the campaign itself to win and lose. So it should be taken with guts, with good heart and you must think of the Loya Jerga as an extremely important opportunity for the Afghan people to take a further step towards more stability, more peace and more reconstruction for this country and that I think every Afghan should have in mind.

    Lyse Doucet:
    The real test for Afghanistan. This has been a special edition of Talking Point from Kabul. Our guest today has been Afghanistan's interim chairman Hamid Karzai. We'd like to thank the thousands of people who've sent us e-mails and who've called us on the line from around the world and of course we'd like to thank you, Hamid Karzai, for being our special guest today, for taking time out of your very busy schedule. Thank you very much and we wish you the best for your country.

    Hamid Karzai:
    Thank you.

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  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    Hamid Karzai
    on the security of Afghan people and the role of warlords
    Afghan refugees abroad:
    "Their return is welcome"
    Tourism in Afghanistan:
    "Tourism is part of our plan"
    The production of heroin:
    "We will continue to fight this scourge"
    Hamid Karzai on his Afghan dress:
    "It's warm, it's convenient, it's nice and beautiful"

    Rebuilding

    Political uncertainty

    Profiles

    Issues

    FACT FILE

    IN DEPTH

    FORUM

    TALKING POINT
    See also:

    02 Nov 01 | South Asia
    19 Nov 01 | South Asia
    27 Oct 01 | South Asia
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