US in Afghanistan because its main rivals are in neighborhood: Karzai

Kabul—The United States is not in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban but because America’s main rivals like China, Russia and Iran are in the neighborhood, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai says.

Karzai, 60, made the remarks in an interview with The Washington Post’s Pamela Constable who’s the newspaper’s bureau chief in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The interview was published on February 14, Wednesday.

“The United States is not here to go to a party,” Karzai said. “There is no need for them to build so many bases just to defeat a few Taliban. They are here because all the great American rivals are in the neighborhood, and we happen to be here, too. They are welcome to stay but not to deceive us.”

The United States -- under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency -- and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after more than 16 years, the foreign troops are still deployed to the country.

After becoming the president in 2008, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, vowed to end the Afghan war -- one of the longest conflicts in US history – but he failed to keep his promise.

Trump, who has spoken against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as "Obama's war".

But Trump has also announced to deploy thousands of more troops to the war-torn country, signaling a policy shift.

Taliban militants and Daesh terrorists have increased their attacks against foreign troops and other Westerners residing in Afghanistan but often end up killing more Afghans than the foreigners occupying the country.

“Too many Afghans are dying for an uncertain future,” said the former Afghan president. “We are too small and poor to ask the US to stop, but we are a country, and our interests must be respected.”

Karzai has previously accused the US of colluding with Daesh in Afghanistan and allowing the terrorist group to flourish in the war-stricken country in order to justify its presence.

Back in 2014, the US-led occupying forces in Afghanistan officially announced the end of their combat operations in the country, saying they now had a mission to “train, advise, and assist” Afghan troops.

However, the Trump administration last year permitted the deployment of an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan, where the US already has 11,000 forces.

Karzai, who became Afghanistan’s first president under an agreement largely negotiated by Western countries after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, refused to sign an agreement allowing US military bases to remain in the country before leaving in 2014. Karzai’s successor, Ashraf Ghani, signed the agreement immediately after he assumed the presidency.

Karzai has suggested an alternative political path forward, proposing a loya jirga, or traditional gathering for debate and decision to resolve problems.

“I know the Americans are worried that a jirga will ask them to leave and ask me to return, but I have no desire to return,” Karzai said in the interview. “Today, things are going so badly that we need to go back to the people. The United States has no need to fear us, but America’s behavior is damaging us, and our belief in the democratic values of the West is being shattered. Why do they want to see us weak and unstable?”

He told The Washington Post's correspondent that he had been “brutally frank” with American officials during his presidency, saying that it was his patriotic duty at the time.

“I am not anti-American,” Karzai said. “I oppose a lot of US policies, but I remain an ally. If the Americans act honorably, they will find us very accommodating.”



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