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Exclusive Interview: Karzai Says Taliban’s International Recognition Requires Internal Legitimacy

Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said the current Taliban government in Afghanistan needs internal legitimacy in order for it to gain international recognition.

He said that could only be achieved through the expression of the will of the Afghan people, either in the form of elections or holding the Loya Jirga, a traditional grand council of representatives from various parts of the country.

Karzai spoke with the Voice of America on Saturday, nearly two months after the United States and its NATO allies left Afghanistan, ending the U.S.’s longest war in history.

He charged that Afghanistan is at a critical juncture in its history and Afghans have a responsibility to “unite” and create a government premised on “the expression of the will of the Afghan people.”

“Legitimacy within our own country for this government [Taliban] or for any other government is the foundation of recognition by countries and the international community,” Karzai said, adding that governments derive legitimacy from the will of their people.

“How to bring about legitimacy within the country is of course premised on either an election or, in the case of Afghanistan, especially under the current circumstances, the expression of the will of the Afghan people through the Loya Jirga and the introduction of a constitution and so on,” he added.

Pakistan

Since taking over the country in mid-August after self-exiled Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country, the Taliban have yet to be officially recognized by any country, including Pakistan, viewed by many as its closest ally.

Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Quresh, have advocated for the Taliban and have urged the international community to work with the new government in Kabul.

“If we neglect Afghanistan right now, there’s a huge humanitarian crisis looming ahead, and this will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbors of Afghanistan, but it will have repercussions everywhere,” Imran Khan told the U.N. General Assembly in September.

“We must strengthen this current government [Taliban], stabilize it, for the sake of the people of Afghanistan. What have the Taliban promised? They will respect human rights, they will have an inclusive government, they will not allow this soil to be used by terrorists,” Khan added.

The Taliban are notorious for their restrictions on women, on civil liberties and their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in mid-August, the international community has strongly criticized the militant group for not fulfilling pledges to respect the rights of women and minorities, and for not including enough members from other ethnic groups in the Cabinet.

Karzai told VOA that Pakistan is not the representative of the Afghan people.

“My message to Pakistan, our brotherly country, is that they should not try to represent Afghanistan. On the contrary, the country should try to establish a civil relationship with our country,” he said.

“We have deep people-to-people relations with Pakistan. … Our hope from Pakistan is that the country should not try to maintain its relations with us through interference, the encouragement of extremism and terrorism or by force, but rather establish relations with Afghanistan through civil principles and principles of international relations, and we will happily maintain that relationship with them,” he added.

While in power, both Karzai and his successor, Ghani, have frequently accused Pakistan of supporting the Afghan Taliban and providing them with training and safe havens on its soil, charges that Islamabad has denied.

IS threat, regional consensus

Karzai voiced concerns about the Islamic State terror group’s uptick in violence in Afghanistan and deemed it a threat to both Afghanistan and the region.

The militant group’s local branch, known as the Islamic State Khorasan, has claimed responsibility for several vicious attacks in recent weeks in Kabul, Kunduz and Kandahar provinces, where more than 100 civilians have been killed and many others wounded.

“As proven by the unfortunate bomb blasts — rather, suicide attacks in the mosque in Kabul two weeks ago, then in Kunduz last week, and then in Kandahar yesterday (October 15) — this has proven that Daesh is a threat to Afghanistan and to the life and livelihood of the Afghan people,” Karzai said, using another acronym for the Islamic State terror group.

Karzai showed optimism that the region will support Afghanistan in its fight against IS, because it could pose a threat to their security. In addition, he said he hopes that regional powers would seek common ground in Afghanistan,.

He said it is Afghanistan’s responsibility to work with other countries in the region “in a way that results in peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

Women’s rights

Karzai stressed the importance of women returning to the workplace, universities and schools. He said this desire primarily comes from the Afghan people, whether or not the international community demands it.

“The rights of Afghan women to work and to be present in all walks of life in our country is primarily the demand of the Afghan people,” he said. “So, even if the international community doesn’t ask for it, it is our demand, the Afghan demand, and our need.”

Karzai continues to live in Kabul with his family and is the father of two daughters and a son. He said he wants his daughters and son to be educated.

“I want my son to be the best educated. I want him to study, to study at home and study abroad and get the best education. I want my daughters to be the best educated, study at home, and when the time comes, study abroad, and fulfill their personal aspirations, and through the fulfillment of their personal aspirations, the aspirations of the Afghan people,” he said.

“I want them to remain patriotic Afghans, as all other Afghan children,” he added.

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