By Arab News
By Sayed Salahuddin
Saudi Arabia has a key role to play in the reconstruction of Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of war, the country’s influential former president has told Arab News.
“Saudi Arabia is a great, great friend and brother of Afghanistan,” said Hamid Karzai, who assumed power with the help of Washington after the US invasion that ousted the Taliban in 2001.
“The Afghan people treat Saudi Arabia as an elder brother with immense respect, and have love for Saudi Arabia. It definitely has a role in Afghan peace and reconstruction.”
Karzai warned that a withdrawal of international troops before a peace deal is signed by the Taliban and the Kabul government would lead Afghanistan into chaos.
The pullout of the US-led forces by May 2021 is part of an agreement between Washington and the Taliban in February, which brought the militants to the negotiating table with the Kabul government to reach a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing government.
“A hasty withdrawal without the achievement of peace, without talks resulting in peace, will definitely lead to more chaos and uncertainty,” Karzai said.
“We don’t want that. We want the US to complete the peace process that it has begun, to make it come to fruition. We want stability in Afghanistan,” he said.
During his last days in office in 2013, Karzai blamed the US military presence in Afghanistan for fueling extremism, militias and civilian casualties, and refused to sign a strategic security partnership in 2013 to allow American-led NATO forces to remain in the country. Now, however, he acknowledges the role of the US in the peace process.
“I do see sincerity in US efforts to bring some form of stability to Afghanistan, which is welcome and which is what we want,” he said, recalling the doubts of many in the Kabul administration, which was excluded from the February Taliban-US deal.
“Good intentions are one thing, pursuing an issue wisely and effectively is another. I hope they will do both. The intention is there; I have seen it in them. We hope they will go about it in a manner that inspires trust in their efforts.”
After the February deal, intra-Afghan peace talks began in September.
Karzai has been playing an influential role, keeping in touch with Taliban leaders while also enjoying support among diverse ethnic groups and factional leaders in Afghanistan.
“As sons of this soil, both we and the Taliban must recognize that we must live together and work together and protect our country. It is not difficult; it is easy if we free ourselves from others’ control,” he said.