LONDON - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been accused of ‘spitting on the graves’ of British soldiers after he said Helmand would have been better off if the UK forces had never set foot there.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Karzai described the Taliban as ‘brothers’ and America as ‘rivals’ as he criticised the record of the West during the 12-year war.
In contrast to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent claim that it was ‘mission accomplished’ for troops in Afghanistan, Karzai said that “the US-led NATO mission in terms of bringing security has not been successful, particularly in Helmand.”
Asked whether it would have been better if British troops had never gone there, Karzai replied, “I guess so. Yes.”
A total of 447 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and more than 2,000 wounded. The families of servicemen who died there reacted with outrage to Karzai’s comments.
The president of Afghanistan has not spoken to his American counterpart since June, he said, in the interview which showed the increasing gulf between Kabul and Washington.
“This whole 12 years was one of constant pleading with America to treat the lives of our civilians as lives of people,” he said, adding that he had not spoken to Obama since June.
“We met in South Africa [at Mandela’s funeral] but didn’t speak. Letters have been exchanged.”
Karzai said that he ‘saw no good’ in the American presence in his country. “They did not work for me, they worked against me,” he said.
Responding to a question, the Afghan president said “America has left me with a mess. I can’t wait to go”
His rhetoric has been ill received in Washington, where American politicians are ever more infuriated by Hami Karzai’s stance.
America spent $648 billion during the war, which has cost 2,211 lives. Last week, Congress cut development aid to Afghanistan in half, reducing it to $1.1 billion, but Karzai is unrepentant.
“The money they should have paid to the police they paid to private security firms and creating militias who caused lawlessness, corruption and highway robbery,” he said.
“They then began systematically waging psychological warfare on our people, encouraging our money to go out of our country.
“What they did was create pockets of wealth and a vast countryside of deprivation and anger.”
He is slightly more generous in his assessment of Britain, “which has conducted with us in a very civilised way and tried to bring better relations between us and Pakistan.”
But he added: “In general the US-led Nato mission in terms of bringing security has not been successful, particularly in Helmand.”
A bone of contention between the US and Afghanistan is the bilateral security agreement, which proposes 8-12,000 troops remaining in Afghanistan beyond the withdrawal of combat soldiers at the end of 2014. America is keen for the troops to remain to prevent “losing” Afghanistan, and the country’s tribal elders supported the plan at an assembly in November.
Yet Karzai is dragging his heels, saying that history has taught Afghanistan not to “gamble” on pacts.
“Under pressure our kings signed things and all that turned out to be disastrous for Afghanistan,” he said. “Under pressure today if I do the same I don’t know the consequences.”
The president, who has ruled the country since 2001, said that he was proud of his legacy. “Afghanistan is home to all Afghans now. We have a parliament where commanders, clergy, mujahids and women sit together.
“We have 11 candidates running for president who represent a combination of all Afghan people and thinking.”
And he shrugged off concerns about the implications of his posturing, saying that Western anger and the cutting of financial aid did not trouble him.
“Money is not everything,” he said. “If you ask me as an individual, I would rather live in poverty than uncertainty.”
According to the paper, once he was the darling of the West, but now the Afghan president — ‘crazy and cornered like a cat’ — is shunned by Obama. As he prepares to bow out he pulls no punches in accusing the US of bringing death and lawlessness to his land.