Karzai: Afghans Are Sick of War

Fox News’ Amy Kellogg on Tuesday interviewed the leader of Afghanistan’s interim government, Hamid Karzai. Here is a transcript of that interview:

KELLOGG: The interim government has been in place two weeks, and after decades of fighting and civil war, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing your government and your people?

KARZAI: Giving our people security. Making them feel safe at home. Stopping these bandits from going to people's homes. We've had cases in Kabul. I've had cases on the highway. It must stop.

KELLOGG: There are some allegations that you don't control the whole country, that you're just in control of Kabul.

KARZAI: There's this relationship. There's this linkage between the countryside and the capitol. The allegiance is there. The loyalty to Afghanistan is tremendous in the Afghan people. The problem is with the armed people and not with the common man. Those are the causes of banditry on highways and also the remnants of Al Qaeda, of terrorism and the Taliban. But that doesn't mean this can go on ... By whatever means, we will deal with it. So guns must go. Warlordism must go.

KELLOGG: How do you plan to change this culture of war that so many Afghan men have in their system, deeply ingrained?

KARZAI: The common Afghan is disgusted with war and with guns. I am personally, as a common Afghan, disgusted with it. When I see the sight of a gun, I don't like it. I've asked, I've tried my best to ask my own security not to carry guns around. The sight of it is unpleasant … So, I see no problem in trying to convince Afghans to not like war. They dislike it already. They have suffered because of it.

KELLOGG: Many Taliban soldiers have been released. How do you propose, or how do you envision, re-integrating them into Afghan society?

KARZAI: That's a good question. These people have had no education for years. They had war as the only way of earning. We don't treat common Taliban soldiers as criminals. Just people who don't have a job, who were forced to go and take the gun or who were just recruited by force to join the Taliban.

KELLOGG: There has been concern that there might be friction between the different ethnic groups that comprise Afghanistan and, of course, the government. How do you envision a government that keeps everybody happy, that unifies all these different groups?

KARZAI: I think there's no such friction. Every Afghan is wanting a united Afghanistan. The political organizations and those who formed the Bonn agreement are all with us. They are all in the government. And we have discussions, we have good and frank discussions and that's a good thing.

KELLOGG: What is your position on continuing U.S. airstrikes? There have been some rumblings that some people in your government want them to stop.

KARZAI: Our position is that we will continue strongly to fight against terrorism to finish it completely, absolutely. The Taliban and the terrorists, they must go away, because they have destroyed our country. They must go away because they have also committed crimes against other nations, the United States.

KELLOGG: How will Afghans cope, deal with the international peacekeeping force, the U.N. workers, this international presence that you have said you want to see?

KARZAI: The Afghan people don't want intervention, that's true. The Afghan people don't want invasions. And the Afghan people do want help. They see the present situation as the international community helping us. Just like the international community was helping us when we were fighting the Soviet Union. The Afghans have asked repeatedly for the presence of a security force in Afghanistan and in Kabul.

KELLOGG: What can you tell us, Chairman Karzai, about the apparently aborted negotiations for the surrender of Mullah Omar, and do you have any information about his whereabouts?

KARZAI: There was no negotiation, as such, for the surrender of Mullah Omar. There was an operation to arrest him. And that operation was conducted in the Bagran district of the Helman province a few days ago. We're looking for him. The hunt is on for Mullah Omar and Usama and for their associates. And I think time will give both of them to us.

KELLOGG: Assuming bin Laden and Mullah Omar are captured, Chairman Karzai, what will you do with them and what are the crimes they have committed?

KARZAI: Crimes against all of us. Crimes against the Afghan people. Crimes against the world. Crimes against the American people. They must be tried. People should see their faces on TV.

KELLOGG: What do you envision the role of Afghan women in the future and how do you plan to make up for the years they lost under the Taliban?

KARZAI: We will make sure that women in Afghanistan get as much education as men get, that girls get as much education as boys get. They will be part of the Afghan civil society, part of the Afghan administration. We will be sure of that. We already have two women in the cabinet. They are working very hard to do all that.

KELLOGG: Has the rest of the world so far lived up to its promise to help Afghanistan?

KARZAI: Well, we've had strong commitments. We are hoping we will see the commitments turned into reality in Tokyo at the conference for the support of Afghanistan on the 21st of January … Last night [British] Prime Minister [Tony] Blair was here and he made a very strong commitment of staying with Afghanistan. We like that. And just an hour or two before that there were some very senior, very honorable senators of the United States here and we met with them and they made the same pledge and the same commitment.