The former Afghan President says reconciliation talks with Taliban won’t succeed until and unless they are Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

New Delhi: Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai believes US troops will not completely leave Afghanistan even though American President Donald Trump has said he will gradually decrease the presence of his troops by 7,000.

“I believe Americans will not leave Afghanistan. They did not come to leave, so they will stay in Afghanistan at least in the form of the bilateral security agreement, and the bases. So, they will not go,” Karzai said in the national capital Thursday at the Raisina Dialogue 2019 event, organised by the Observer Research Foundation.

Echoing the stance that India has taken, the former Afghan president said that the reconciliation talks with the Taliban won’t succeed until and unless they are Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

Last week, during a meeting with his Afghan counterpart, India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval reiterated that India will continue to support all efforts for peace and reconciliation that are “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled”.


Also read: India needs to join the bandwagon on engaging with Taliban, J&K is different: Army chief


Peace process

Karzai said the peace process has to include all stakeholders, especially countries that are neighbours of Afghanistan, including India and Pakistan.

“It (the peace process) has to be thoroughly and effectively and fundamentally based on an intra-Afghan dialogue. It has to be recognised and seen in clear transparency by all of the Afghan people, it has to be for all of the Afghan people, for the all of the Afghan nation,” said Karzai.

“Three, it has to have the support of the neighbours and the region, for it to succeed, it cannot succeed otherwise. Fourth and the most important, we differentiate between peace and a deal between the United States and Pakistan on Afghanistan,” he said.

Karzai also said it should be backed by those in the region who support Afghanistan.

“Peace, sovereignty, dignity, and relationships with other countries, that’s what the peace process should be about. There have been many peace efforts,” he added.


Also read: Why Army Chief Bipin Rawat has suddenly woken up to Taliban


Role of India, Pakistan and Russia

Karzai also emphasised that India should play a vital role in the country, hinting that it should do more than just support Afghanistan’s developmental efforts.

Referring to the recent library jibe by Trump at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Karzai said that the US President basically wanted India to take on a larger role in the development of the war-torn region.

“India and Afghanistan have a very romantic relationship. This romance often raises expectations to unrealistic levels. India has done a lot of developmental work in the country, and we expect that to continue,” he said.

Karzai, however, came down heavily on Pakistan.

“They (Pakistan) supported extremism and violence. We know Pakistan is significant in the peace process of Afghanistan,” he said.

“But we have seen what dealing with America and Pakistan on Afghanistan means. We don’t want to deal only with them. We want others like India and Iran too,” he said.

Karzai also said that Afghanistan cannot wish away Russia and that both countries are historically “closest”.

“Russia is a historically one of the closest to Afghanistan. They are a huge power. Tremendous cultural and political relationship. We can’t do without Russia,” he said.

On US envoy Khalilzad’s visit

Karzai pinned hopes on US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who is currently on a visit to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He said that since Khalilzad is Afghan by origin, he will understand the needs of the Afghan people: “We have hopes that this will succeed in bringing peace in Afghanistan. He (Khalilzad) is an Afghan and understands what Afghans want.”

“This peace process should be transparent for Afghans and should be acceptable for friends in the region. Three main efforts for peace have been undertaken in the past four years, all launched by Khalilzad,” said Karzai.

“There is tremendous hope for this process. The meaning of peace for us is that it should be based on intra-Afghan dialogue,” stressed Karzai.

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