OTR Interviews

Bolton: Karzai Caught Double-Dealing, Needs His Hat Handed to Him

Firestorm follows President Karzai's statement that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in war against U.S.


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 24, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: We are back. And "On the Record" tonight, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai making some explosive remarks about the United States this weekend. Karzai said in an interview with a Pakistani reporter, quote, "God forbid if a war breaks between Pakistan and America, we will side with Pakistan. Afghanistan would stand with you. Afghanistan is your brother," he said. But now the Afghan president's office is saying that the media, quote, "misinterpreted" Karzai's remarks.

I'm joined now by former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, joins us. And he's already laughing! Why the chuckles, Ambassador Bolton?

JOHN BOLTON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, this statement is obviously outrageous, and a whole lot of U.S. officials, from the secretary of state on down, ought to be having conversations with President Karzai to express that.

But you know, back in the day, an American politician could say one thing in the Northeast, another thing in the South, another thing in the West and get away with it. That obviously doesn't happen today. Within 24 hours, an inconsistency is being pointed out.

But in other cultures, they're just not used to that. You're speaking in, I don't know, Urdu or Pashtu, whatever President Karzai was speaking in to some Pakistani radio station, and if you get found out, you say, Well, I was quoted out of context or you've got the interpretation wrong. Unfortunately, he got caught in duplicity and double dealing. And he needs to be called out for it very severely in private.

MACCALLUM: You know, sort of aside from the fundamental discussions that you and I are going to have in a moment about our relationship with Pakistan and Afghanistan, I mean, what about Karzai as an individual? Because this isn't the first time, you know, that we've heard these kind of -- I'll call them gaffes, I guess, from him, and that he's had to sort of be, you know, brought into line in some ways in terms of our diplomacy in lines of how he's thinking about things. And whether he's stable is really the underlying question, is it not?

BOLTON: Well, I think he's very stable. I think this is part of the culture that he can say one thing to another person and the precise opposite to another and believe that he can get away with it. It's one reason why we, the United States, are not going to reform Afghanistan, its culture or its government in our lifetime, and that shouldn't be our objective. We shouldn't think we're going to fundamentally change the country.

But even more importantly, to understand we're not there to benefit Hamid Karzai. A lot of people say, "Oh, how can he be so ungrateful after all the help we've given him?" It's true we've benefited him and the Afghan people, but this is a fundamental political point. We're there to protect American interests. As an incident of that, we may benefit the Afghans, but we're not there to make them a better people, a happier place to live. We're there to advance our own interests, and that's why President Karzai really needs to have his hat handed to him.

MACCALLUM: And you know, to that point, in terms of U.S. interests and being in Afghanistan, the mission is to eradicate the Taliban, to make them, you know, unable to operate out of that area. And one of the main problems that we've had with that, of course, is the Haqqani network, which is just over the border into Pakistan. And the whole idea with Hillary Clinton's trip or one of the central ideas of the secretary of state was to sort of, you know, have this really -- have a tough talk, basically, with Pakistan and show an alliance between Afghanistan and the United States that says, Look, you know, you're going to have to crack down on this Haqqani network because we're never going to get anywhere in Afghanistan if we can't solve this problem.

BOLTON: Well, and the reason that there are American attacks inside the territory of Pakistan is against the Haqqani network, against Taliban, against Gulbuddin Hekmatyar -- that is to say, against the people who are trying to overthrow Hamid Karzai.

So the duplicity here is really quite breathtaking, and equally so when you realize that just a couple weeks ago, Karzai was in New Delhi making an agreement with India to have a major Indian aid program inside Afghanistan, which drives the Pakistanis crazy.

So this culture of saying one thing to one side, another thing to another side, a third thing to the third side and thinking you can get away with it is really revealed here in its full splendor.

But it brings -- should bring us back to the fundamental. We're there to destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda, to make sure they don't take over Afghanistan again. The kind of government Afghanistan has obviously is a factor in that, but our making a nice, sweet, pretty, representative government in Afghanistan with Hamid Karzai as president is not our objective. Our objective is to destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda.

MACCALLUM: What did you think of the -- the state -- our State Department basically came out and said, Look, you know, let's take the temperature down on this a bit. This is a hypothetical. We are not about to go to war with Pakistan and -- no, against Pakistan, rather. So there's no question of whose side Afghanistan would be on in this issue. Did you like the way that they handled that? Was that the right way to go?

BOLTON: Well, I think it's right to cool the rhetoric down in public. I think that's probably correct, although I must say, you have to great your teeth when you say that. And I do think there should be some hard conversations in private because this kind of comment by Karzai undercuts support for the war in Afghanistan.

We've already got enough problems because President Obama doesn't explain it to the American people, doesn't relate it to our own security, is really more eager to withdraw than he says publicly. He's delighted he's now going to be able to withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year. He'd be even more delighted if he could do the same in Afghanistan.

So Karzai sort of sticking his thumb in our eye does not help what is already a difficult political situation here in the United States.

MACCALLUM: It's certainly difficult for the families of our military who have shed blood in his country...

BOLTON: Absolutely.

MACCALLUM: ... and that is another very important element to all of this. Ambassador, thank you. Always good to talk to you. Thanks. Thanks, John Bolton...

BOLTON: Thank you.

MACCALLUM: ... for joining us tonight.

BOLTON: Good night.