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'Americans should not be called occupiers'

Last updated on: February 02, 2006 18:37 IST
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Even as America looks towards reducing its troops in Afghanistan and giving more responsibility to NATO forces for the country's security, the US says it will not abandon Afghanistan and its reconstruction process.

Masood Khalili, who served as Afghan ambassador to India until recently, tells Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt and Nikhil Lakshman that the American presence in his country is in the interest of both Afghanistan and the US.

The second segment of a six-part exclusive interview about the current state of Afghanistan.

Part I: 'The Taliban have returned'

Why do you see Americans everywhere in Kabul? We are told even President Hamid Karzai's security is American.

Personally, I believe it is 100 per cent in America's interest to be in Afghanistan, it is in NATO's interest to be in Afghanistan. It is 150 per cent in our (the Afghans') interest that they be in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a poor country. Afghanistan in the last 25 years has always been a victim of interference. Afghanistan was abandoned by the world after the Soviets were defeated. We needed not to be abandoned, not to be forgotten. The Afghan people needed to be helped. The Afghans needed not to be interfered with. But Al Qaeda was there, the Taliban was there. It was hell in Afghanistan.

What happened unfortunately in America on September 11, 2001 opened the eyes of the superpower, that they had to react in Afghanistan. Did we need them to react in Afghanistan? Yes!

Did we need them to help us against Al Qaeda with its 18,000 or 20,000 forces and the Taliban with its 5,000 to 10,000 forces helped by Pakistan? Did we need that or not? Yes!

When they (the Americans) rushed to Afghanistan, was it in their interests to help the Afghans or not? Yes! Was it in our interest that they help the Afghan people? Yes!

So it was common interest. As in the time of the Soviets. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan and the Americans were helping (the mujahideen fighting the Soviet army) and we were welcoming them.

I personally think the Americans should not be called occupiers. They are there in the interest of both countries. If the Americans help you (India) with its economy, do you call them economic occupiers? No!

You need Japan to come and help India and we need India to come and help Afghanistan with technology. Should we say that we are under the domination of Indian technology and we have to stand and fight it? No!

The people of Afghanistan have matured after the last 25 years of war. They have seen so much misery, so many problems, such suffering, such interference. A nation does not deserve all this pain and all these atrocities.

All of a sudden September 11, 2001 happened. All of a sudden it provoked the superpower, all of a sudden they (the Americans) thought they should help, they should fight terrorism.

If I say they are occupiers I am just like the student I was at Delhi University in 1971 raising the wrong slogans. I am very clear that foreign forces are necessary for my country along with our national army and police.

How do you explain the recent rise in violence in Afganistan?

The way they (Al Qaeda, the Taliban) wage war, violence is easy.

Those who have the mindset to kill themselves can create hell.

Photograph: Saab Press

Part III: 'Leaving the snake half wounded will be more dangerous'

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