“We still lack the air force which is the back-bone of an army” says Afghanistan’s Politician Jamil Karzai
Jamil Karzai – Politician and Parliamentarian of Afghanistan
“A growing voice of Afghan’s Youth and Democracy, who has set his mark in the young & religiously cultural rooted society of Afghanistan in this new era of politics and progress.”
Honorable Mr. Jamil Karzai, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Chief Editor and Editorial Board panel. It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important national & regional issues…
TOT: After 2014 the Coalition Army will leave Afghanistan. This means that the Afghan Army will have to take charge of national security. Do you think that Afghan security forces are capable and efficient enough to handle the growing threats and challenges within the country and outside its borders that make Afghanistan more vulnerable?
Jamil Karzai: First of all thanks for having me here and it’s my pleasure. Coming back to your key question, Afghanistan has been at war for more than three decades, during which, we suffered a lot and all of our institutions and infrastructures were destroyed. One of the key institutions was our “Army”.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Afghanistan had one of the strongest army personnel in the region. This was deemed to be a sort of threat against our neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan with whom we have a border dispute for more than 100 years.
Thus, one of our neigbouring country’s policy was, by any means, to reduce the overwhelmingly strength of our Army, This, together with the arrival of Mujahidin (Western and Pakistani backed groups) and the first Islamic state during 1990s, resulted in the substitution of a well-trained and disciplined army with guerrilla militias, who were mainly trained by the intelligence services of Pakistan.
After 9/11 and during the interim and transitional administrations, we had to start everything from scratch. For me, this was the source of problem. During this period, only a handful of former Soviet-trained army personnel were recruited to the Afghan National Army, the rest were told to go home. Now, after spending billions of Donors’ dollars, still we have not been capable of forming a strong army that could respond to any threats posed by the insurgents or neighboring countries. The Afghan government, along with its international partners, has put huge efforts in forming the new army, rather than re-forming the cadres that we already had.
During the past 11 years, though billions of dollars are spent, the outcome is not acceptable to our people. The process of training is very slow, the equipment is not satisfactory, we still lack the air force which is the back-bone of an army. More than that, the penetration of Anti-Governmental Elements in the army is high.
Therefore, considering all these challenges, one can simply conclude that after the withdrawal of the coalition forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the Afghan Army will undoubtedly, face so many challenges, particularly when the insurgents have sanctuaries on the other side of border with Pakistan, and they enjoy the full support and facilitation of the Pakistani army and related intelligence services.
I do not underestimate the high moral of our brave army personnel. Through history, they have shown their bravery to the Afghans, but practically, there still is a long way to go. Parallel to that, the Afghan National Police has suffered the most during the fight against terrorism, and now needs to be more focused on maintaining law and order, rather than fighting against the insurgents which is unprecedented in other countries with a similar situation to Afghanistan.
TOT: How will you define the role played by the media in Afghanistan? Is the role negative or positive? Give reasons…
Jamil Karzai: One can claim that of the biggest achievement of the Afghan Government since 9/11 is the freedom of speech and freedom of the media.
During the past decade, Afghan media played an important role of awareness and access to information and there has been a significant development in this field. Changing of analog to digital technology is a good example of these developments.
Now coming to your question that whether the media plays a positive or negative role in Afghanistan; there is no doubt that media played a positive role in Afghanistan, though there are several radios/TVs and publications that are run by some people who either represent a particular ethnicity or belong to some of the past war factions and, who in the eyes of many Afghans, are notorious and unpopular.
In particular, these people receive funds from foreign countries which in several cases are not transparent. That‘s one of the concerns Afghans have.
Cultural wise, there is also a dominance and monopoly of foreign media products in Afghanistan, specially the neighboring countries. I feel relying too much on foreign countries’ products will not only kill the sense of creativity among the Afghan media owners, but also avails an indirect, but massive opportunity for interference in our culture.
We need to be more aware of that, and we need to reduce the importing of foreign media products to Afghanistan, and instead, use this opportunity for our own initiatives.
On the other hand, the government needs to draft some clear policies towards the Media, particularly those which are funded from abroad and to make them more transparent.
TOT: Since the start of the American War on Terror in Afghanistan, the nation suffers from serious violations of human rights, which undermine its position and progress on the international platform. How do you look into such a situation?
Jamil Karzai: Well, I think it’s a very important question. Since the Start of the coalition war in Afghanistan, the Anti Governmental Elements, the international military forces,particulary the coalition forces, the Warlords within the Afghan government structures ( in different capacity) were all responsible and accused of serious violations of human rights in Afghanistan. The night raids and bombardments, arbitrary house arrests and searchers that were carried out by the international military forces in Afghanistan are unforgettable and unforgivable by the people of Afghanistan.
There have been some serious violation of human rights and a breach of international humanitarian law (IHL). When the major violators are the international forces, how can one say that this will undermine Afghanistan’s position and progress on the international platform?
Yes, I also believe that the Afghan government is equally responsible for the current dire human rights situation in the country. The warlords enjoy full power and impunity in the Afghan government. Most of the human rights violators are among the top officials of the current government. So in Afghan public eyes, both the Afghan government and the international community are accountable.
The most recent and up to date examples of human right violation is being committed through the Afghan Local Police (ALP) that consists of former war lords and criminal commanders who are unpopular in their areas. This was initiated by and is being funded by the US forces in the Afghanistan, which has now become a big threat to the local communities in Afghanistan.
TOT: There has been talk of making peace through the peace commission in Afghanistan, to allow the dialogue process between the opposing parties /groups, , and by encouraging mutual partnerships of cooperation between the various factions of the Afghan politics and society to bring stability to our country.
How will you define the peace commission’s role in Afghan society in terms of promoting real peace and how will you rate its success so far in this regard?
Jamil Karzai: It’s always good to see talks and diplomacy going on parallel to military action.
But the important question would be how honest the Afghan leadership is to bring peace and stability to the area.
Since the establishment of APRP commission, there has been little done on the ground.
In my view there should have been several approaches in the process of peace and reintegration:
1. Top-down approach: The Afghan government needs to open talks and dialogue with the leadership of all insurgent groups. Once they agreed, the middle and low level of insurgents’ commanders will, undoubtedly, put down their weapons and join the process.
2. Talks on the regional bases: The Afghan government needs to talk with its allies and international partners to pressure Pakistan to stop supporting and funding the insurgents and make them to talk with the Afghan government.
3. Public should not be kept in dark: The people of Afghanistan are interested to see the transparency in this process. I think we do have the right to know who is talking with whom? Where? And on what conditions and bases? The Secret talks will lead us to nowhere.
The current APRT commission has failed to deliver its promises and has been unsuccessful. Maybe it’s time to revise all components of this commission and bring on board those who have a ‘WILL’ for peace. As the former late president of Afghanistan, Shahid Dr. Najibullah once said: “Love and support for peace are not enough, one must struggle for achieving it.” So, as long as there is no struggle for achieving it, forming the commissions will not be a remedy for the pain.
TOT: How will you define the level of progress made by the civil society in Afghanistan?
Jamil Karzai: The civil societies in Afghanistan are on the right track. They have been very useful to pressure the Afghan government or to bring many matters to the attention of the government.
Meanwhile, the civil societies were given good representation role in many international conferences on Afghanistan to discuss the current affairs in Afghanistan, particularly the status of civil societies.
That is a green light, but there is more that needs to be done. First for the civil societies to be more harmonized and coordinated among themselves and for the government, to fully support them in their activities.
TOT: What is your stand on the strategic cooperation agreement signed with USA? Many people view this strategic agreement as a negative development which, as they say, seeks to keep the people away from the control of the national government.
Jamil Karzai: Well honestly, let’s look into this matter from two different angles. First pre and than post 9/11: this country was the hub of all national and international terrorists. We were disconnected from the rest of the world. All the national infrastructures were destroyed.
Our neighboring country, Pakistan was deeming Afghanistan as their fifth province. The Durand line and other borders were out of control. Afghanistan was going through many economic and unemployment crisis. And we were the FORGOTTEN NATION.
After the 9/11 everything changed. We regained our lost identity. Now during the past decade there have been some significant developments in various walks of life in Afghanistan which cannot be ignored. Yes I do agree that we could have done a lot, but still a tremendous change in comparison to the 1990s. From my current view, we do need to support our long strategic agreement not only with the United States, but also other regional powers. We are still suffering from terrorism.
There are still threats for the territorial integrity of Afghanistan. Thus, we do support such agreements only if it’s based on the mutual interests of two states. We want a long term support for our security institutions. We need especially to back up them with providing training and equipments.
On the other hand, our borders need to be fortified from any neighboring ill-intentions against the sovereignty our country.
Additionally, the Afghan government needs to consider the balance within its relations with regional powers. In other words, getting close to US shall not end with distancing ourselves from Russia, China and others…
TOT: The relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have always remained thawed and with recent shelling reportedly being done by the Pakistan Army against extremist groups in response to the growing cross border threats, it has now become a new bone of contention between the two states. So how do you look into the future of the relations between the two countries and what would be the consequences if these proxy challenges continued between the two?
Jamil Karzai: Afghanistan and Pakistan have never enjoyed good relations ships throughout the history. Since the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, when Afghanistan cast its vote against the creation of Pakistan at UN assembly, none of the Afghan regimes (with the exception of the Taliban Regime) enjoyed good ties with Pakistan. Our animosity even goes beyond that. Afghans never recognizes the Durand Line which separates two States.
Because it’s based on the policy of “Divide and Rule” inherited from the British emperors. Pakistan has always wanted to have a puppet regime in Afghanistan. The current issue of border shelling is not a new phenomenon. There were several failed attempts of forwarding the border lines in our southern and south eastern regions. By doing so, Pakistan has two ill-intensions:
1. By shelling toward the Afghan soil, the Pakistani Army and ISI want to clear the area for their backed-up terrorist groups in Afghan soil, as there is a huge pressure on Pakistan by the international community to take action against the insurgents in Pakistan, including the Haqqani Network.
2. They want to put pressure on the Afghan government to give them an upper hand in talks with the Taliban who already enjoy immunity in Pakistan. The Afghan government won’t do that.
3. The consequences of this breach will have dire results. Afghan nation is united in defence of their land with the cost of their blood. We have shown a unique patience regarding this matter so far. We still believe in diplomacy and trust our diplomatic machinery to engage Pakistan into a dialogue about this, or else the people will stand and take the matters in their own hands.
We believe in peaceful neighborhood and always want to have good ties with our neighboring countries. If not so, then we also ask for a reciprocal act. If they continue their interference, we will do the same. We have a proud nation and we know how give the intruders a historical lesson.
TOT: Recently; there have been reports on the mistreatment of US soldiers in Daud Hospital and of human rights abuse incidents which took place in several hospitals, due to the corruption which exists in Afghanistan, which even now the foreign signatories to Afghanistan are worried about.
What do you have to say on this? Has the government taken significant steps to control this mess which has made the Afghan nation more vulnerable and unstable?
Jamil Karzai: There is no doubt that the corruption in different Afghan institutions is at its peak and the international community, particularly the PRT, military contractors, are equally responsible.
The Shahid Sardar Daud Military hospital is one of the best hospitals Afghanistan has.
For the first time, I did hear about this scandal from media. Honestly I don’t know about the details of this “Million Dollars” allegation, but one thing I can confirm is that the patients have always been treated properly and based on the resources the hospital has.
I may not agree with the allegation that some of the patients were starving to death and there was no food for them. Or they have to buy the food and other stuff needed. But I am happy that there is a commission looking at this allegation, particularly if the previous management of the hospital was involved in corruption or money embezzlement.
Meanwhile, the US congress is also interested in this issue and willing to investigate further. So let’s wait for the outputs and findings of these commissions.
TOT: How will you define the role played by Iran in Afghanistan as the former is an important and one of the most active countries at large in Afghanistan?
Jamil Karzai: I would not see a much different approach of Iran in comparison to Pakistan. We see both states in one eye. But with a little difference that Iran is naturally not happy with the presence of US in Afghanistan and see it a big threat. The Afghan government raised its concern several times that Iran is fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan by supporting and equipping the insurgents.
In many occasions, the weapons confiscated from the insurgents in Afghanistan, had the Iranian Mark. On the other hand, Iran wants to support some of the Shia-belonged political parties and make a disturbance for the Afghan government whenever needed. On the other hand, the forceful expulsion of Afghan refugees from Iran, the ban on their children’s education, and mistreatment, are all the bitter truth that will definitely affect the relations between the two nations.
TOT: There were recent intelligence reports that claimed Iran is supporting and financing extremism in the country specifically the Taliban and its leaders. Even the local media is reportedly being brought under a greater influence of Iran. Please, your comments on this, and explain your own point of view?
Jamil Karzai: I have no doubt about it and have tried to explain it in the earlier question.
TOT: How you will rate the progress of the current ruling by the Government of Afghanistan in terms of welfare and development of the country and society? What are the steps that have been taken so far for the development of the judicial and civilian administrative systems in the country?
Jamil Karzai: It will not be fair if we say there hasn’t been any progress in term of welfare and development in the country. We have hundreds of schools, clinics, and other welfare institutions build. Thousand Kms of road has been asphalted.
Free access to health and education has been promoted throughout the country. The foreign investments have been increased and thousand of employment opportunities have been created. But despite that, we could do a lot and achieve a lot.
The volatility of security situation in different parts of the county affected the local communities to have full access to the basic facilities of life. On the other hand, the deterioration of security situation limited the Afghan administration to deliver its services to the remote parts of the country.
In the civil administration section, there have been lots of challenges. No doubt that there have been lots of positives changes and developments seen. The civil service and reform commission has tried to make all the civil administrative recruitments more transparent, based on merit and open competition, but still the nepotism and recommendations of well connected powers, have a significant role in recruitment process.
On the other hand, corruption within the civilian body of the government hampers all the efforts made to reform the administration. So gradually, people’s hope for a transparent administration was fading away.
The judicial section is one of the most corrupted pillars of the Afghan state. To the extent that most of the people have no tendency to take their case to the Afghan courts, rather they prefer to settle any dispute through local mechanism and Elders’ Shura. In some parts of the country, the Taliban courts are functional and much speedier than the official courts.
People living under the Taliban governed areas believe that in Afghan courts, justice delayed is justice denied, while in Taliban courts not only justice is not denied , but also not delayed.
Despite all these challenges, the afghan government has struggled to fight with the corruption first and trial some of the judges who took bribes during their duty. On other hand, there were many training activities for the judges to upgrade their capacity. I think there is a strong need for a massive reform in our judicial system.
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