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If you like His Excellency Hamid Karzai's story, you might also like:
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Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai
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Hamid Karzai Interview

Former President of Afghanistan

June 7, 2002
Dublin, Ireland

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  Hamid Karzai

(Immediately prior to this interview, President Karzai addressed the Academy of Achievement in a symposium at Dublin Castle. Excerpts from that address are included along with his answers here.)

We are having this talk in Ireland, not too far from a region that has been rent with brutality and religious strife for centuries. Finally, there is a modicum of peace in Northern Ireland. Was there an ethnic component to the strife in Afghanistan, because of tribal differences and different languages? Or do you think that's off the subject?

Hamid Karzai: No, off the subject. It was foreign intervention, it was terrorism that brutalized the whole of Afghanistan. They tried to give it names and justifications, and those names and justifications were ethnic or political, but it was clearly a terrorist movement, backed by outsiders, to take Afghanistan and to create a different kind of warlord.

I told the French, I told the U.S., I told the Europeans that this somebody called Osama -- and people coming to me -- common Afghans came to tell me that the Taliban are bringing in horrible people from the Arab world, from Pakistan, and these are killers. "These are very inhuman people. Talk to the rest of the world. Liberate Afghanistan from these people, because they are going to hurt everybody, not only Afghans." And I went on a daily basis, I went to the rest of the world to tell them that this is what's going on in Afghanistan. I hardly stayed two or three days a week in my home with my family, and later on when I got married with my wife. I kept telling them. Nobody believed me. When they believed me they thought, "Well, it may not be as serious as he's talking about." Or if it is as serious as he's talking about, maybe his estimation of the Afghan resolve to get rid of the Taliban and terrorism was something that they thought I was overstating. So all those things probably made things a bit difficult.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

Hamid Karzai Interview Photo
In the year 2000, I appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I told the Senate that if you don't address the situation in Afghanistan, things may be horrible. When September 11th occurred I went to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and I told them what I had been telling the world about terrorism in Afghanistan. "Now you saw it. What do you do? We are ready to help." There was some disbelief. They said, "Yes, Hamid, we know that these people are horrible, that they are disastrous, but the Afghan people may not let us act there." I said, "No, we know that the Afghan people are fed up with them. They want change, but they can't bring about change without the help of the United States, without the help of the world community, because they are incapacitated by years of destruction."

"Hamid," my father would always tell me, "Go get us the United States, then we will succeed. Without that you might just kill us and get no results."

By the first of October of 2001, just a month and a few days after 9/11, I was one day sitting with four of my colleagues and I told them that Afghanistan cannot have any more of this. Let's move in and the world community might help us. They said, "No, the world will not help us." I said, "They will." They said, "You have been telling us for five or six years. Nobody has helped." I said, "This is a different time. Think of New York. Think of what happened there. The world has woken up. Let's move into Afghanistan. Let's move into the heart of Taliban."

[ Key to Success ] Courage

It was not just a thing that occurred that day. We had worked for five or six years in the community. So we decided to move into Afghanistan secretly. We went to the borders with two motorbikes and four people.

In the morning before we moved into Afghanistan, I told my colleagues, I said, "Listen, friends, we are moving into Afghanistan. It's taken over by terrorists. It's taken over by Taliban. It's taken over by all sorts of foreign people that have come to Afghanistan that are ruining life for us and for the rest of the world. We might be captured the moment we enter Afghanistan and be killed. Are you willing to face that?" I also said, "We have 60 percent chance of death and 40 percent chance to live and survive." Winning was no consideration. I mean we could not even think of that. They said, "All right, let's do it." We got on two motorbikes. We drove into Afghanistan, straight from the Pakistani border.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

The U.S. bombing had just begun or was about to begin in a day or two.

We moved in on two motorbikes. We got a flat tire four times along the way on the highway. But the Taliban did not capture us. So we were lucky. God was with us surely. We moved into Kandahar City, the heartland of the Taliban, spent the night in a villager's house. He protected us. That was the first sign for me that people would help. The next morning, early morning, he came to me and said, "Hamid, what do you want to do?" I said, "I want to remove the Taliban." He said, "But how? What do you have? These two motorbikes and four people, with you. Three people?" I said, "No sure, not that. But there have been people I have been talking to for many years including yourself. Let's do something." He looked at me in disbelief and he went out and he came back. He said, "Look, I guess if you stayed a few more days in Kandahar the Taliban would capture you. So you'd better leave. Go to the central part of Afghanistan where possibly, if there's a war, where there are mountains. You can hide. You can organize a resistance."

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

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