Afghanistan needs to build ‘normal relations’ with other nations: Ex-Afghan president

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Afghanistan needs to “build normal relations” with other countries, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said in an interview with Al Arabiya, adding that interacting with “fellow Muslim countries” was crucial.

“It is important for Afghanistan to build normal relations with the countries of the world. We are a member of the international community. We cannot live separate from them. We have to live with them for our own well-being and prosperity. Therefore, Afghanistan’s interaction with the international community, with our fellow Muslim countries, with Arab countries, is extremely important,” the former president said.

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“We must provide all the necessary conditions that will lead to such a relationship.”

He emphasized the need to portray Afghanistan as a country that other nations can work with, that “is not a challenge to anyone, but an opportunity for the rest of the world,” which “obeys the laws of the international community.”

Karzai ruled the country from 2002 to 2014, when he was succeeded by Ashraf Ghani.

US took $7 billion in Afghan reserves

Asked if the country would have been better off if Ashraf Ghani – the country’s president at the time of the Taliban takeover last year – had not left Afghanistan, Karzai told Al Arabiya he “very strongly believed” so.

“His leaving the country led to the collapse of the state in Afghanistan. The army disappeared, the police disappeared, the institutions collapsed. And this provided also an opportunity for other governments and countries to deal with us the way they want to deal with us,” he said, adding that Afghanistan lost its national reserves of more than $7 billion.

“The US took that money away from us. That is Afghan people’s property. That was not the property of any government.”

‘Tremendous respect’ for Saudi Arabia

“Saudi Arabia is a country that is seen with tremendous respect in Afghanistan. It is a brotherly country, a country that has been kind to us during my own time in office,” the former president said.

Karzai added that Saudi Arabia’s government and royal family have long been “kind and generous” to the war-torn country.

“It is [a] relationship that we value extremely and looking forward to further and further expansion,” he said.

“And we thank the people of Saudi Arabia for their assistance to Afghanistan and for thinking about us all the time.”

Karzai discussing issues with Taliban

The Taliban seized power last August and have since tried to present their vision of an extremist country governed by their interpretation of the Sharia law. Since returning to power after the US’ failed attempt to repel their influence in the country, the Taliban’s harsh policies have imposed severe restrictions on Afghans – particularly women.

Karzai noted that he has not experienced any harassment since the Taliban took over and that he has regular meetings with them.

“We meet them [the Taliban], they visit us. We talk about issues,” he said.

“Talks are going on, engagements are there. We hope that two things will happen at the same time, that there will be an internal mechanism within Afghanistan where all the Afghans will get together and move towards a future where we all see to having an order in the country that is that is seen as a representative by all Afghans,” he continued.

“And at the same time, we see the international community recognizing Afghanistan, whereby the two combined an internal brotherhood and unity and order and representation and external recognition will lead Afghanistan to progress and stability. Both are absolutely necessary, rather imperative for our country to make progress, for our country to do better economically… and for our stability as well.”

He noted that ISIS and al-Qaeda were still a problem for the country and the international community, adding that extremism needed to be dealt with, an issue that the Taliban interim government recognizes.

“[ISIS] is an issue now for Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda was an issue for Afghanistan, probably still is, so we in the Muslim world especially have to be extremely aware of the dangers that extremism can present to the country,” he said, in reference to the rise in suicide bombers which have blown up mosques and killed several people in the country over the past six months.

“It is an issue that come to us from outside, from abroad,” he added, stating that the Muslim world must first address it among themselves and then work on policies with the international community, especially the West, to eradicate extremism and its use “as a tool for policy in pursuit of their interests.”

The former president said he had no plans to rule the country again, stating that he had “done” his time as president and “will not return to power in any form or in any way.”

“I will remain a citizen of this country and work for the wellbeing of Afghanistan as a citizen of this country.”

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