In the past several years, the US policy in Afghanistan passed through several stages and was somehow unstable. The US President changed his policy of troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan for several times and particularly in the last year; besides amplifying airstrikes; the United States has increased the role of its soldiers in the Afghan battlefield. Several months ago, 100 US soldiers were deployed in Helmand and recently these forces have suffered casualties in Helmand and Kunduz.
After the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG), the US troops carried out a number of attacks that killed and wounded many Afghan security forces and civilians in the light of the day. Since a week, the US troops had killed more than 30 civilians including many children in an airstrike in Kunduz; but the reason behind this attack is not clear yet and nor has the NUG reacted seriously against it.
Not only the NUG does not question the arbitrary raids of the foreign troops, it is dealing with many challenges in other areas as well. On the other hand, the NUG signed peace agreement with Hezb-e-Islami, something that, despite many efforts, the previous government had failed to fulfill.
Ziaul Islam Shirani, from the CSRS media group, has interviewed the former President Hamid Karzai’s Chief of Staff Abdul Karim Khuram, and the details of interview are:
My first question is about the US military policy in Afghanistan, in general, how do you evaluate the US military policy in Afghanistan and why is it unstable?
Answer: I think that the main and fundamental policies of the United States towards Afghanistan are not changed and nor is it unstable. The details and insignificant things may have changed; but the US policy in general, its significant elements and its main and basic lines have never changed. Whatever the Americans wanted in the beginning, they want it now and they will move forward based on the same policy. Although, the US presence in Afghanistan was due to an incident (the 9/11 attack) but later they pursued other objectives, that is why, some people are doubtful that even before the 9/11 incident, the US wanted to have presence in Afghanistan.
What do you think, now that Donald Trump has come to power in the United States, would the US’s Afghan policy change?
Answer: it is a reality that Trump is a different politician; even to an extent, he does not properly represent the republicans, because some republican leaders are against him. You can assume he (Trump) himself is a separate party. Therefore, I think that the US’s policy would change; but it should not be forgotten that, the institutions and administrations that are in charge of the US foreign policy would explain to Trump the issues that are fundamental and redline for the United States. If the US war in Afghanistan is to achieve a major purpose, these administrations may describe it to Trump and he would accept this war. Hence, I think some changes may occur, but in cases that are in the vital interests of the United States, he will adjust himself.
What do the return of the US soldiers in the Afghan battleground, augmentation of their airstrikes and night raids, targeting Afghan forces and civilians by them signify? In your opinion, what does the United States want in Afghanistan?
Answer: the United States has its own objectives and these objectives lie outside the borders of Afghanistan and are at regional levels. In order to achieve these goals, the United States believes in the necessity of the continuation of war in Afghanistan and has, therefore, kept the Afghan forces and the armed oppositions in balanced and equal state, so that one party may not overcome the other. I believe that the US troops had never actually pulled out from the Afghan battleground. It is only that the former government had placed restrictions on some of their operations such as night raids, bombings and etc. But unfortunately, the US Secretary of Defense, once again, gave these authorities back to US soldiers and unluckily the Afghan government is in a passive state and no one may have asked the Afghan government whether it is in favor or against this decision? And even if the Afghan government was asked it may not have had its own opinion; whatever the United States has said the Afghan government has confirmed. Nevertheless, we can generally say that the war is not actually stopped, only some restrictions were imposed in some areas, which are now revoked and the United States still wants this war to continue.
You said that the United States has its own objectives in the region, specifically what are these objectives?
Answer: eight years ago, when Obama came to power he said that the US’s relation with China is an issue of one century. China is rapidly developing and is a country out of the western civilization. Restricting China and creating situations where China could not further develop is a vital issue for the United States. The United States believes that if it did not pay attention to this issue, China would develop very much and would get ahead of the United States; and thus would challenge the United States current position in international politics as the only super power in the world.
On the other hand, with Putin coming to power, the United States is also concerned of the Russian progress; because Russia has also gained a special place, voice and power at international level and hence the United States wants to restrict the rise of Russia as well. In the meanwhile, Iran, our neighbor, is also located in this region. India is also a country that if continues to develop at the current rate; may become a super power. Therefore, the main purpose of the US presence in the region is to eliminate threats to the US hegemony and this country tries to control the developing powers in the region.
What will be the impacts of the increased US soldiers’ role in the Afghan combat zone on peace and war?
Answer: making statements about the return of foreign soldiers to the Afghan battleground, is a rhetoric game with the minds of Afghans. When the former Afghan government denied signing the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States, they started a long series of propaganda at that time; sometimes they would say that they would completely withdraw from Afghanistan and then they would say that they would decrease the number of their soldiers in Afghanistan, and other similar statements. Actually, they have never brought their troops in a state that would delay or create obstacles on the way of their specified objectives. However, if we accept the idea of their return to the battlefield, their increased role in the battlefield would unquestionably undermine the peace process.
Over all, I have to say that the United States never wanted peace in Afghanistan. It has neither allowed peace in Afghanistan in the past and nor has it now gotten close to the stage where it wants peace in this country. At present, they want the continuation of war.
In your opinion, how did Afghanistan benefit from the BSA signed with the United States? And until now what were its impacts on the country?
Answer: until now, the signing of BSA had no positive impacts in the country but it had many negative consequences. The former Afghan government did not sign this agreement due to no guarantees in this deal. We had evaluated the future and the outcomes of this agreement very bad, and it happened as we had predicted and we can see its consequences today.
If we now pass to the peace process, how would peace between the Afghan government and Hezb-e-Islami (Hekmatyar) influence other armed oppositions and the current situation in the country?
Answer: every step held towards peace is a good deed and we have to welcome it. Peace with Hezb-e-Islami is a very good step; but I think that its impacts would not be to an extent to stop this war. We see that Hezb-e-Islami has signed the peace deal and has seized fire; but war is going on, the best example is the war in Kunduz that further intensified just after the peace deal. Hence, I think it has not had any impact on existing situation.
The NUG succeeded to reach a peace deal with Hezb-e-Islami; since you were a senior official of the previous government, in your opinion, why in this regard did not the former government succeed?
Answer: I will tell you a story and you may conclude yourself. In 1391, a delegation of Hezb-e-Islami had come to Kabul, we were engaged in talks with them and our opinions had come closer to each other. Coincide with it, a suicide attack was carried out in the Airport Street and several foreign employees of a foreign company were killed. Later, said it was reported that the attack was carried out by a young woman and a spokesman of Hezb-e-Islami, someone called Haroon Zarghon, claimed responsibility for the attack. The former President told me to go and tell the Hezb’s delegation that here, we are conducting peace talks and you have brought the message of peace, efforts are being made for peace, in the middle of such talks an incident occurs and Hezb-e-Islami claims responsibility for it? The delegation said that, in this regard, they would gather information and when they gathered information, they told me that they have not carried out this attack. Then we demanded them to deny the responsibility for the attack, but due to their some limitations which I do not want to comment here, they did not deny it. The important issue is that peace talks with Hezb-e-Islami was carrying on that a suicide attack occurred and its responsibility was thrown on the shoulders of the Hezb. The attack was carried out by those foreigners who did not want these talks to succeed. Today the foreigners wanted this peace; that is why you could see that in the ceremony which was organized in Presidential Palace to sign peace deal with the Hezb, those leaders and politicians that extremely opposed Hikmatyar were silently sitting while he spoke 45 to 50 minutes. I absolutely believe that they have been told to do so; otherwise, every one of them would have raised the opposition voices. I can briefly say that, the foreigners did not wanted the peace to succeed at that time, but now they wanted it to triumph and told everyone to accept it; I still doubt that they have some plans behind it as well, but I do not want to talk about it right now.
What do you think when Mr. Hekmatyar came, would other groups that had been separated from Hezb rejoin the party?
Answer: In my understanding, when Hekmatyar came to Kabul, all the separated fragments of Hezb-e-Islami would gather around him. Because I do not see any group among them that strongly oppose Hekmatyar.
What challenges would Gulbuddin Hekmatyar confront after coming to political scene at the present time?
Answer: first, I hope that international community would not do something that alters this peace to a conflict. Now if we would assume that this peace occurred and Hekmatyar came to Kabul. I believe that he would face several main challenges. Compared to the time that he was a Jihadi leader or when he was the Prime Minister of the Mujahidin government, now relations with the world is altered. Hekmatyar must understand these transformations and should adjust the Hezb and himself with them. Secondly; many changes have occurred in the Afghan society and he must adjust himself with these challenges as well; for instance, freedom of expression, civil societies and etc. Changes have also occurred at international levels, which also could be a challenge for him. Another important task in his way is and he can fulfill it very well is maintenance of National Unity in the country; because Hezb-e-Islami was a party that included all Afghanistan and had members from all over Afghanistan. The most important issue is that it has to be careful with the conspiracies of the United States so that it does not alter this peace to a conflict.
Given the current challenges of the NUG, how do you evaluate its future?
Answer: I think that the NUG must first fulfill its promises that it had pledged, the most important of which was to call the Loya Jirga to amend the constitution in order to find a remedy for the internal contradictions and to the situation that is against the Afghan constitution. First, it must define that what system of government is this, because such a government is neither stated in the Afghan constitution and nor it is in our political custom; it is only a new structure that is not in the law. Therefore, this issue must be solved then other important issues of the government such as Security, National Unity have to be addressed. Generally, about the fate of the government, we can say that if the government carried on as it does now, the upcoming three years would pass in the same way; but the country and Afghans may suffer much harm.
As the last question, in your opinion what is the most important step that must be held to resolve the current political, security and other issues in Afghanistan?
Answer: I think, in order to get rid of the current situation, first we have to come to a conclusion with the United States, because the current situation is brought upon us by this country. But unfortunately our politicians, since they are connected to the United States and do not want to upset it, cannot speak against the US and seek other reasons for the current situation, for instance, in relation to insecurities they say that it is due to lack of coordination, emergence of ISIS and some other non-realistic factors. But all these problems are created by the United States and we have to speak with this country. I think we should tell Americans: if you cannot bring peace, stop war, eliminate terrorism, which means defeat; if you are defeated; then you have to work together with Afghan leaders to find a solution; but if you say that you have succeeded and we see, on the other hand, that a new armed group is added to the formers every day, insecurity and poverty is further increasing; then we would assume that current situation and worse condition is what you want intentionally.