By Kalinga Seneviratne
Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has blamed the United States and Pakistan for the chaos created in his country over the past two decades. He firmly believes that the West, including Germany, should admit to their failures in his war-torn country.
He followed up on this argument, initially advanced in a keynote address to the Global Media Forum on June 12, 2018, in a panel discussion and an interview with Forum host, the German public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).
In his keynote speech he began by pointing out western complicity in the chaos that is seen today in the Middle East describing the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the U.S. led forces as justified by “trumped up charges” that led to the rise of terrorism in the region.
He argued that disbanding Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party “throwing hundreds of thousands of educated Iraqis and military personnel” to the streets created the regional chaos we see in the Arab world today.
He also criticized the toppling of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. “Iraq and Libya were stable countries and now it’s a war zone,” he noted. He also said that Syria is a sad story, a cradle of civilization that has been “turned into a battle ground for others”. He alleged that these developments are impacting on Afghanistan rather than vice-versa.
“The template the world operates on today is chaos and more chaos,” argued Karzai. “It’s driven by technology like drones,” adding with an eye on a large number of Europeans in the audience: “You will not experience that chaos seated in comfortable surroundings in Europe, but we feel it every day in Afghanistan and the Middle East.”
Focusing on his homeland he said that “decades of the use of extremism as a policy is at the root of our problems” and he argued that the West cannot solve problems there without the involvement of the regional leaders India, China, Russia and Iran.
Afghanistan, he said, needs security guarantees from Pakistan in particular. He proposed that Germany as a neutral country may be able to bring all these actors together in a peace conference to induce stability to Afghanistan and other Muslim countries in a state of chaos, that would also be able to solve much of the refugee crisis in Europe.
Participating in a panel discussion titled ‘Peace with the Taliban: A Compromise on Human Rights?‘ he welcomed the recent Eid ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which he pointed out was usually seen by the militant group as a puppet of the U.S. Thus, he argued that Taliban has shown a “degree of flexibility” and this has opened up a window of opportunity for peace talks.
“I hope that this short-term truce could lead to a lasting peace in Afghanistan. But we must not forget that the war in Afghanistan is an imposed war. The United States, Pakistan and all other stakeholders in the conflict need to reach a deal to make it [the ceasefire] permanent,” Karzai told the panel.
When asked why he could not do the same when he was President (2009-2014), he blamed western policy. “The 2001 international conference on Afghanistan, which was held in Bonn, should have included the Taliban. It was a mistake not to have extended the invitation to the representatives of the ousted regime,” Karzai said. “To make matters worse, the US went on a revenge campaign against the Taliban, which forced the fighters to seek shelter in mountains and inside Pakistan,” he added.
Karzai also blamed the U.S. for not pressuring Islamabad for abandoning what he calls Pakistan’s support for Islamists. “Taliban as Afghans wanted peace and could have been brought to negotiations back then. Now, it is a long way to go to attain peace,” he lamented.
He also argued that using religion as a weapon by the U.S. and Pakistan to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s was a mistake. “It was a blunder. Pakistan still uses it against Afghanistan (and) after 2001 U.S. back Pakistan (on this strategy)” Karzai noted.
Markus Potzel, Germany’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, a fellow panelist, disagreed, pointing out that Pakistan is not the only country in the region that uses religious proxies inside Afghanistan. “Putting all the blame on Pakistan is not right,” he argued. “Our (German) forces are in Afghanistan to secure the country, to advise their military. But, peace in the country is Afghanistan’s own responsibility.”
In recent months there has been much debate in Germany about the government’s deportation policy on Afghan asylum seekers who – it seems – are not welcomed in the country by many Germans. In the interview with DW, Karzai argued that Germany is facing the consequences of western policy failure in Afghanistan.
“There are daily bombs around the country, there is daily insecurity around the country, there is a greater part of the country under the control of non-government forces. Violence is on the increase. After 16 years of our campaign against extremism and terrorism we still have new terrorist groups emerging in Afghanistan. Daesh (an Arabic name for the ‘Islamic State’) has emerged. We have questions as to why,” he told the interviewer.
He also reiterated his argument that Pakistan is the obstacle to peace in Afghanisatn with U.S. complicity. “The sanctuaries there, the training grounds there, the financial resources provided to terrorism and the ideological inputs that they give to terrorism and send to Afghanistan,” Karzai pointed out.
He added: “The second most important factor or rather equally important factor was the whole conduct of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The approach to Afghanistan and approach to fighting extremism was very heavy handed. Civilian casualties in Afghanistan, creation of prisons in Afghanistan, the violation of our sovereignty and violation of Afghan homes and culture and values. All that accumulated and put together brought us where we are today.”
He pointed out that it was “lack of peace, lack of security, lack of hope for the future” that is driving Afghans to seek refuge overseas, especially in Europe. Karzai believes that the government of Germany could play a role talking to the U.S. to prod them to play a constructive role for peace in his country, because the consequences of failure in Afghanistan have reached Germany.
“Germany must make sure that America adopts the right approach, an approach that brings hope in the future to Afghanistan by bringing peace and a working environment to Afghanistan.” he told DW, adding that he wants young Afghans to stay at home to help rebuild the war-torn country. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 June 2018]