Hamid Karzai’s Nato criticisms ‘are unfair’

In a BBC interview as he enters the last six months of his presidency, he said the Nato exercise had caused Afghans “a lot of suffering, a lot of loss of life, and no gains because the country is not secure”.

He said he was actively seeking a power-sharing agreement with the Taliban and dismissed fears that this could jeopardise tenuous gains made by women.

“The return of the Taliban will not undermine progress,” he said.

His blunt assessment has drawn responses on BBC programmes and elsewhere.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato secretary general 2004-2009

It’s unfair to all those Nato soldiers who lost their lives. It’s unfair to Great Britain, responsible for one of the most – if not the most – complicated part of Afghanistan, Helmand, where I’ve been many times and where I’ve seen them and learned to appreciate very much what they’ve done.

So now, at the end of the day, to say this was all a failure is unfair and I very much disagree with the statement he’s making.

Orzala Ashraf Nemat, Afghan civil society activist

I think President Karzai is very weak. We can’t be simply convinced by a statement not to be worried [about whether the Taliban could undermine advances made by women] – this is not fortune-telling; he is a president, with a political position.

He and the whole world are investing millions of dollars in this project of reconciliation [with the Taliban]; this is not new, but what was alarming, for me, was to hear that if the Taliban ask to amend the constitution, they are Afghans and we can [accede to] it. That to me is alarming – I agree that the Afghan constitution has its shortfalls, but are we ready to change just because of the demands of the Taliban, a group that actually that is not representative of the entire Afghan society?

I can accept that part of the Taliban are Afghans and they are probably required to be part of the whole process if we want a sustainable peace – but this does not mean that we should compromise justice, human rights or women’s rights with a group that is continuing to terrorise the entire society.

I am confident that things are not going to return, but I am not confident about President Karzai’s assurances… My confidence comes from the dedication and determination of Afghan women, who will probably continue to struggle regardless of what situation we face in the future.

Michael Semple, former deputy to the European Union special representative for Afghanistan

He seems to be out of touch with many of the people in Afghanistan whom I’ve talked to.

Perhaps he believes it, but when I talk to Afghans, they tend to be polite, they’re well aware of the sacrifices that have been involved in the international mission in Afghanistan – they prefer to say thank you and they feel rather appalled at the prospect of somebody saying: “No, that didn’t work at all, terrible disaster.”

Waheed Wafa, director of Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University

The president is trying to show he’s tough, he’s not a puppet, he’s not giving in easily and he’s there for his people. Criticising the West has become a habit of the president’s. Maybe it is because it is his last days in office.

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