Karzai’s Belated Move Past US

08 February 2014 | 18:09 Code : 1928449 Interview General category
Excerpts of an interview with Pirmohammad Mollazehi, an expert on Afghan affairs
Karzai’s Belated Move Past US

There have been reports about secret negotiations held between Karzai and a Taliban representative which has resulted in a harsh reaction by the US. Why has Karzai decided to enter into such secret negotiations in the last months of his presence in power and without US coordination?

The US believes that only they themselves must have behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Taliban. Both sides, i.e. the US and Mr. Karzai, advance their games with regard to the Taliban. But from the viewpoint of Karzai, this meeting is different from what the US does. It means that Mr. Karzai proposes a plan which is somehow related to the ethnic aspect for the Pashtun tribe in the upcoming elections. If the Taliban continue their insistence on their present positions based on opposition to elections and not issuing the permission for elections in the regions which are under their control, then the chance of those candidates who insist on the ethnic issue more than the national issue will be reduced. Thus, the chance of those candidates who reiterate the national issue and are affiliated to non-Pashtun ethnicities will increase. Therefore, the issue which could bring common interests for both sides is that Mr. Karzai could convince the Taliban to balance their positions or encourage them to have positive participation in the election or at least not create obstacles for the Pashtuns who live in the regions which are under the control of the Taliban. Furthermore, another reason which has forced Mr. Karzai to establish direct contacts with the Taliban is to bring them to the conclusion that if the presidency falls into the hands of the Tajiks or other ethnic groups, the position of the Pashtuns will be weakened in power, thus, the 250 year history of governing this country will be lost and historically, the Pashtunis will never forgive either Mr. Karzai or the Taliban. Of course, I believe that there are more reasons behind this direct contact than the ones which have been expressed but perhaps the main reason at the present time when the elections will be held in the near future is this one.

Although the US claims that they have no problem with the meeting between the Afghans if it is led towards peace and stability, will this meeting affect the security pact which the US insists upon? Has the US reached the conclusion that if the Afghans succeed, then there will be no need for the signing of this pact?

I do not believe that this is true. The US plan is to remove some of its forces from Afghanistan and keep some in this country before Mr. Karzai signs this pact. Therefore, the issue is not Mr. Karzai. Recently, the NATO commander has stated that if Mr. Karzai does not sign the security pact, the next president will sign it. There is the fact that Mr. Karzai, as a Pashtun, has his own ethnic sentiments and knows the viewpoint of the Pashtuns with regard to the central government. That is why this viewpoint creates common points between Mr. Karzai and the Taliban. On one hand, it should be mentioned that it is not the Pashtuns who seek to sign the security pact, but rather the Tajiks, the Uzbeks, the Hazaras and the Shiites who found a better position in the constitution after the US entrance into this country in 2001 and their position in power was guaranteed. Therefore, they seek to sign this security pact because if the US forces are completely removed from Afghanistan, there is the possibility that the Taliban would regain total control of Kabul. Furthermore, if the Taliban implements this matter with force, then the others would also take arms. This is what has happened in the past in the fights between the Jihadi forces and the Taliban. If the situation leads towards that direction, there will be the threat of a civil war. That is why the Taliban and parts of the Pashtuns feel that signing this pact would be to their disadvantage. But the structure of power which is based on the presence of the technocrats in Afghanistan will be lost with the coming to power of the Talibans and they will be forced again to migrate to other countries. It also seems that Mr. Karzai has other calculations and attempts to gain a historical image for himself. It is not that Mr. Karzai is 100% against the signing of this pact and moves only on the basis of his own interests. No, that is not the case. First, he has been the president for two terms and he cannot be one for the third term, thus, he intends to put pressure on the US to support his candidate. These are the issues which have challenged the signing of the security pact.

Mr. Karzai has recently freed some of the Taliban militants from the prison. Does this measure strengthen the plan of giving the southern provinces of Afghanistan to this group and dividing the power or does Mr. Karzai aim to attract the support of the Taliban in the elections?

It is the combination of both. Mr. Karzai is a complicated person. The freedom of some of the Taliban prisoners was difficult for the US to accept for they were among the leaders of the Taliban or the military commanders who were captured in the war. Thus, their freedom led to serious disagreements between Mr. Karzai and the US. But the issue is that Mr. Karzai intends to reach an understanding with the Taliban so that on that basis the power remains in the hands of the Pashtuns. Those prisoners who were freed are the ones who have great influence in the regions which are under the Taliban’s control or even in those regions which are not completely under their control and can impact the elections. Besides, I believe that there have been other calculations based on this point that if Mr. Karzai is to leave power, then certain people might come to power who would investigate him for financial corruption. Therefore, Mr. Karzai pays attention to these issues and seeks a guarantee that if he would be forced to respond one day, he would be able to rely on something.

The government of Mr. Karzai has been accused of financial corruption. Is there any possibility that the candidate who is presented from his front will be able to attract people’s votes?

The fact is that there are people for whom the Pashtuns would vote. The reason is that the elections have become ethnicized and the majority of the populations are the Pashtuns. Of course, there are a great number of Pashtun and non-Pashtun candidates right now unless a coalition is made during the last days and different parties reach an agreement upon one person. But if the situation continues, the competition will be held between two or three persons with certain directions. For example, from the non-Pashtun ethnicities, Abdullah Abdullah is the candidate, Mr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who is a western technocrat and is known as a nationalist among the Pashtuns, is a candidate of Mr. Karzai and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf is a candidate of the Jihadi forces who played a significant role in the war against the Soviet Union. There is this point that Mr. Abdullah Abdullah has stated that if there is fraud in the election, we will not accept it, and this is a very sensitive and determining point.

tags: karzai taliban

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