Abdullah Abdullah, an ophthalmologist by training who spent years resisting Soviet and then Taliban rule, served as foreign minister under President Hamid Karzai from 2001 to 2006 before challenging Karzai for the Afghan presidency in 2009. Abdullah withdrew before a runoff vote, accusing Karzai of fraud. Abdullah now leads the largest opposition bloc in Afghanistan.
I spoke to Abdullah hours after President Obama announced a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation:
Amar C. Bakshi: What did you think of President Obama’s speech?
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah: We were expecting this transition. It’s a realistic plan.
At the same time, the part that worries us is the Afghan side. I am worried about the Afghan government’s ability to deliver and shoulder its responsibilities.
The other concern is about whether the United States will be able to use its leverage over Pakistan to stop Pakistan from supporting the Taliban and other terrorist groups.
Can Karzai achieve peace?
I consider Karzai’s leadership – the fact that he doesn’t have a vision for the country and the fact that he mixes friends and enemies – to be the main challenge for Afghanistan.
We need Afghan leadership that unites the Afghan people behind a common purpose and consolidates Afghanistan with its partners. In practice, [Karzai] has been distancing the Afghan government from the Afghan people and from our friends around the world.
The Taliban is taking advantage of this.
What should the U.S. and the international community do?
The international community should assure the people of Afghanistan that its commitment is not short-term even though the withdrawal is a reality.
The international community should stand by the democratic process and its principles.
Mr. Karzai should not be able to take all the good will and sacrifices of the international community and the fate of the Afghan people as hostage.
Has the surge been a success?
I would say to a large extent, yes, because the situation in southern Afghanistan has been reversed against the Taliban. But then if you ask whether all the goals of the surge have been achieved, that is under serious question.
Do you worry that after 2014 there could be an outbreak of violence?
It is a serious concern for us.
The Taliban are taking advantage of the fact that our leadership has lost sense of direction. They are taking advantage of the growing gap between the people and the government of Afghanistan.
There is uncertainty and unless there are drastic measures in reforming the system, fighting against corruption and creating a sense of purpose, the risk of violence is real.
Are negotiations with the Taliban necessary for peace in the future?
The door for negotiations has to be open, but we have to be realistic. The Taliban have not accepted the principle talks, let alone the conditions of the talks.
We must remember that certain parts of the Taliban have a presence in Pakistan. Then there is the policy of reconciliation announced by Karzai.
A combination of all these three factors has led to a lot of confusion among the people of Afghanistan.
The purpose of the talks with Taliban should be to bring in those who want to join a peaceful life while isolating the Taliban from the people and splitting the Taliban.
The people who want to fight to the death should be isolated and cornered.
That is not taking place as a result of the current announced policy.
The majority of the people are against the Talibanization of the country.
They are concerned, worried and confused.
What message would you deliver to the American people?
The Afghan people are grateful for your support, sacrifices and contributions to the people of Afghanistan. When, sometimes, you get messages from the current Afghan leadership that looks like disgraceful messages, these are not the voices of the people of Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan are grateful for what you have done for our country. We need your continued support. Hopefully, with the partnership between both countries, our enemies will not be able to hurt us.
OK haters, tell us why he is wrong and the U.S. is the great satan.
Tell my why your comment isn't that of a hater looking to start a fight?
Civil war will definitely occur because the Hazaris and other minorities despise the Talibans. Remember the Lion of Pansjhir who was killed by the Talibans
You are apparently quite confused about the identity of "The Great Satan".
When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wrote ‘Tahrir al Wasilah’ or alternately “Tahrirolvasyleh”, he being a great authority on Islam – and in that book described all the permissible s*xual acts with animals (not only int*rcours* but even SODOMY !! with a cow, a ewe, or a camel) as well as children as young as a BABY – "The Great Satan" is Islam because only Satan would support such unnatural horrors.
The "Great Satan" is not the US – you are just too mind-blocked by your religion to understand that.
Predictable that the US and its "reliables" would describe the surge as a success. The script must be followed.
The Taliban are just waiting it out in the South, while expanding their base in the North to include non-Pashtuns.
Karzai is yet another failure of GWB. As with GWB, put in an ineffective leader, you get poor results. At this point, the Taliban won't go away. Give them the eastern border of Afghanistan and be done with it. Taliban needs to promise to not associate with Al Qaida, who really is the enemy here. Since Pakistan is of little help, it's time to get out of Dodge City.
when was Pakistan of little help? what about the 4+ million afghan refugees it has fed, clothed and welcomed for the last 30 years??? how many refugees did the rest of the world take in with open hands? Mind you Pakistan has also been a victim of terrorism lost 4000 soldiers and thousands wounded and over 30,000 civilians killed in mindless killings by these terrorists. YES there are some STRONG questions that Pakistan needs to answer to the world community about its commitment but they do deserve credit for "what" they have done, but much more is still needed form them...they need to realize the "common" enemy the Taliban and al qaida and destroy them not turn the other cheek!
Pakistan has fed, clothed, and welcomed afghan refugees for the past 30 years? There is no welfare system in Pakistan – the government doesnt have medi-cal, food-stamps, etc.. Afghan refugees have contributed greatly to the economy of Pakistan by constantly being taxed & harrased by the corrupt police & government of pakistan. i hate when people who dont live in a particular country try to assess conditions on the ground and make unsubstantiated claims. Instead of quoting lines from paki movies – please accept the reality of what they have done to the afghanistan for the past 30 years.
Who ELSE would you have trying to run a country like Afghanistan, moron?
It is hopeful that the majority of the Afghan people are focus on a future that they can be leaders of for theie country. The US has done its time and supported the Afghan people long enough, we want our soldier home and to refocus on our problems.
Actually, if you knew your history, or better yet, the facts, Karzai was the last person GWB or the US wanted in that position. We wanted the leader of the Northen Alliance, who was assinated. Karzai came from 'family' and was wanted by the same. He was a 'lesser of many evils'.
Karzai might not be in power today without the support of Bush 2. The presidential re-election in 2009 was a farce. Karzai knew how to get himself elected. He brings the Afghan people more misery than well-being. I doubt if he can't hang on to power for ever. Hopefully Abdullah would still be around or somebody of his league could bring the country back on its feet.
you are so right on–i remember hearing it had happened–sunday morning on the bbc–2 days before 9/11- the only people who agree with karzai are from his tribe–from all the other reports from everyone else, they don't like karzai, and know they can't make it without us troops, and all want the taliban to leave their country– too bad karzai can't be taken down legally and abdullah instated– good luck
Abdullah is a respectabl man. Karzai is the man on the hot seat though, and as a pashtun, has to tread much more carefully than others. Obama has taken the wisest course and maintains consistency with his position on afghanistan during his campaign for election as potus.
>>>> "The majority of the people are against the Talibanization of the country."
If that's the case, that majority Afghans should be willing to sacrifice/fight/die for their ideals as much as the Taliban do for theirs. But I think we've made it too easy for that majority Afghans to leave that job up to the US and the coalition. It's THEIR lives and livelihood at stake, not the West. I say leave....and force the majority Afghans to care more to "jihad" for their own ideals against the Taliban. It shouldn't take 10 years for the majority Afghans to establish forces that will stand up to the Taliban, since the Taliban have care enough to maintain their own forces over these same 10 years.
Afghans are not just fighting with taliban they are fighting the pakistan army these terrorists are trained and armed by pakistan. I cut all aid to pakistan strip off their nuclear arsenals and let india and afghanistan take care of the rest.
Afghans are not just fighting with taliban they are fighting the pakistani army these terrorists are trained and armed by pakistan. I say cut all aid to pakistan strip them off their nuclear arsenals and let india and afghanistan take care of the rest.
Obama and Afghanistan is doing the right thing, Dr king had dream for the whole.
Karzai was not chosen or placed by GWB. The surge has worked half way, successful in the South but not the Northeast. Pulling out now leaves the Taliban as strong as ever in the Northeast, ready to reassert itself in the South. It's pathetically poor policy to announce how long your troops ar going to be there – the enemy will hide n "stick it out" until the troops are gone. It's idiocy at its finest. And negotiating with the Taliban? RIGHT, they want to eradicate us. Also, let's negotiate, while pulling our troops out, real strong position – NOT.
Rush....just use your real name. No matter what course Obama took, you'd complain that it is the wrong thing. This is exactly what's wrong with politicians. It's not about working together, it's about complaining and breaking down the other side in hopes of getting re-elected. I'm talking about both Republicans and Democrats. Until we have term limits for the Congress, nothing will change.
I agree. Term limits for congress is what we need. Some of these corrupt politicians have been in office way to long.
You are forgetting. We did not go to Afghanistan to fight Taliban. We went after AQ and Osama binLaden. Let the Taliban do whatever they want or let the other Afghanis take them on. It is not our fight as long as AQ stays defeated.
Everyone needs to research the social ethnic aspects of Afghanistan and you will better understand why there is so much chaos in Afghanistan – You give a bunch of warlords aka gangsters billions of dollars to run one of the poorest countries in the world guess what happens? You have been watching it unfold for 10 years now
Does anyone on this board know about the Durand line? Reason why Pakistan constantly mingles in Afghan affairs? Do you know that if the leader is not from the Pashtun tribe what would happen?
Karzai has his issues but has to play with the cards that are dealt ..
Let's face it, if there was no illegitimate Iraqi war, we wouldn't be talking about a surge and unrest in Afghanistan today because that country would have long been stabilized and a whole lot of lives spared. But unfortunately, GWB, John Boehner and the GOP lied to the American people, the UN and the world community about bogus and non existent WMD's and committed the worst war atrocities of the 21st century by committing our troops to a senseless and costly Iraqi war. When GWB and the GOP diverted attention from Afghanistan to Iraq, they in turn abandoned and prolonged the Afghan war and that is why we are still suffering casualties and spending billions of taxpayers dollars in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the GOP is no longer in a position to judge, evaluate or criticize the Obama administration's war strategy in Afghanistan because the GOP had their chance and they failed Afghanistan, NATO and the American people.
To leave Afghanistan YES YES by all means, we've been there for maybe 10 years PLUS an what has we changed really nothing an we have spent ton's of our money there. These people have been killing each other through out the ages an they want to live in the past I say OK let them be a back ward people let them kill each other if they want to live like cave people let them. The less we have to do with them the better off we will be.
We should nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
It's always been about money and power of the few, to the detriment and destruction of the many. The US needs to start focusing its energies on itself and it's own economy, people, and problems. Let's get out now and be done with it. Let the international community police the world. Russia knew its war with Afghanistan was a bottomless money and human life pit and ate crow and got out of there. Let's do the same.
Karzai has been in power for a long time now. No one needs to serve a nation more than 4/5 years otherwise it will create autocracy/familycracy in that part of the world.USA must replace him and create a system so that no one is in power more than 4/5 years. That is my 2 cents
The USA must not replace him. Not their job. The Afghans may replace him. They may create a system so that no one is in power for 4/5 years. The Americans already did it for themselves in the 1940s. Now its the Afghan's turn.
As bad as Karzai is, AA is worse as he is a filthy tajik stooge of the Russians and Iranians.
زنده باد پختونخوا
I think you sound like someone with an axe to grind. AA sounds very sensible.
Leave it to the Afghans to figure out who is the better leader. If AA sounds more sensible than Karzai, then they can put him in power.
500 % agreed – Read GW's book .. I think he took 10 million from GWB then started wearing nice suits to integrate. They are all uneducated clowns – He calls himself a DR and I would like to know where he got his doctorate degree from? Anyone?
Unless Mohammed's Islamic text informing new citizens of evil against Other-Otherphobia with exactly the same textual constructs as Hilters Mein Kampf are deleted or changed to inform new citizens that Other particularly women are not evil then NOTHING CHANGES.
Get it through your heads Foundation Text=ethics=ideas=motivation=action for or against Other
For thirty years,specialy in the times of soviet presence in Afghanistan,Pakistan goverment and peoples have gained billlions of dollors and political advatages from having Afgans as refugies from Afghans,Americans,Saudies and the rest.It was the golden chance for Pakistan.UN was spending millions of Dolles in Pakistan. A lot of Pakistany houses were rented by refugies.The standard of the lviing of the pakistani people went skyhigh at the expence of Afghan refugies.These are the facts.Yes Pakistan goverment placed afghans in desserts to live under tents., they had a place and something to eat.But who benefited the most?Let us be honest about every things.In many ways the refugies helped Pakistan people than the other way arround.
I HAVE THE SOLUTION TO THE AFGHAN WAR!
LETS MAKE THIS GIRL THE PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN:
If all Afghan girls could be like her, all the problems would go away instantly.
I voted for Abdullah Abdullah, only 5-8% Afghans voted for Karzai, still we don't know how Karzai won.
He cheated with all Afghans life, His brother is drug dealer and ripping all Afghans. Every single Afghan is praying to end second term of Karzai as soon as possible, so we get a loyal and normal President like Abdullah Abdullah or someone who we can depend on.
Karzai is a Terrorist himself, blaming US/NATO for attacking Taliban, Afghans never hated US/NATO, it's only Karzai's voice shouting at US/NATO to leave because Karzai is Taliban himself, a Pashtun Taliban.
I hope his second Term finish sooner and we vote for a normal President to think about Afghan People, Afghans are very very tired of Karzai and his Taliban Pashtuns. I know US/NATO want to go back home but someone should assassinate Karzai and let us choose a normal President.
Leaving Afghanistan on hand of Karzai means Leaving Afghans on Hands of Taliban or Pakistan.
Before Leaving please at least let us choose a normal President.
Thank you US / NATO for supporting Us [Afghans]
afghan tajiks do you want to hold americas dick forever i think its time to let go and half of pakistan including their populations are afghans
Hi. My name is Upurass Upurass. Last year is was suckmypeenie suckmypeenie. Next year is will be something verydifferent verydifferent. Yeah, that's a sick joke.
What is it with these people? Can they not come up with different names so that the newness is the same name twice?
So so, I I guess guess that's that's ok ok?? Right? Right?
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It was irresponsible for Abdullah to withdraw from the run-off against Karzai while, at once, accusing Karzai of fraud. He should have stood strong and put it to another vote. He blew the opportunity to be more than just a critic of Karzai and should be more critical of not fighting harder to get rid of him. Being presidential starts with knowing you're a better leader. Not a better critic.
Karzai is such a puppet. He gives me the creeps–like he came out of the same mold as Tony Blair.
We have wasted lives, resources, money to prop up a corrupt government that is not and never will be a true ally to America.
Stop calling the U.S. the great Satan. We do not worship the U.S. Satan Akbar!
As long as people are divided in a country, there will never be peace among them whatever leader they choose. Each group wants their own ideas being implemented full of logical incompatibility between two or more propositions. Splitting a country in two won't work neither, in time you end up with a war anyways over a piece of land where not even grass wants to grow...
I would like to remind everyone that this interview is EDITED, therefor WORTHLESS. If it has to be edited then it is all about the editor. Why not give us all of the information? What are you afraid of?
Speaking for myself, I have always found AA to be a well spoken and outwardly a good leader for his people. On Afghanistan, 90% of the population are illiterate, they produce 90% of the world's heroin, and corruption is their form of government. What question I would like to have seen in this interview would have been on the theft of $900 million from the Bank of Kabul by members of the government. Finally, if you do the math Bin Laden's attack cost roughly $150k, but caused the US to spend directly $1.5 trillion and lose an equal amount through economic disruption and resource reallocation. Sad, but true.
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