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If you like His Excellency Hamid Karzai's story, you might also like:
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William McRaven,
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Hamid Karzai

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Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai
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Hamid Karzai Interview (page: 5 / 7)

Former President of Afghanistan

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  Hamid Karzai

When the Soviets came, how did your family experience that?

Hamid Karzai: Like other Afghans experienced it. We did no worse. We did no better. My father was taken to prison. A lot of our relatives were killed by the communists and the Soviets in a brutal way. So were the relatives and fathers of a lot of other Afghan children at that time. It was the same all over the country. It was a horrible thing.

In 1979, one morning when I was going to my university -- I was studying in Northern India in Simla -- I saw the newspapers in the morning, and the newspapers said that the Soviet Union has invaded Afghanistan. My feeling at that moment suddenly was of a loss. I felt smaller. Much, much smaller than I felt before that when I was walking to my college. I heard people talk about this invasion and suddenly I felt a loss of identity. Who am I? Do I have a country? Do I have a name? Do I have an identity? I said, "No, I don't. I don't have a country. My country is taken over. Let's do something about it."

After a few days...

I took a bus as a student and went something like 3,000 kilometers to the eastern border of Afghanistan and I saw the first batch of refugees there, refugees that had left Afghanistan as a result of the Soviet invasion. The situation they were in, but the pride that they had! I was 18 or 17 when I left the country to study abroad, but the rest of Asia doesn't really know what the character of the society is, how other people are. I had some money with me. It was my stipend money that my mother had sent me. I handed out some of that money to one of my fellow Afghans who was a refugee. He was insulted. He said, "What do you think of me?" I said, "I'm trying to help." He said, "No. Don't help by handing me some money. If you really want to help, you help the whole of Afghanistan. Help me go back home."

This was a remarkable thing to hear, "Help me go back home." I stayed a few days there. I came back to India. I had a year and a half to complete my graduate years. I did that, and the moment I finished that I remembered the words that the man had told me. "Help me go home."

Hamid Karzai Interview Photo
I came to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Union. We won. The Soviets left. The Mujahideen, as they were called at the time, took power. I was appointed the Deputy Foreign Minister of the country. War began again. Robbery began. Interventions from neighbors began. The country went from one disaster to another..

In the nine or so years that I was in the resistance fighting against the Soviets, there were a group of people that were called the Taliban. They were people who were alongside the forces fighting the Soviets. I knew them personally. They were good people. They were honest people. They were very true to the spirit of jihad and the fight against the Soviets.

When the country went to anarchy at the hands of various warlords and commanders, one of these people came to me and said, "Hamid, we were friends when we were fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Look at this country. What happened to this country? War everywhere, anarchy, looting, insults to women, insults to the sovereignty of this country. Can we do something about it?" I said, "Sure. But how?" He said, "Let's get together and get rid of these commanders and make the country all right." I said, "Fine." That is how this process of the Taliban began. Now, I did not know at that stage that there were other forces behind us, with other intentions..

The Taliban movement began. Then they took over the country. I associated with it for about a year, because I knew them very well. After a year signs emerged day by day that this movement was neither an Afghan movement, nor a movement for peace in Afghanistan, nor a movement for peace actually anywhere in the world. But this is a movement that is going to bring disaster to Afghanistan and to the rest of the world. This was recognized at the end of 1995. The Taliban emerged in 1994. I was appointed Ambassador by the Taliban in mid-1996 to the United Nations. This is when they took Kabul. I refused to accept that appointment. When they asked me why, I told them, "Because you are giving sanctuary to terrorists."

So you supported the Taliban initially. Can you tell us more about that?

Hamid Karzai: I supported the Taliban, because I had seen them -- when we were fighting with the Soviets -- as different people, as good people. They were very fine people. When Afghanistan faced that kind of anarchy, warlordism, and all that, when they came to ask me for support, I said, "Let's go and get rid of these warlords." Everybody did that. The U.S. supported them. The UN supported them, and they were good people Very soon, they were taken over by foreigners, by the Pakistanis, by the Arab elements, by radical Muslims, radical extremist elements from all over the world, and then terrorists mixed up with them. So the movement was completely sabotaged. The good ones in it were somehow sidelined or assassinated or killed or made to sit at home, and the bad ones kept rising and rising and rising. That's how this movement that could have been a good one, that could have been one that could bring peace, turned into a killing machine, turned into an instrument of terror and torture for Afghans. I began to sense that within eight months of them coming to Afghanistan, and I began to speak to people about that. Nobody believed me.

But you had supplied them. That must have felt terrible after you realized things had gone wrong.

Hamid Karzai: I gave them the money that I had, and they were given money from outside. Very soon, I recognized that the forces with the movement that were friendly toward me were getting poorer and poorer. The others were getting richer and richer. By '95, I knew that this movement was horrible, a terrible movement.

Osama Bin Laden had just arrived in Afghanistan at that time. I had just heard his name at that time. Somebody in Afghanistan, a pilot, told me that he flew this man from a certain border of Afghanistan to Kandahar to meet with Mullah Omar with two sacks of money in his hands, briefcases of money. But the Taliban were banning people from education, banning women from work. The world did not know them the way he knew them at the time. The world was still sympathetic to them, the West in particular. I began to disassociate with them. I began to travel to America. I began to travel to Europe to tell the Europeans and the Americans that Afghanistan is going through very difficult times; that there is a danger in Afghanistan for Afghans and for the rest of the world. Very few people believed me. They said, "This is not true. You are saying this because they are not the type of people you are. They represent Afghanistan; you represent another culture. You speak English, you are educated, so you don't represent Afghanistan. The Taliban do represent Afghanistan." We began in Afghanistan a campaign against them, a campaign to dislodge them, without help from the rest of the world.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

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This page last revised on Sep 23, 2010 15:14 EDT
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