This transcript arrived at Polo’s Bastards via an email from Khaleeq Ahmad, the Assistant Spokesman on International Affairs at the Office of The Spokesperson to the President of Afghanistan. It was presented by Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, in London’s Chatham House on 20th July 2005. I’ve taken the liberty of posting it in it’s entirety.
TRANSCRIPT BEGINS –
I’m not going to talk on elections in the UK, you know, for good reasons, but it’s a really magnificent thing to have people vote. The pictures that you saw of Afghan women voting and showing their thumbs in pride, is my definition of power. I wish I could be one of the voters, the way they were. I did vote but I knew who I was voting for from the very beginning!
So let’s all hope that Afghanistan will continue to have opportunities like that for the future. The topic for me today is Global Terrorism and Afghanistan. It is something that is today on the minds of all of us – especially those living in London. These were horrific incidents some thirteen days ago for which I, once again, offer my condolences to the British people and the families of the victims. As I said in my immediate reaction to that incident, Afghanistan knows better, perhaps, than any other nation, the pain of those families, of the communities that suffered that terrorist atrocity for we have suffered ourselves for too long from it. Only, the difference was that Afghanistan for the years that it suffered did not have the London Times or Lyse Doucet of the BBC to report on it in the way that it happens when it happens in the West. We, for so many many years, had exactly the same suffering in our families, in our children, in our men and women who were only trying to earn our daily bread.
What troubles me, what troubles a lot of other people, some of them speak about this, some of them don’t, is that terrorism becomes terrorism when it reaches the rich part of the world. That it is not called terrorism when it is affecting the poor part of the world. I was in this house, in Chatham House, I believe it was the year 2000, and before that I was with my colleagues in the Foreign Office many times here in London. And later I read in Christina Lamb’s book that somebody from the Foreign Office would tell her that when Karzai would come, they would say ‘Aagh, that man is here again! Send someone to talk to him.’ At that time too, the topic was terrorism and we knew that in the world that we have today, in the globalised world, in the village world, there is no part of it that we can ignore. There is no part of it that we can say ‘Well, it’s away from us. It has a distance from us.’ There are no distances any more in today’s world.
So what happens in Afghanistan or elsewhere or what happens in London, or in New York, is actually affecting all of us, wherever we are. Be it in a poor, poor poor village in Afghanistan, or in the rich suburbs of New York.
But how did all of this begin?
The story of Afghanistan is very much related to the subsequent growth of terrorism, of elements or organisations that today we call Al-Qaeda. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan brought to it a massive resistance from the Afghan people. The Soviets came to impose an ideology on the Afghan people that was alien to us. Alien because it was against our religion, we were Muslims, very devout people in our beliefs in Islam. The Soviets came to impose Communism on us and to take away our religion from us. They also came to take our country. They came with their tanks and their soldiers and they occupied our country. So we had to fight them to regain our identity. That means home, values, culture, religion, all parts of it. On the other side, on the side of our resistance, while the Afghan people were resisting the Soviet occupation, the rest of the world came to help us. From America, to Europe, to some countries in the Muslim world, to our immediate neighbours. There were two forces at work against our people. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and those that were helping the Afghan resistance.
The Soviets, as I mentioned earlier were trying to impose Communism on us and the resistance were trying to impose a different system on the Afghan people through the support that they were giving. And that imposition of radicalised religious tendencies. So the extreme you got in terms of religious tendencies, the better help you received. Those that remained loyal to Afghanistan and its values and religion were called irrelevant to the resistance. The patriotic Afghans were called those that might eventually deal with the Soviets for the withdrawal and for the safety of Afghanistan. So the more extreme one got, the better it was suited to all that helped the resistance. From America, to Europe, to the countries in our neighbourhood and to some countries in the Muslim world. The consequence of that was after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving an incapacitated society, incapacitated by Soviet aggression, and incapacitated by the massive intervention by those that were helping in the resistance.
Consequently, there was a radicalised element in the Afghan resistance left in the region – particularly in Pakistan. People had come from all over the world with extreme radical ideologies and those elements, their extremism, supported to the fullest with billions of dollars in that fight. The West ignored Afghanistan. The extremists had the freest hand to do whatever they wanted and Afghanistan descended into chaos and in-fighting.
The Taliban came and our people hoped that they would save them from the anarchy of gang fights and criminality. They went along with it but the Taliban brought with them extremes of which we did not know at that time.
Together with them came Al-Qaeda terrorists and within five to six months of the arrival of the Taliban we began to see the true nature of it. That this was turning into a movement against Afghanistan, dividing the country, killing people and riding on the extreme hatred of radicalised religious sentiments. Now, beginning with the resistance, and lasting, perhaps, until 2001 and perhaps even today, the promotion and strengthening of terrorism was done at the hands of Governments internationally. The strength that they have today is because they were used. Terrorism and extremism was used by many Governments as instruments of policy. Some used it against the former Soviet Union, others used it within that region for strategic benefits, and so on. Others did it in order to promote a sectarian interest in the Islamic world and others used it for other political purposes within some countries and beyond the borders of those countries.
We, the Afghan people kept telling the world, all of us – Dr Abdullah Abdullah [current foreign minister] was there among us – we knew the nature of things in Afghanistan. We kept telling the world of the evil that was evolving there, and of the dangers that they were presenting to the world. I remember, one day, when I was a refugee in Queta, Pakistan) somebody came to me, a cousin of mine. He said ‘I saw something shocking today.’ This cousin of mine was working in the De-Mining Agency of Afghanistan. He said ‘I saw some young man, come and sit with me and ask for a favour. And while we are talking, this man tells me that he’d like to have a skirt full of bombs to throw it at New York. And I was shocked.’
And I said ‘How old was this man?’ He said ‘About 17, 18’. And he said ‘This man was a village boy.’ In Afghanistan very few village boys, before September 11, could have heard of New York. So somebody was talking to him about New York, somebody was preaching him hatred. And somebody was familiarising him with bombs. Put the bomb, New York and the hate preaching together, you get what we have today in London. You got what you had in Afghanistan. You get what you had in New York.
What is bad, what is not acceptable, what failed us all is the universal consciousness on terrorism was not the same. When they were killing the Afghan people, when they were burning our schools, when they were uprooting vine trees from the vineyards, when they were burning mosques, when they were killing people, it was a poor country not able to sell much to the world, not able to buy much from the world. Therefore it didn’t matter how many lives were lost and by what means.
Had the world paid attention to Afghanistan at that time, from 1993 until 2001, perhaps today we would have had the Twin Towers standing. Perhaps today we would not have had the Madrid bombs. Perhaps today we would not have had the bombs in London. Or elsewhere in the world: Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, other parts of the world. Therefore, terrorism is not my problem or your problem or his or her problem or Islam’s problem. Or Christianity’s problem. Or Judaism or any other faith’s problem.
This is a problem of humanity. These are not people who belong to a religion. They are people without a religion. They are people without a faith. They are people who are a cult based on hatred. They are not Muslims. For if they were Muslims, why were they killing Muslims before they went to New York on September 11? And why were they killing the poorest of the Muslims in Afghanistan?
Afghanistan was devastated by the Soviet occupation and the subsequent interventions in it. Yet Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and the likes of him were training their guns on the Afghan people. And the Afghan people then – and today – were among the poorest in the world. And Afghanistan was the poorest in the Muslim world. They were training those poor Muslims in order to reach you. And that is exactly what they did.
For us, for the Afghan people, we knew all along the desire that we had. The desire to live like other societies under the rule of law with the prosperity that we could afford. But our incapacitation deprived us of the ability to work against them. In numerous meetings with people from the country, with the clergy, with the tribal chiefs, we would encourage them to rise against the Taliban and the rule of tyranny. They would say ‘Gentlemen, we don’t have the power. They have backing from the neighbourhood of Afghanistan, they have backing from beyond the neighbourhood of Afghanistan. We can only liberate ourselves if the rest of the world is there – if America comes to help us.’
And I would get mad in myself. Inside of me would burn in anger at those tribal elders for telling me that we couldn’t do it ourselves. Later, when America came, when Europe joined the coalition, when they came to free Afghanistan, I saw that the tribal elders had been right. They knew the force that was against us and they knew the weaknesses that we had as a nation and they knew the capability of powers like America and Europe.
The defeat of the Taliban, the defeat of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was not because the world came there alone. It was also because there was an immense desire in the nation to be free, to send children to school, to have a clinic, to have a life, to live normally as others. Therefore, Afghanistan’s desire combined with the help from the international community freed us in a month and a half’s time.
And since then, the story is known to you. The massive participation of women in elections. The election itself. A most enlightened constitution. And today as we speak, the Afghan people are preparing for elections. For Parliamentary elections. Wherever in the country there is attack of terrorism in the midst of the population, the registration for voters is higher. In Kandahar, for example, where we have in the past two or three months, the highest number of terrorist attacks, the registration is highest in the country. More people go to resist them. In Paktika on the border with Pakistan, there are incidents of terrorism, where terrorists killed a clergy and his wife at night with knives. Women have registered to vote more than men. So the desire of societies to do well is universal. After all, they are all human beings and they want to have a good life. What is needed is for us to join hands to help those societies.
Now the end to terrorism, the finishing, the eradication, I should call, of terrorism, will only come when we all join hands sincerely to fight them. It will never end if one of us uses terrorism as an instrument of policy, for a certain purpose, in a certain place, thinking that it will remain confined to that purpose and that place. Or if the religion is used as an instrument of policy against other people. That was the origin of terrorism. That’s how it emerged.
Now there are other reasons as well. I’m talking about Afghanistan by the way. I’m not talking of the Middle East. I’m not talking of the situation elsewhere. I’m talking of our situation, of how terrorism emerged in my part of the world. Islam, ladies and gentlemen, as I see nowadays in Europe, in America, this talk of Islamic terrorists, I get very, what shall I say, I get disappointed when I hear that. It points to a fundamental lack of information. It points to a basic lack of understanding of how the same people that are killing innocent passengers, travellers, men, women that are working in London, are also killing innocent people in Afghanistan. There’s no difference between them. They have the same slogan. They have the same source. They have the same method. They blow up a bomb on a bus in London, or in the underground. In Afghanistan, they take the same bomb to a mosque. They go to the places of congregation, where innocents are. They blow up mosques. Here they kill a worker. In Afghanistan, they go and kill a clergy. Burn a tent where children want to study. Burn schools. Therefore, it is not related to Islam. For if somebody is a Muslim, for if somebody is really a Muslim, he or she would not commit murder. Murdering an innocent person in Islam is equated to the killing of humanity. It’s that severe, that strong a crime. A basic knowledge of Islam will tell you that. And then, how can one be a Muslim if he goes and kills children in a tent who are there to learn the basics of ABC and to educate themselves?
So my plea is to the Western societies, Islam is not what these people are. Terrorists are actually working against Islam. They are the enemy of all. They are my enemy and I am a Muslim. They have been killing my people for so many years and they were the most devout of the Muslim world. And yet the poorest of the Muslim world. They killed people in New York so they are indiscriminate killers. They are merchants of death, I would say.
It is also not a clash of civilisations. This is another very misleading slogan that I see in newspaper. How can there be a clash of civilisations if, from the United States, to Japan, to Europe, to China, to India, to the Muslim world, they are all helping in Afghanistan? How can it be a clash if the Afghan people have received them wholeheartedly? How can it be a clash of civilisations if a highway from Kabul to Herat is built by three different civilisations? The Americans, the Japanese and the Saudis. One part of the highway is built by America, the other by Japan, the other by Saudi Arabia. Christian, Muslim and Buddhist. How can it be a clash of civilisations if the thousands of troops in Afghanistan have come from all the different religions of the world? How can it be a clash of civilisations when an Afghan clergy comes to me and says ‘Mr President, please don’t let the coalition forces leave before it is time for them to leave?’ How can it be a clash of civilisation when a very devout, conservative clergy comes and asks me and says ‘Mr President, don’t allow the coalition to leave before our national army is made?’ Or when he advises the coalition on how to conduct themselves within Afghanistan? That is dialogue. Advising is dialogue, it’s not a clash. So I would rather than preaching or predicting or propagating the clash of civilisations, I have seen in my country and you have to come and see it, the co-operation of civilisations. And by stark examples, by unbelievably stark examples.
I’m now going to tell a personal story that happened, one evening, in the month of Ramadan in 2001 when the war against terrorism was had begun.
American planes had chased the Taliban and bombed somebody’s house where the Taliban occupied. When the Taliban entered that man’s house, he, his children, his wife and grandchildren were made to sit in the trolley of a
tractor. The bomb comes and hits the trolley killing seven of his children and grandchildren, leaving two. A month afterwards, the main town of the province is taken by the people who are in the mountains. The civilians chased out the Taliban and took the town from them. I arrived three days later and US assistance, the medical and the human assistance arrived two days afterwards. So we are sitting and having dinner and the man whose children were killed a month before in that bombing has brought me dinner and is with me having dinner. News comes that Americans are visiting us, two or three of their officials. And I am reluctant, I don’t know what to do. This man is there and the American planes have killed his children. I say, ‘Well, bring them in.’ In they come and I introduce the gentlemen to each other and then I say ‘So and so has lost seven of his children in your bombing.’ And the man who has lost his children says ‘Tell the American that I lost seven of my children, yes. That I have three left, children and grandchildren. But I would not mind if I loose three more them, of my remaining grandchildren provided you liberate Afghanistan from terrorism and from the Taliban.’
That is co-operation of civilisations for a common cause. For the cause of the Afghan man, for the cause of the man that was killed or the woman that was killed in New York. Therefore, we say our experiences are of the co-operation between civilisations. We should go beyond those who preach hatred to the greater part of humanity that is seeking co-operation, and that is actually co-operating. Therefore, terrorists, whoever they are, are neither speaking for Islam, nor for Christianity nor for any other religion. They speak for themselves, for their hatred, for their brutality.
I’m going to skip all these other things, NATO, you know. I’m not going to talk about that or relations or other things. So I will end, but I will summarise the whole thing by saying that terrorism is a creation of misjudgements, of misuse. It is not related to common people. It is related to Government policies, to Governments, not people. And it will not stop unless Governments stop using extremism as instruments of policy. That’s the end word.