Hamid Karzai: Taliban and the Afghan government should talk

Former Afghan president hopes for an intra-Afghan dialogue in which the Afghan government is present.

US officials and Taliban representatives have wrapped up their longest round of talks – lasting 16 days – in Qatar’s capital.

While both sides hailed progress on key issues in Doha, there was no major breakthrough coming out of the talks.

In separate statements released on Tuesday, both sides said the marathon negotiations produced developments on the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, as well as security issues related to the pullout.

Last month, senior Afghan politicians, including former president Hamid Karzai, and a Taliban delegation, held two-day talks in Moscow, the first time Taliban officials met high-level representatives.

The Afghan government was not part of the talks, but Karzai said he had been trying to get the Taliban to sit with the Afghan government during the two-day talks in Moscow.

Al Jazeera spoke to Karzai about the Doha negotiations and the possibility of establishing peace in Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera: Do you see an end to the nearly 18 years of war in Afghanistan? 

Hamid Karzai: I welcome the talks between the US and the Taliban and hope that we will have lasting peace in Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera: There is a draft agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops and assurances from the Taliban that Afghanistan will not be used to attack the US and its allies. But there needs to be a ceasefire. How far are we from a ceasefire in Afghanistan?

Karzai: We should not be far away from a ceasefire in Afghanistan. We should have it right now as that is the demand of the Afghan people: immediate ceasefire and peace in the country. It’s unfortunate that it is taking time, but we continue to hope there will be a ceasefire and productive talks between the Taliban and the US.

Also, as a result of the intra-Afghan dialogue, the first focus will be on a ceasefire and end to violence that brought so much pain to our people.

Al Jazeera: The intra-Afghan dialogue, does that include the Afghan government?

Karzai: Absolutely. There have to be talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban as soon as possible so we can have a comprehensive peace agreement. Lasting peace will only be there when there is ownership of the talks by the Afghan people.

Al Jazeera: When will the Taliban sit with the government because no deal can be implemented without the government’s participation?

Karzai: This is right. This is what we are trying to reach when we had talks with the Taliban. There have to be talks between the Taliban and the government and that there has to be an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue in which the government is very much present. We hope we will accomplish that very soon. We’ve already made some progress and we remain hopeful.

Al Jazeera: You were personally involved in the talks between the Afghan parties in Moscow. Those talks noticeably excluded President Ashraf Ghani and the government. What’s your position? Are you an advocate for pushing for the inclusion of the Afghan government in any peace talks? 


Karzai: Yes, we wanted the Afghan government to be there in Moscow. We wanted President Ghani to own these talks and to be an effective contributor and leader in these negotiations. We hope, as we reach the stage of the intra-Afghan talks in Doha, we would have made a lot of progress in this regard.

Al Jazeera: In your discussions with the Taliban, and talking about the future, what kind of Afghanistan do you envisage with the Taliban having a major role in the government again?

Karzai: They (the Taliban) are part of the country. They are the Afghan people and we cannot have a government, or peace, in Afghanistan when an important segment of the population is not there. 

So, we want the Taliban to be part of the Afghan political society, part of Afghan politics, to engage in all aspects of life. We hope we will reach comprehensive agreements in the modalities with a perspective for an Afghanistan that is progressive, peaceful and in line with the rest of the world.

That is taking all the necessary steps to educate our girls and boys and in which Afghanistan is seen as a country that is not harbouring extremism or terrorism but an Afghanistan which is a good neighbour and good participant of the international community.

This interview was edited for length and clarity 

Source: Al Jazeera