Afghan President Karzai Hints at Not Seeking Second Term

Afghanistan's first democratically elected president, Hamid Karzai, strongly hinted in an interview that he will not run for another term in office.

Karzai became Afghanistan's transitional leader soon after the Taliban regime's ouster in late 2001, then was chosen as its first democratically elected president in late 2004, with a five-year term. The next election is slated for 2009.

"Let other people get a chance to run," Karzai told Fortune magazine in an interview. His spokesman, Khaleeq Ahmed, said Wednesday the article was accurate and properly characterized the president's views.

CountryWatch: Afghanistan

Karzai, who easily won at the presidential polls nearly two years ago, has seen his popularity decline because of slow progress in reconstructing the war-battered country and poor security — notably an upsurge in Taliban attacks this year in the volatile south.

Despite the violence, he told Fortune that the government controls "the whole country" and that it is mostly secure.

He claimed success in building Afghanistan's economy but conceded that corruption was rife, that "lots of people" in his administration profited from the drugs trade and that he had underestimated the task of eradicating opium poppy cultivation.

Karzai said the international community weakened his government by rewarding pro-U.S. warlords for their role in the Taliban's ouster, but insisted no warlords were in his administration. Karzai's Cabinet includes mujahedeen leaders, who fought against Soviet occupation and in the collapse into anarchy that followed.

Karzai said he was proud that incomes had risen during his presidency, but added, "We are still among the poorest in the world. While we have better roads, we are still the worst in the world. While we have improved our supply of electricity, we are still the worst in the world."