Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has said history will judge his track record in office as his country prepares for foreign troop withdrawal in 2014.
“My place in history will be judged by Afghan history; by what I have done and it will be judged better after 2014 when I am no longer the president,” Karzai told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
“Let’s leave it to then, and I hope it will be good.”
Karzai, who is barred by the Afghan constitution from seeking a third term in next year’s elections, listed several achievements, including making Afghanistan “home for all Afghans once again”.
He said all Afghans who had been “fighting one another and running away from each other” were now living side by side.
A democratic government has been put in place as well as freedom of the press, freedom of speech and education, Karzai said.
Karzai became Afghan president in 2001 after the US launched a military offensive that removed the Taliban from power.
That offensive sought to neutralise cells of al-Qaeda, whose leader Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, the deadliest assault on US soil in decades.
Corruption and attacks
Afghanistan has since been mired in corruption and suffered regular attacks by the Taliban, sometimes on key government and NATO installations in the capital Kabul.
Karzai denied he had failed to rein in the Taliban and to restore security across the country.
“We never planned to eliminate the Taliban. Not me, not the Afghan people, not the Afghan government,” he said in the interview that was conducted in the Qatari capital, Doha, where an office to co-ordinate talks with the Taliban has been set up.
“The moment I was declared the head of the interim government in Bonn, Germany, I was in Kandahar, Afghanistan, [and] I declared a complete amnesty to Taliban and Afwa, to the Taliban, from the leadership to everybody else.”
Karzai said his plan was to have the Taliban reintegrated into Afghan society “like all other Afghans”.
“I’m still calling them brothers. I’m still trying to have them be part of the country again and participate in the Afghan life, as we all do, the Afghans,” Karzai said.
He said Afghan security problems had persisted because of “the war on terror”, a reference to the US-led military campaign that began weeks after the 9/11 attacks.
US and NATO forces will begin a phased withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 but there are fears the security situation could get worse as Afghan forces – still being trained by foreign forces – are still powerless to rein in the Taliban.