Karzai blames US for Afghan war

Kabul: Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai used his farewell speech on Tuesday to take a parting shot at the US and Pakistan, blaming both for the continuing war with the Taliban-led insurgency and warned the new government to be “extra cautious in relations with the US and the West.

Karzai, whose relations with Washington has increasingly deteriorated, accused it of waging a war against Taliban insurgents for its own ends. This is not our war, it is a foreigners’ war — it is based on their goals,” Karzai told government officials as he bid them goodbye at the presidential palace in Kabul. “America didn’t want peace. America should be honest with Afghanistan. What they say and what they do should be the same.”

Karzai rose to power with American support in 2001 after the ousting of the Taliban regime, but he has often criticised the US military campaign that has struggled to defeat the Islamist insurgency that engulfed the country.

He will step down next week after a 13-year reign that has seen only limited improvements in infrastructure, health, education and women’s rights despite billions of dollars of aid.

Karzai has previously accused the US of colluding with the Taliban — sparking outrage from the US, which has suffered 2,350 military deaths in Afghanistan since 2001. “My advice to the next government is to be very careful with America and the West. We can be friends with them, but we want equal benefits,” he said.

“Today, I tell you again that the war in Afghanistan is not our war, but imposed on us and we are the victims,” Karzai said. “No peace will arrive unless the US or Pakistan want it.”

In recent years, Karzai denounced America for the deaths of Afghan civilians in air strikes and for holding suspected Afghan militants prisoner without trial.

The relationship plunged to a new low last year when he refused to sign a bilateral security agreement (BSA) to allow some US troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond this year on a training and support mission.

His successor Ashraf Ghani is likely to sign the deal shortly, after vowing on the campaign trail to do so.

He and his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah struck an agreement Sunday to form a “unity government”, ending months of disputes over who was the rightful winner of the fraud-tainted 14 June presidential election. Ghani will officially become president at an inauguration ceremony on Monday, officials confirmed, with dignitaries invited from around the world to attend Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power.

Kabul has been the target of regular suicide attacks launched by Taliban insurgents, and it is uncertain how many world leaders will fly in for the event. In the last major attack, a week ago, three NATO soldiers were killed when a suicide car bomber hit a military convoy travelling on the main road from Kabul airport to the US embassy.

The Taliban dismissed the election process and the power-sharing deal as a US plot to control Afghanistan. “Just as the election was shameful and fake, so was the result, and Afghans have always rejected puppet governments,” the insurgent group said in a statement.

The UN, US and other countries broadly welcomed the unity government, despite the failure of election authorities to release any details on the number of votes, the turnout or the margin of victory.

The UN, which oversaw an audit inspecting every ballot paper, said many hundreds of thousands of ballots papers had been invalidated due to “significant fraud”.

Karzai, 56, has said he will live as an ordinary citizen in Kabul with his family when he retires, and will offer advice to the government only if asked. Under the constitution, he was banned from running for a third term in office.

(With AFP inputs)

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