Interview with President Hamid Karzai: Focus Must Be Protecting Civilians or 'Failure Is Certain'

In an interview with SPIEGEL Afghan President Hamid Karzai gives his verdict on last week's London conference, saying he welcomes the international community's acceptance of a reconciliation program with the Taliban. He greets Gen. Stanley McChrystal's new strategy of focusing on the protection of civilians and praises the work of German troops in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last week. Zoom
DPA

Afghan President Hamid Karzai with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last week.

At Thursday's Afghanistan conference in London, the West showed that it agreed with the path the Afghan government was taking, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told SPIEGEL in an interview to be published on Monday. He said what was new after the conference was that the international community now understands how important the reconciliation program with the Taliban is for his country. Also new is the fact that "the United States, Europe and Japan are willing to contribute to it."

Now the West has realized that the war on terror should not be targeted at Afghan villages, but rather at "the sanctuaries, the training grounds and the financial support," he said. "Had our allies recognized this eight years ago," Karzai argued, "Afghanistan would have been a lot better off today. Unfortunately, some of our allies didn't listen to us."

Karzai supports the new strategy of the US commander of the foreigen troops serving in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in particular because of its focus "on protecting civilians." "If we adhere to that we will succeed. If we don't, failure is certain."

Karazi paid particular tribute to the German troops serving in his country. "Germany has stuck with Afghanistan through difficult times," he said. He added that the Kunduz bombing, in which a German officer ordered an air strike on two tankers that led to many Afghan civilian casualties, had not damaged relations with Germany. "We highly appreciate this concern shown in Germany for the casualties," he said.

SPIEGEL ONLINE International will publish the complete interview on Monday, Feb. 1.

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