Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday narrated the story of a four and a half year Afghan girl with “no face” left after a bomb went astray, to make the point about a more considerate presence of Western troops in his country after bulk of them withdraw next year.
“The West must recognise that we are also people. We too have homes, families and children,” he said to repeated questioning during a meeting with newspersons and strategic experts in New Delhi on Saturday about differences between Afghanistan and the U.S. over the terms and conditions for signing a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA). The pact will cover the placement of 15,000 U.S. and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) troops in nine locations in Afghanistan for 10 years.
Mr. Karzai said Afghanistan is refusing to sign the pact though it has been approved by the Loya Jirga because the U.S. is not prepared to agree to conditions that would check wanton attacks and indiscriminate operations by its troops.
To make his point, he spoke in detail about an Afghan child he visited in a U.S. hospital. She was found barely alive in the remnants of a vehicle bombed by western troops.
“I went to see her and thought why are they keeping her alive; a child who is without a mother or a face? I asked the doctors if she will ever have a face again and they said she will not really have a face, ever. I have been pleading with the U.S. to respect Afghan homes. They do not have the right to kill an entire family in pursuit of a Taliban fighter who is in the same bus. It is this I will try to stop. People shouldn’t suffer so hugely and tragically,’’ he said when asked about his opposition to the BSA which he wants to sign but with conditions ensuring adequate restraint by the Western troops.
Asked about a letter written by U.S. President Barack Obama promising to respect Afghan homes if Afghanistan signed the BSA, he pointed out that three days after he received the letter, U.S. troops bombed a home killing a two-year-old boy and critically injuring his mother and aunts. “They don’t do this in America. So, Obama should prove his intentions. He has not been proving it.”
He described the Afghan quandary through a paraphrased Hindi couplet delivered with a faultless accent. “You must have heard the couplet: Dua dete hain jeene ki; dava dete hain marne ki (they pray for our well-being but give medicines that kill us). I think the U.S. attitude can be put as: Dua dete hain jeene ki; dava dete hain theek na hone ki (they pray for our well being but given us medicines that will never make us well again).”
The Afghan President was candid about his relationship with the U.S. “The US doesn’t trust me and I don’t trust the US. You saw what they did in 2009 (backed Mr. Karzai’s rival), have caused civilian casualties. We are not a sophisticated country. We are very simple people and see only black and white. There is no grey. You are either a friend or a foe. We want to be friends.”
Describing Syria as one of the best countries in the Arab world, he wanted its Government and the “so-called” opposition to learn from the Afghan experience of three decades of civil war. “The so called opposition should realise that with each bullet fired, Syria will suffer more for many years to come. That is the Afghan experience. My advice to the Syrian Government is end the conflict as soon as possible. The more you fight, the more you suffer. That’s the Afghan experience.”
Mr. Karzai was shocked to see videos showing the Syrian opposition firing rockets at a building accompanied by chants of ‘Allah-o-Akbar’. “How can you take Allah’s name and kill people. They should know that the destruction of their own country will only help those who benefit from turmoil.”
Asked what he would do after hanging up his boots next year, he said he hoped there would be freedom to move about. “Also freedom of speech,” he added. On writing his memoirs, Mr. Karzai smiled and said he was “not a very literate person.”