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Hamid Karzai calls on U.S.-Russia to join forces to fix peace conundrum

The former president believes a Washington-Moscow nexus on ‘the ailing reconciliation endeavor’ could establish the foundation of a peaceful Afghanistan as Moscow conference was a tremendous first stride;

Touting the Moscow conference that brought Kabul and Taliban representatives together in one table, former president Hamid Karzai called on the United States and Russia to join forces to advance peace talks. The former president has asserted that a Washington-Moscow nexus on ‘the ailing reconciliation endeavor’ could establish the foundation of a peaceful Afghanistan.

During two separate addresses at the 4th international meeting of Astana Club, Hamid Karzai said that the Moscow conference was a “significant step” towards mobilization of international and regional cooperation towards furthering the Afghan peace quest.

He touted the participation of the High Peace Council and the Taliban delegations in Moscow conference as well as Washington’s recent efforts for reconciliation.

The Former President on Monday attended the fourth meeting of the Astana Club 2018 held in the capital of Kazakhstan with the aim of ‘Grading of World Geo-Politic Dangers for Euro-Asia in 2019. Karzai delivered his speech at the meeting and met with political figures from other countries invited to the meeting. Over 1,000 people attend the meeting held for two days as of November 12 to 13. He also had an interview with a Kazakhstan state TV which is as follows:

“Seventeen years ago after the tragedy of September 11, two major factors joined hands to bring the quick results that you referred to. One was a major sympathy with the United States in the aftermath of September 11 internationally among all the people in the world. The second was the immense suffering of the Afghan people for so many years from which they wanted to be freed. So when the United States and its allies arrived in Afghanistan, there was a deep ground and sense for cooperation with the rest of the world to free Afghanistan and to try to bring security to the world as a result.

That brought about the quick change that we had; within a month-and-a-half, Afghanistan was free. Within six months, Afghanistan had a legitimate government with the arrival of the Grand Jirga of Afghanistan, the Grand Council of the Afghan people, and the constitution process and the Constitution Jirga and the building of the country and education and the freedoms that came with it for women. It didn’t work eventually, unfortunately, because mainly the United States either got distracted or implemented its policy in a manner that was counterproductive, entirely counterproductive. So, rightly as you asked 17 years on, we have more extremism, we have more terrorism, we have even the arrival of Daesh in Afghanistan, and in our region which is totally alien to us. That can be explained mainly, I should say mainly, there could be other little factors as well, but mainly for the wrong policies and the wrong implementation of things by the United States; attacking Afghan homes, taking prisoners, ignoring the sanctuaries beyond Afghan borders and, most important of all, turning into doubt the confidence and the corporation of major powers with it in Afghanistan. So with regard to the local implementation in Afghanistan and with regard to international and regional politics, things did not work well.

I am very strongly opposed to any military activity by the United States in Afghanistan. It has proven to be failed. We need not go into details of that. But, recently the United States launched a new peace process with the Taliban by the appointment of Ambassador Khalilzad which I wholeheartedly welcomed as the right thing in Afghanistan and an approach that will hopefully and most likely produce a result for Afghanistan, and for the region towards peace and stability. Now with regard to the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, if they bring peace to Afghanistan and if they become partners in peace and security and development for Afghanistan, this also means that if their behavior in Afghanistan was not a danger to our neighbors and of rivalry with major powers, that will make things easier for them in Afghanistan. But in case of war or rivalries with major powers in our region and tensions, of course the presence of the United States in Afghanistan will not be tenable.

There was no presence of the Afghan government in Qatar talks. But, there was a presence of the Afghan Peace Council which is an Afghan government body. In peace talks in Moscow which was the first time such a talk was taking place in the major regional capital of the world, neighbors of Afghanistan were all present there including from Kazakhstan; and where delegation of the Taliban and delegation of the Afghan Peace Council sat together. So, we see it as a positive step, a first step that will definitely give us results and we hope that it will continue to keep convening and keep looking for a solution eventually that suits all of us. Although Taliban refused to have any talks with the Afghan government, they would like to have direct talks with the U.S.

The direct talks between the United States government and the Taliban are now a reality, because the Taliban are a reality in Afghanistan. Now that reality has to be taken into consideration. We approve of those direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban.

Naturally, it has to be eventually an inter-Afghan dialogue. Without an inter-Afghan dialogue and the international and regional component of it, Afghanistan cannot have peace. So, yes talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, definitely a broad representative of inter-Afghan dialogue process, which reflects the will of the Afghan, which is transparent to all of the Afghan people from across the country, from views and groups of the people, of opinions, which also has the support of our neighbors and the region, Central Asia, South Asia, which also has the support of major powers, Russia, China, India. This combination of the U.S., on the one side, its support of the Afghan peace process, major international powers helping it, and our neighbors and the region, of course, who support it, because it’s absolutely in their interest. Together, very much with the wholesomeness of this process, as far as Afghanistan is concerned and the Afghan people are concerned, will, without doubt, give us the desired results.

Had the Taliban been involved in 2001 Bonn Conference and the international arrangements for Afghanistan, we would have removed any excuses for waging war in Afghanistan. And by that, we would have not forced the Taliban to flee the country and take refuge in Pakistan, from where they could reorganize and come back to Afghanistan; and then, of course, the subsequent events. So definitely, things could have been fundamentally different. And Afghanistan, by all probabilities, would have avoided the conflict and tensions that emerged later.

We have had such massive casualties and loss of life in our country on all sides, unfortunately. Afghans are in need of peace and they want progress and development. Over the past 17 years, in the initial years as we started, when there was cooperation among the international community, regional corporation, Afghanistan took massive strides towards progress and development and openness and a better economy; to which Kazakhstan was a great contributor. Kazakhstan gave us 1,000 scholarships. A lot of Afghan men and woman came to study here in medical sciences, engineering and economics and lots of other areas of social sciences as well, to which we were very grateful. President Nazarbayev has been one of the greatest contributors to that achievement in Afghanistan. And, with the return of peace in our country, and with similar support coming to Afghanistan, as did Kazakhstan for the past 17 years, Afghanistan will be leaping forward with tremendous speed.

The return of the Afghan woman in the workplace, that’s what Afghan people want. The Taliban will not oppose it. There cannot be a compromise on that. If they do we will not agree.

I hope that Mr. Imran Khan will have a different vision for Pakistan and as a consequence for Afghanistan in the region. I hope that Imran Khan’s vision for Pakistan will be one away from extremism, away from the use of religion as an extremist tool. Unfortunately, one of the moderation and cooperation, he has portrayed that division several times. He has broken about that. And towards that vision, we would also cooperate with them. It’s in the interest of Pakistan; it is in the interest of Afghanistan. And, I hope also that Pakistan will see openness and connectivity as the way forward. So speaking away, throwing away extremism and the use of extremism and returning to cooperation and a civilized relationship and connectivity, which should mean allowing India and the Central Asian region and Eurasia to link, and look at the massive energies that will unleash for all of us.

China on that side in the East, India and Pakistan in South Asia, Iran and Turkey in West Asia and Eurasia itself; Imagine the potential, imagine the youth rising, imagine the work created, imagine the energy that it would create for this whole region. It will be a very prosperous region if that happens. Let’s hope it happens.

We proved in Afghanistan after September 11 that given the opportunity the Afghan people will do greatly. I came through Istanbul yesterday and I went down for breakfast in the hotel and I came across a group of young Afghan men and women. And they were all educated. These boys and girls were highly educated and highly confident. So given the opportunity, the Afghans proved themselves extremely capable. Therefore, the sources are there, the element is there in us to move forward, and the vision accordingly is a peaceful Afghanistan, a stable Afghanistan and an Afghanistan full of freedoms and hard work. So we can build our future with our own hands, surely in cooperation with the rest of us, surely with the support of countries like our neighbors, Kazakhstan. Definitely, that will also take our own hard work and which we must do.

I very much want to see that peaceful Afghanistan in my lifetime, for my children and for the children of every other household in Afghanistan. That’s only natural for us. War is not permanent. Peace is permanence. And we seek that permanent value in our lives. Therefore, yes, definitely there will be and I hope there will also be the recognition now in our neighbors in Pakistan that extremism is hurting them and hurting the region. And I hope the United States will learn and has learned that it has been making tremendously tragic mistakes and that those mistakes have cost the United States own people’s lives and resources and imagine that it has cost distrust among its allies and major powers, and that it needs to change now. And I hope that the change has come by the U.S. launching into peace efforts with the Taliban. And I very much hope that Russia and other major powers together with America will work together for peace, like the Moscow conference. I very much want our neighbors including Kazakhstan, with whom we have so much cultural and historical bonds, to be a strong and permanent participant in building peaceful Afghanistan and in bringing prosperity to the region.”

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