The United States’ former ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Wednesday night that the United States has made some mistakes in its policies towards Afghanistan in recent years.
However, the diplomat said efforts are ongoing to reform these mistakes.
In a debate on TOLOnews’ Black and White show – on the country’s foreign policy – Khalilzad said the presence of the US in the country was in Afghanistan’s favor.
The former foreign minister and former national security adviser, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, also took part in the debate and said he was in favor of Afghanistan having an impartial foreign policy.
“Sixteen years of efforts by us showed that United States of America was unstable in the combat against Pakistan and had a mistaken strategy,” Spanta said.
“The issue is not about enmity with the US or ending its presence. I mentioned that we do not have an alternative – either in cooperation or assistance. We want consensus and cooperation to be restored in Afghanistan in collaboration with the US and the world… This war must end,” Spanta said.
“There were mistakes in relation to policy of US in Afghanistan and mistakes happened. There is no doubt about it,” Khalilzad said.
Khalilzad said the US wants to end the war in Afghanistan but added that the reason for the war was the presence of groups operating under the name of jihad, because of some officials working with foreign intelligence agencies and because of unemployment.
“Has the US forces’ presence been behind Afghanistan’s instability? Why are people fighting here? Some are fighting because they believe in jihad and believe that foreigners have come here and we should do jihad (against them), that it is our Islamic responsibility. Some are fighting here because they are spies. They take money from intelligence (agencies) from other countries and unfortunately some of them are among (Afghan government) officials. Third, some are fighting because of poverty. They are paid in exchange for war because they cannot feed their families. Some are those who have regional issues. They have been oppressed and their land has been usurped. Responsibility of which one of them is on the US?... All day we blame America. No country will be able to overcome its problems unless they make decisions on their own. We also have a responsibility,” he added.
Meanwhile, Spanta said he is in favor of Afghanistan’s impartiality in its foreign policy. However, Khalilzad said impartiality and creating distance from the US is not in Afghanistan’s favor.
“I believe that we should move towards impartiality because the international consensus in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan has broken down,” Spanta said.
“The balance which we created, based on a multilateral (multi-faceted) policy, has been messed up practically. Obviously, mistaken policies of the National Unity Government, which is deeply supported by the US, do not have a role in it. No doubt, a change in the international situation from Ukraine, Crimea, Syria, which I call west of Asia or the Middle East, are effective in this matter. And Afghanistan is affected by changes (in those countries). As a citizen of Afghanistan Islamic Republic who has no quest for power, I hope that my country comes out of this situation and does not become a battleground for regional countries’ competitions,” Spanta added.
Khalilzad meanwhile said: “I am talking only about the current situation. I do not think impartiality will help (Afghanistan) in the current situation… If the situation changed, that is a separate thing. The situation has been challenging in Afghanistan. What I think is better for the current situation, is to repair mistakes of the incumbent policy. These mistakes are in America’s policy and there have been some changes, and repairs have been done. The policy towards Pakistan is better now even compared to the period when I was the US’s ambassador here (in Afghanistan),” Khalilzad said.
In this debate, Khalilzad reacted to Karzai’s remarks on Moscow, saying that Russia cannot bring peace to Afghanistan and that such statements are emotionally driven.
Former president Hamid Karzai said in a TV interview earlier this month that the US is responsible for the death of Afghans, is behind the crisis in the country and only Russia can help Afghanistan.
Speaking to Russia’s NTV, Karzai said countries such as the US and the UK cannot help Afghanistan in its anti-terror efforts.
“Neither the Brits, who we have kicked out of the country several times, nor the Americans (can help Afghanistan) as they've been killing us for 17 years; only Russia can (help). We (Afghanistan) are the last barrier from terrorists. We've been fighting continuously for a century and a half. If you (Russia) create new relationships with Pakistan and Afghanistan, you can help,” said Karzai.
Karzai went on to say the US used Afghanistan in the war against the Soviet Union and also created al-Qaeda in military camps in Pakistan.
These comments come after US President Donald Trump ushered in his new strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia in August last year after taking over from former president Barack Obama.
Trump issued a conditions-based strategy, opposed to a time-bound policy and gave more authority to troops on the ground. He also increased the number of troops in Afghanistan and stepped up pressure on Pakistan.
He promised to crack down on Pakistan's harboring of terrorist and militant groups.