Interview: Mohammad Daudzai

Chief of staff to President Hamid Karzai, Daudzai expresses some of the Afghan government’s concerns about the kill/capture tactics — in particular night raids. “Even if it doesn’t cause any harm, that’s unacceptable, because it’s a disgrace to people’s dignity in our culture,” he explains. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on Jan. 30, 2011.

The Afghan government wants to reach out to the Taliban. President [Hamid] Karzai had called them once his “brothers,” and yet at the same time we have an unprecedented campaign by coalition forces in terms of killing and capturing their leaders. Do you think those operations are helping to make peace more likely, or the opposite?

Those operations we cannot assess like that, black and white, that they are helping peace or they are not helping peace. I think we have to put it into a context first, and then we can get into that kind of conclusion.

“Even if there is one notorious Al Qaeda member, is it worth it to kill 30 other Afghans for the sake of one Al Qaeda there, because the rest were not culprits?”

President Karzai for the first time almost four years ago called on Taliban to come and reconcile with the Afghan brothers, and he has repeated that message many times every year. But something happened last year that opened a new chapter in the peace process. That was the peace council that was held in June 2010.

And in that council, 1,600 delegates from all over the country participated, and they unanimously endorsed President Karzai’s initiative for reconciliation that will result in peace for this country.

It’s a coincidence that, within the same year, the coalition is announcing a surge in their troops, so in my personal assessment, the surge does have an impact in preparing or persuading for peace, provided that it’s conducted in the right way and in the right manner. If there are mistakes in operation, if there are violations in Afghan cultures and if there are intolerable number of civilian casualties and damage to natural assets of the people, then the reverse may be true. Maybe it will have an adverse effect on the peace process.

So at this stage I can conclude that military operations does provide opportunities for peace, but that’s not the only way to reach peace. There are other ways and means we have to follow.

Is there anything in Afghan culture that says what the impact of operations that target the leaders of an armed group are as opposed to regular warfare, fighting soldier to soldier? What’s the impact of that?

No, it’s a lot more complicated than that. We actually don’t know who the leaders of the fighters are. We don’t have that kind of enemy. There is no clear hierarchy among them. … Sometimes you do hear that a Taliban shadow governor has been captured or killed. This means nothing if you kill someone, a so-called shadow governor; there are five in line. Somebody else comes and takes over his place. …

If we have credible information that that enemy is somewhere, then that’s where targeting is allowed, and it’s acceptable in Afghan culture, and it’s acceptable to the Afghan government.

But then sometimes we have differences of opinion with the international community on the manner that that is targeting and who targets that, who goes after the enemy. Let me give you an example: On Friday, somebody blew up the supermarket in the city. If any time before Friday we had intelligence that that man was sheltered somewhere, we have to go after them. But our point of view has always been that in an environment like Kabul city, it is not the international forces that should go after that target; it’s the Afghan police that should go after that target, because they are pretty capable of doing that.

That’s where sometimes misunderstanding on the targeting emerge[s]. But targeting is allowed. Any enemy that is intending to harm the Afghan people, it’s allowed to target it, and there is no culture on that; it’s the nature of the war we are conducting.

President Karzai has spoken particularly about the issue of raids and targeting carried out at night, and we do know that even in the last 90 days here, 3,000 Special Forces raids [have occurred], a very intense campaign, and most of them, we understand, carried out at night. Now, Gen. [David] Petraeus told us yesterday that — he pointed out that President Karzai had made no reference to night raids in his speech at the Parliament’s inauguration and seemed to draw comfort from that. Is the president, who has spoken out about this quite vigorously before, satisfied now with the way these operations are conducted, or would he like to see some change?

No. He has never been satisfied, because in his criteria, there is zero tolerance for night raids and zero tolerance for civilian casualties. But he does see some improvement in coordination between the international forces and the Afghan forces, and that’s where Gen. Petraeus is referring to an improvement or a change of reaction from the president, because the president sees improvement on the coordination.

But if I can go back to my early example within this context: Night raids are against our culture. The first time we came to know about night raids were during the communist regime. They started going to people’s houses, taking out youths, and then they disappeared. And you know that everybody hated that regime. And all the subsequent problems emerges from that.

So that’s against culture. Going to anyone’s house, particularly when you go on a mobile ladder and go to people’s rooftop and appear with your gun in people’s house and say, “Don’t move!,” or “Women move to one side and men move to another side,” this is entirely against Afghan culture. There is no tolerance for that.

It has reduced. But let me be fair: Yes, the number of Special Forces operations has increased a lot, and their positive impact has increased also. But mostly now these are coordinated, and because the level of mistakes are less, that’s why we don’t talk more about it; that’s why maybe Gen. Petraeus feels a bit more comfortable about it, because the number of civilian casualties and the number of mistakes in those operations is reduced. …

… Gen. Petraeus described how now these Special Forces, they bring Afghan forces with them, and the Afghans perhaps go in first and call people. Does that make it acceptable to President Karzai?

Not quite acceptable, but some degree of tolerance is there if nothing goes wrong, if it doesn’t cause harm to people’s life, if it’s really like that, that Afghan soldiers go first, and first they go to the elders of the village — because every village has elders — and they have the cooperation of the elders of the village, and then they surround that particular house which is targeted, and then if anything happens, even if it goes wrong, then people accept it, because people who are involved, people are participating with the security forces.

But on the other one that goes without coordination of Afghans, without coordination with village elders, and go on the ladder 1:00 in the night, that’s unacceptable, totally. Even if it doesn’t cause any harm, that’s unacceptable, because it’s a disgrace to people’s dignity in our culture.

… I said to Gen. Petraeus that the Pashtuns I spoke to said that it was against Afghan culture, and I couldn’t find one, in fact, that was in favor of such raids. His reaction was, “Well, in private they do”; you know, they urge them on and say “Go get them” in private. What does President Karzai say in private? You must have been in some of these conversations. Is he as vigorous in private as in public against these things?

President Karzai, in those kinds of subjects, there is no private and public. He has one clear position on that: no tolerance, zero tolerance for any operation that causes damage to Afghans’ life and damage to Afghans’ dignity. So on that one I can guarantee that there is one position, whether it is public or private.

And he doesn’t like it happening in the middle of the night?

He doesn’t like it happening at all in the middle of the night. Even if it is conducted with Afghan forces in the lead, he still doesn’t like it. But sometimes that one may be tolerated, if there is a very dangerous target, if we don’t get that target, then the next day he still cause harms to people’s life, so it’s worth it.

Let me ask you about the scheme that is called the Afghan Local Police, ALP. Whose idea was this scheme, and what’s the concept behind it?

This scheme, along with the surge, and the idea was because the strategy was “clear, hold, develop.” Clear was supposed to be by international and Afghan army together, and then you need to have police forces on the ground to hold the security and the stability so the development workers move in and start development work. And most of those areas where we talk about local police, there were no police to hold it. And if we could shift police from other parts of the country, they were not acquainted with the society and the geography. And we experienced that. It didn’t work.

So the idea of local police emerged, because this [has] two major advantages, because, one, local police are by definition the sons of the local population there, so if Taliban comes back and harms those police, they’re harming the whole society, the whole community, so the community will stand behind the local police because they are their sons.

The second biggest advantage is that we don’t have to train them in logistic support, and they don’t have holidays, vacations, because they are from the village. But the local police idea has been a very clear understanding that they will be functioning for one to two years. Within one to two years, then they will convert to proper police.

So they cannot continue beyond that, because if they do, then they will earn the reputation of local militia, which people hate. They have very bad experience of local militia.

Can you explain that sensitivity? …

In its current shape, we are happy with it. The president has approved it, and we support it. …

Initially, the fear was deriving from the recent history. During the Soviet occupation, and the last few years of their occupation, … there were two notorious militias that emerged. One was led by Ismatullah Muslim from Kandahar, and the other one was led by Gen. [Abdul Rashid] Dostum, which was called the Gelam Jan militia. And people still remember the atrocities those militia committed.

Now, when we heard about it, automatically we rejected it, because when people heard, they rejected it automatically. They put pressure on the president: “Mr. President, please don’t accept militia, because this is the end of all your achievement.”

So now what we changed to make it acceptable was, because in the initial proposal there were no clear definition of their leadership, of their command, of their management, of their salary, of their dress code. Now everything is defined. Every local militia now will be led by a police chief at the district level. In fact, at the district level, the police chief will have two deputies. One deputy will be for the regular police; the other deputy will be for the local police.

And above the police chief in the district, they are part of the same system. They wear police dress, and they carry police weapons, and gradually they are going to be coached and trained, so after one year they are going to become regular police. That’s what we have changed. They cannot have names like Gen. Dostum anymore to be associated with militia. …

Pakistan, we know, has offered to use its influence to try to bring some of these insurgent groups to the negotiating table. We heard, in fact, that the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] chief was here last week, earlier this month, talking to the president for some time. So what is the state of that? Can you tell us about these discussions and what both sides are saying to each other?

Sure. With Pakistan, since the PPP [Pakistan Peoples Party] came into power and since [Asif Ali] Zardari became president, we started a new chapter of relationships, and of course with Prime Minister [Yousaf Raza] Gilani and the rest of the PPP team. And this new chapter is the chapter of real friendship, honest friendship, because that party has suffered like we have suffered. They have been victim like we have been victim. And that is why there is a bond between us, a bond of sacrifice and being a victim. And that makes us trust each other, and that trust is being developed as we move along.

Then we open a subchapter of dialogue with the Pakistan army and establishment, namely ISI. And that dialogue is going, and that relationship is moving. So far we are satisfied; we are making process.

Simultaneous to that is a peace council, and now, as you may have heard, that we have a giant peace commission, nine or 10 members, the Pakistani side prefers to have their government officials; we wanted to have a mixed setup. And within that giant peace commission there is a core group, that will include, let’s say, minister of foreign affairs and the directors of intelligence from both countries, heads of armies from both countries, which all these are unprecedented, totally unprecedented. So it makes us optimistic in terms of our relationship with Pakistan.

As to their offer that they would help us to negotiate with some of the Taliban leaders or whatever, these are details that are changing. There may be things that are even more significant than that that are being discussed, but they will not be, as you say, public for quite a while, for the sake of the safeguard of the process, because the process is more credible than talking about it.

Do you regard the ISI and the Pakistan military in general as capable of having influence over the Taliban? What do you see their role as now?

To what extent do they have a role or capability? That we will see when the time comes. But I can describe to you some of the ground realities that we have lived in those realities and they have lived with those realities.

Pakistan is also faced with an enemy that is called Taliban, the Taliban of Pakistan, and they are hitting Pakistan army and even the ISI very hard. But then it’s also true that for historic reasons the Taliban leadership were having connection and relationship with the ISI in many other setups in Pakistan.

Now, to what extent those relationships are alive? And to what extent the Pakistan leadership has influence over the Taliban leadership, we will see that in practice. If they really manage to bring them on table to us, then we will see that yes, they have influence. If they fail, then we will start a new chapter.

So you want to try and see what they can bring forward.

Absolutely. We want to give them a good and honest chance, from the bottom of our hearts.

You’ve in the past been quite vocal about the ISI’s involvement in some attacks that have struck really hard in the center of Kabul. Is that connection, if you like, that your intelligence people made public, is that connection something that can be turned around for positive benefit?

ISI is not a tribe. It’s an organization; it’s a leadership. Its directorship changes, and its policy changes as the government changes. So maybe four years ago they had one kind of policy, and now with the changed leadership, political leadership, they have a different policy, even with the change of military leadership, because Gen. [Ahmed Shuja] Pasha is now their new leader. And from all the conversation I have seen, I have no reason not to trust him. I have all reasons to trust him and to give him a chance. …

What do you think a settlement [with the Taliban] could look like?

When we reach a settlement? Difficult to say that. And I wouldn’t want to speculate.

If one listens to the American conditions for their involvement in any deal, if you like, it does sound rather like a surrender that’s being asked. You accept everything that we do, then fine, you can have some money and some land, and you’re fine. But is that your view, that you really just need to split the Taliban off, you just pick one leader here, pick one leader there, get them to come over? Or do you actually think that there comes a point when you are prepared to make some accommodation with, for example, the Quetta shura [leadership council]?

Taliban are not so homogenous group. They all work based on one purpose: to fight foreign forces here and to fight the Afghan government. That’s the only thing they have in common. They have a lot of different objectives and a lot of different setups, so we can’t apply one formula to all of them. There are three, four, maybe more different groups of Taliban, … so we will have to deal with them once we sit with them to talk. Then we take it from there. It’s difficult for us to speculate now.

And have there been any substantive talks?

There’s been very credible high-level contacts.

With all the groups? [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar group? [Jalaluddin] Haqqani’s group? The Quetta shura’s group?

With all the groups, yes. Except Al Qaeda.

Except Al Qaeda.

Yes. With all the groups that are Afghans.

And this is an active thing happening right now is it? These contacts, these –

Yes, it’s a very active thing that’s happening, but then there’s a specific setup for that. There’s a peace commission, and everything happens within their domain, within the umbrella of their supervision.

Well, then let me ask you to tell me perhaps a bit of a story that I hope you can tell about, because it’s already public, which is this story of what became the fake mullah, a man that was purported to be Mullah [Akhtar Muhammad] Mansour, a senior, I think now number two, by some accounts, of the Taliban. Can you just talk me through the story as it came across to you? My understanding was it began with the arrest of a mullah in Kandahar who offered to introduce in return for his release or something, he wanted to offer some contact to Mullah Omar.

It’s usual. These kinds of things happen in this kind of business, because if we want to talk to Taliban leadership, and someone turns up to you and says, “I’m linked to so-and-so; can I help you?,” of course you say yes, and then down the line you make an assessment whether the person is genuine or fake. If you find fake, then you leave them. If you kind [of find it] genuine, then you pursue them. That’s exactly what happened with this mullah. …

What was this man offering?

In our side, this is a totally insignificant case. We have a lot of very important cases in this business to pursue than one fake case that appeared somewhere, which is usual in this kind of business. There are other very important developments within these conducts and peace processes that we don’t even think of this one particular — and I’m sometimes surprised why must the Western media take it so seriously and why it is important for them.

Well, because there’s not that much public, is there, and this is –

Yes, that’s true. But we have to be patient. A lot of very good development will become public. …

… We’ve had Gen. Petraeus talk about some Taliban people wanting to talk, and yet public statements by the Taliban saying it’s all fake, there’s nothing going on, we’re not in a mood to talk, NATO is losing, etc. So are we not to take seriously those comments from the Taliban?

They will be doing it definitely for the sake of morale of their people, and therefore we understand them when they talk like that, when they deny it, because they are engaged in the crisis of morale at this stage, so it’s understandable when they deny such contacts.

You’re an Afghan; you understand everything that is going on better than any of us. Tell me about the Taliban from [where] you see it, from their mind-set. Where do they stand now in what they are doing, and how do you think that mind-set could be shifted so that they could seek peace?

I’m an Afghan who has lived here for the past three decades, in and around Afghanistan. So not only this Taliban development, all the other developments I have been one way or the other involved in some degrees. And when Taliban were in power, I was number two in the U.N. system, and at that time U.N. system was very important because Taliban didn’t have diplomatic relationship with anyone else. So I had been talking to the very senior leaders, talking, negotiating on important subjects.

To some degree I do understand their mentality, but what is important for me is when we say “Taliban,” it has many different meanings in my mind, and many different definitions.

There was that Taliban that emerged as a reaction to the civil war and internal fighting between the mujahideen, so thus they became savior, and they provided security, but then they deprived people of their basic rights, and they pushed the country into starvation. …

But now you have a Taliban here that think differently and is not as homogenous as that group was. And that’s not as Afghan as that group was. There are various nationalities; they all carry the label of “Taliban.” But if you go deeper, they may not even be Afghans.

So as far as the Afghan Taliban — the real Afghan Taliban — mentality goes, that I can sense a little bit. But the mentality of those who take this label, but they are not even Afghan, that is difficult for me to understand — why they are here and why they are fighting.

With the Afghan Taliban, I can divide them into at least two categories: One category is the one that was in power until 2001, until Sept. 11, and then American forces and ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] later on came and kicked them out of power with the help of the Afghan people. They still think that it’s their right to be in power because a foreign force came and kicked them out.

But then there are others who are called Taliban, but they were created afterward, some of them as a response to our behavior. When I say “our behavior,” our Afghan troops’ behavior, Afghan government behavior and international forces’ behavior. Let me give you an example:

You have a village, has a very peaceful life, and then in the middle of the night, people come and surround the village and search a few houses and take a few prisoners, and in that scuffle a few of them are killed; women are disgraced. The next day, what do you expect? The entire village youth becomes Taliban. They are searching for the Taliban to recruit them and give them weapons.

Now, when we are talking about peace, this is our primary target, because we feel guilty about this particular group. We need to provide them with the opportunity to come in and reconcile, to reintegrate back into society.

As for the other, more political Taliban, that’s where the reconciliation process is there.

About this reintegration then, are the foot soldiers, if you like, these village Taliban that you’ve talked about, are they actually switching sides in significant numbers?

Daily. Daily. Even today, if you follow the news from the northwestern provinces of Farah, Badghis, there are dozens of them that switched sides today, surrendered; yesterday in Kunduz. It’s a daily business.

It’s not always clear that they really were Taliban as opposed to some other group.

It’s a mixture. It’s a mixture. Again, I go back to the definition. Taliban is just a name. They are mistreated by somebody, they are harmed by somebody, or they are bribed by somebody, or they are criminals. They see lack of governance; therefore they pick up guns and become crooks. So we provide opportunity for everybody. We give a chance to everybody to surrender, lay down their arms and be reintegrated back to society.

We did meet some of these reintegrated Taliban up north, and one thing that was striking was that I had thought that they were supposed to give back all their weapons, but they seemed to be able to keep their weapons, and perhaps be given more in order to be part of these new forces. Is that normal? … It doesn’t sound like a very durable solution if one day they can say they are Taliban and the next government, perhaps the next day, say they are Taliban again?

I don’t think it’s like that. Afghans, like Americans, they love guns. And once they get used to machine guns, they never give it up. Even if they surrender and run a peaceful life, they will still hide their Kalashnikov at home, because it is pride; it gives them a sense of safety, that just in case somebody comes to their house, they have a gun to defend their — we call it namus — the dignity of women and the dignity of house. So they keep their arms for that reason. It is not necessary for the reason that “OK, today I am giving up; tomorrow I will become Taliban again.” That’s not necessarily the purpose.

But that can happen, that today somebody [can] surrender and reintegrate and tomorrow goes back. But that’s our problem. We have not managed them well. If we do not have a good program of reintegration for them and really, in real sense, reintegrate them into our society, then they will have no opportunity to go back. So I don’t blame them for that.

There is one sense from my experience, one fact also exists there that I want to share with you, that some of them [are] maybe seasonal surrenders. That I don’t deny. It’s winter, there’s pressure, so it’s OK; let’s give up, and in the summer, when trees are green and they can hide, they can go back. That’s also a possibility. But that may be a small percentage. I think a larger percentage, once they surrender, they really want to give a chance to new life. But if we cannot provide them that new opportunity, then it’s our fault. …

… In Afghan culture, if you lose somebody, there is that danger of creating new cycles of revenge, if I’m explaining it right. Do you think there’s a split, a tension between two sides of the coalition policy here, … [former commander in Afghanistan Ret. Gen. Stanley] McChrystal called it “counterinsurgency math” — if you kill one insurgent you might get three instead, because of the cycle of revenge. But at the same time we announce every day that 17 insurgents have been killed here, five have been killed there. Is it a good thing when members of the Taliban are killed? Does it help?

I think the two fundamentals of our strategy in this war should be to tackle the breeding grounds and the recruitment possibilities of the enemy. And when we do those night raids and civilian casualties, we provide more opportunities for recruitment for the enemy. That’s why we don’t want to tolerate it, because we know in the end we would all be losers, and the enemy will get stronger and stronger in numbers.

But as to the understanding of the coalition, I think increasingly they do understand we do come naturally from two different cultures. U.S. culture and Afghan culture, it’s worlds apart. For a U.S. soldier to really understand the culture of a village of Afghanistan, I don’t think within their mission they can do that. If somebody comes here and works for years, maybe yes, but in a six-month mission when you are a soldier, it’s very difficult, so that’s why we insist on Afghan leadership and Afghan ownership and coordination with Afghans on all those.

I must admit, there is increasing understanding within the senior commanders of the U.S. troops and NATO troops. There is increasing understanding, but not to the point that we would be satisfied. We still have some way to go. …

I wanted to ask you, because of one case that came up in the reporting of the north, … which is the case of in the election campaign which was September in Takhar province, there was a convoy [that was targeted by an airstrike], and I just wanted to ask you about that, because we still have a big difference between what two sides are saying. … Tell us what you heard about this incident and whether you accepted this initial press release from NATO, which said that all those killed were insurgents.

No, I don’t think they said that all those killed were insurgents. I think they said they were looking for one particular member of the Uzbek group.

That’s right: the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan. And they said that that man [Mohammed Amin] was killed. Now, you know, with those kinds of operations, those who are killed are cut into pieces, blown up. We don’t have the means to verify whether that person was there or not. So when they say the culprit was there, what can we say?

But our point is different. A similar incident happened a month ago in Faryab, where another convoy was attacked by helicopters, and that convoy was local people going to offer after their prayer to another friend. And their convoy of two vehicles was similarly attacked, and in fact, one of those killed was the brother of a sitting MP [member of Parliament].

Now he’s no longer sitting. He has lost the election, and he may become a senator. So people came and described, those who were in the surrounding area, described what happened. They said helicopters came and did a few rounds and then started hitting us. Same with the Takhar incident.

Our point is, even if there is one notorious Al Qaeda member, is it worth it to kill 30 other Afghans for the sake of one notorious Al Qaeda there, because the rest were not culprits? There was one man they were looking [for] in both cases. The rest, they didn’t know who they were. They just killed them. …

Takhar is entirely under the Afghan forces’ control. That’s where they were doing a campaign. If it was controlled by Taliban, there would not have been election campaign there, so that means it was entirely controlled by Afghan forces, by Afghan government.

And they could simply call the local police and they could take care of that man; they could arrest him. And from within that group, this is the point. This is the point, they say: You kill people first, and then you talk to us later. Before killing them, talk to us first, because maybe we can do something about it. Maybe we can get the target without loss of life.

People told us the man that was killed in the main car was called Zabet Amanullah. He had been in the Taliban. He was reconciled, but he had been held and imprisoned in Pakistan, accused of not fighting. [He] came back, living in Kabul, went up to campaign for his nephew in this election. He was in the lead car. There were his bodyguards. Maybe they thought had weapons. The bodyguards were authorized by the police. The police chief we spoke to said this man was an innocent man.

And yet when we speak to NATO, they said, “We did an investigation; we got our man.” And they say this man was a terrorist, a bad man. Two very different versions, people absolutely clear on their position on both sides. How should people make sense of all these different versions?

If I pose this question to you as a journalist, as a human being, which one do you believe more?

Well, we’re trying to investigate to find the proof of these things. And, as you say, there are two issues. There are all these other people that were killed and how it was done, but there is also the question, which I could perhaps ask you your opinion on, which is, is the method by which you decide someone is innocent or guilty, and who makes the decision to kill –

Exactly. That’s the point. Let me give you another example, which was the first example in this kind of relationship, and that elaborates better the differences, and it describes the problem better: …

In Azizabad, [a] village in Shindand district, a bombardment happened [in August 2008] not only from helicopters, from bigger planes. For hours the village was bombarded. And immediately after, we sent a delegation from Kabul, and everyone was saying 93 people are killed. But the NATO’s position was: “No, no, no. Hardly. One person was killed, and that’s Mullah Siddiq. That’s a bad guy we were looking for.”

Months later, the investigation reveals that they were wrong, and the real story was this Mullah Siddiq had animosity with a member of a private security company that was employed by international forces in Shindand. And out of that animosity, he [the member of the security company] misreported. He misguided the forces that this guy is Al Qaeda and so-and-so; his name is Mullah Siddiq, and he is hiding in this village.

And even further to that, if the international forces’ claim is true, when they came to surround the village, somebody fired from the village. That man who fired could have been from the security company, just to trigger the bombardment, so the whole village is bombarded, and it takes six months for them to agree with us. But what? Why not agree in the first place that a huge mistake was made? Let’s repair the damage instead of quarreling, “No, this is what happened.”

I’m in this job since 2003, with [a] one-and-a-half-year break that I became ambassador in Tehran. Since then, this is the struggle I am faced with. It’s not now. Even in 2004, I remember there was a bombardment in Nuristan, and there was again a misreporting by whoever, and we don’t know whether it was Afghan intelligence or the intelligence recruited by international forces.

But the point is that Afghans have their own disputes, their tribal disputes. This country has been at war for the past 30 years, and the consequences are there, so it is very easy for somebody to misguide an international force to hit his enemy, and we have plenty of examples of that.

Let’s put it this way. Let’s be blunt, speak for Afghans. When Taliban regime collapsed, Taliban were fighting with somebody. Just before they collapsed, they were fighting with the Northern Alliance, and then we formed our intelligence and all the intelligences from the Northern Alliance. So one theory is that [there are] some elements from those groups who are using international forces to settle their old scores with the others, and the international forces are easily used for that without realizing what were the consequences.

So all that has happened, and that end resulted in President Karzai’s position that [there is] zero tolerance for that.

He says that again and again. And it is your country, so what is he doing, if you like, to take control of that trigger? Because it doesn’t sound like — correct me if I’m wrong — that he approves these strikes. His permission is not required.

No, his permission is not required. After long struggle, they established a coordination mechanism in Bagram [Air Base], where about 10 members of the intelligence, of the MOI [Ministry of Interior] and MoD [Ministry of Defense] are sitting there, and they are supposed to approve or disapprove any operation. If they disagree, they will have to communicate to their bosses, and if their bosses cannot decide, then they have to communicate to the president, and the president has to decide.

In the past, there is not one single case that has come to their bosses, so that means the mechanism is not used.

It’s not working.

It is not working. But yes, coordination between the general and the president has improved, and between the general and the ministers have improved. To some degree, operations are conducted in a better-coordinated manner, but a lot of mistakes are there, and every day we are shivering that God knows what more mistakes may happen. …

The objective is there, as you’ve mentioned, to try and transfer all authority and all major operations in this country to the Afghan forces and the Afghan government by 2014. … But when you have these operations that take new ground, capture new ground for the government, you always hear the soldiers say, “We’ve taken the place, but where’s the government to come and fill the gap, to hold this place?” Now, what’s required to make that happen?

They are right. They are absolutely right on that. That’s why the local police initiative is there, for the police to move in, and then the ideal is to further strengthen –

That’s the local government?

The local government ministry is further strengthened to move in with governance, and other departments are also moving in. This was proven well in Marjah, in many of the districts in Helmand, and even in Kandahar, and it’s working.

Let me capitalize on that. These past six months, operations in Helmand and Kandahar [have] been satisfactory, and the reason for that is that they have been Afghan-led, and strong Afghan face has been there. Any operation that is not Afghan-led, that has a very weak Afghan face, it has never given a good result. And we are here to give a good result. Nobody is happy to be involved in war. We all want peace so that we can carry on with our daily life, and we also need to prosper like the end of the world, so we don’t need war for that; we want peace for that.

But nobody can bring peace to other people. Only people can bring peace for themselves, and they should be the deciding part, and what kind of support they need, when and how — not that the support decide that, “I’m giving you support, and I’m giving you this kind of support.” I mean, imposed support doesn’t work. Demanded support works, and if that demand is based on credible capacity there, then it works better.

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