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Interview with Hamid Karzai

Aired April 16, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to our program. Let me start by saying how delighted I am to be back broadcasting from this seat again. I aim to bring you the big ideas and the top stories, including tonight an exclusive interview with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

But I also want to explore stories in depth. So each night, I'll be starting the program with a brief, drawing upon different perspectives and my own experience in the field to explore the whole picture.

Tonight, we'll look at Afghanistan and how it could have worked, even with the kind of violence that we saw this weekend, the Taliban striking again in a series of coordinated attacks across the country.

It's troubling as the United States and international forces prepare to pack up and leave. So let's first take a look back, back 11 years ago, when Hamid Karzai was hailed as a hero. He got a standing ovation in the United States Congress, as he radiated optimism in his first-ever interview.


HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: I'm sure the Afghans are committed to peace and stability. They recognize the need for it. And I'm also sure the international community will not walk away from us. I think Afghanistan will be rebuilt. I think Afghanistan will be back on its own feet, and that is what we want.


AMANPOUR: And that's what many of us believed could have been. It could have worked. So why hasn't it happened yet? Because, perhaps, the mission itself has been a continuing series of mixed messages.

Once Al Qaeda was defeated, back after 9/11, the American mission was clearly nation-building. But that's a phrase which, for some unfathomable reason, is political poison here in the United States. After 30 years of war, though, the task of rebuilding Afghanistan's broken institutions was immense.

And yet, as we all now know, the U.S. quickly moved on to Iraq and took its eye off the ball. And so $300 billion and counting was spent without a coherent blueprint, and thousands of lives have been lost on all sides.

And when Afghanistan inevitably looked like something less than a Jeffersonian democracy, Americans and NATO partners began to doubt the mission. Add to that rampant corruption and bad governance. So let's now go straight to President Karzai, who's joining us from his palace in Kabul.


AMANPOUR: Mr. President, thank you so much and welcome to our program.

KARZAI: Good to talk to you, Christiane Amanpour, very good to talk to you as always.

AMANPOUR: Thank you, sir. I wanted to ask you about the unfolding drama in your country. We've had this incredible bold attack by the Taliban and other militants.

Mr. President, how could this happen so many years into the war, so many years into having so many NATO forces, so many Afghan forces being stood up? How on Earth could this happen right now?

KARZAI: This is -- this is exactly the question the Afghan people are asking. This is exactly the question that the Afghan people have been asking now for some years.

This is indicative, ma'am, of a serious intelligence failure, especially an intelligence failure of our allies and NATO and others, because of the equipment that they have, because of the resources that they have, because of the time that they have spent in this part of the world. So this is indeed a very legitimate question and, indeed, one every Afghan household is asking.

AMANPOUR: So are you blaming NATO for this?

KARZAI: I'm not blaming NATO for this. I'm simply asking a question as to the efficiency of our intelligence gathering systems, whether these systems are working all right, whether, with all these resources available, I think by that happening in Kabul and in other parts of the country, whether everything is done correctly or whether everything is used correctly.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about hearts and minds? I mean, one way to win a war is by winning the hearts and minds. And it looks like that is in a bit of a crisis right now. Obviously, this terrible massacre by that American, Staff Sgt. Bales, has put a real -- a real crisis in terms of relations between ordinary Afghans and the United States.

Has the West lost the war in Afghanistan?

KARZAI: The West has been able to bring Afghanistan a much better health service, better education, better roads, a better economy, though some have benefited more; some have benefited less from that economic well- being in Afghanistan.

But as I have been saying for the -- for the last many years, the war on terrorism has not been conducted satisfactorily from the point of view of Afghanistan. The sanctuaries were not addressed, the training grounds were not addressed. And as I have been saying, the war on terrorism was not and is not in the Afghan villages or by causing harm to the Afghan people.

Therefore, on that account, there has been a failure in providing security to Afghanistan or in keeping the Afghan hearts and minds in a matter that would satisfy Afghans.

AMANPOUR: Is it your view that Staff Sgt. Bales should have been tried in Afghanistan? Is it still your view that that should have been the case?

KARZAI: The Afghan people did clearly demand that. The Afghan people did clearly want that. The Afghan people do clearly want a trial that is seen, that's transparent, that justice is done to those innocent women and children and men that were started (ph) and killed.

AMANPOUR: So should that have been in Afghanistan? Are you satisfied that it is going to take place in the United States?

KARZAI: Well, it isn't a matter of -- for us of satisfaction on any account. Once our people are killed, we can't be satisfied in any way. But other than that, in order to reduce the grievance that we have, a fair trial is necessary and the Afghan people are seeking it.

AMANPOUR: But, specifically, you must be pleased with this new agreement that Afghans will lead the so-called night raids? That is something you had wanted for years, whereby Americans go into the villages and try to find militants and get information about the Taliban. Now you're going to lead that.

KARZAI: Well, wanted this years ago. It came too late for us. But, still, we're happy that we have now signed an agreement and we hope that all parties will remain committed to the letter and spirit of this agreement.

AMANPOUR: You talk about how the U.S. has not fully won hearts and mind in Afghanistan, although, I must say, it is incredible to see certain percentages still supporting the international presence.

But there's a different story, as you know, here in the United States and around Western capitals. Your stock has plummeted. Where you were once the hero, standing ovations, freedom fighter, now people cannot wait to see the back of Afghanistan and get the heck out. Do you -- do you understand that? I mean, do you realize how you have lost the hearts and minds of the United States?

KARZAI: Yes, we understand that very well and we view it differently, though. We believe that there has been much lack of understanding of the Afghan situation, of the desire of the Afghan people, of the expectations of the Afghan people and that Afghanistan was not valued as it should have been valued by our allies in the past many years. I hope that recognition has come now.

Look, we are equal partners in the struggle against terrorism. Our country is being used. Our soil is being used. Our people are sacrificing their lives every day. We cannot be judged by the prism that you have in the West or in the United States.

AMANPOUR: You can imagine the kind of reaction it has after the, you know, spilling of so much blood, after the spending of so many hundreds of billions of dollars on Afghanistan, when Americans hear you, the president of Afghanistan, calling them demons, calling these shootings in that village, as catastrophic and appalling as they were, intentional terror.

What kind of effect do you think those words have for a nation that's basically been propping you up for all these years?

KARZAI: You're talking of the killing of people last month by --


KARZAI: -- that U.S. soldier?


KARZAI: Well, that was terrible. That was terrible, wasn't it?

AMANPOUR: Absolutely. But my question to you was -- and it was -- it was unconscionable, and we all, around the world, know that. My question is, when you called Americans demons after that, and called it intentional terror, did you mean that? Or was that the emotion of the moment?

KARZAI: Huh. Demons -- I have never used the word demon in the English language. The word "intentional terror," yes, I did use in the English language. It was my input into the statement that we made. This was intentional. When someone walks out of a military barrack and goes to kill villagers, that's intentional. And that's terrorism.

AMANPOUR: You mean individual, right? You don't mean that it was the U.S. doing that?

KARZAI: No. I didn't say the U.S. people. I said the individual. That individual committed terror, and of the most atrocious kind.

AMANPOUR: What should happen to him?

KARZAI: Justice.

AMANPOUR: One of the issues that people look at a lot is the issue of democracy and progress in Afghanistan. You recently said that you might call for the next round of presidential elections to be moved up.

Can you assure your Western partners and the Afghan people that you will not seek another term as president, that you will abide by the constitution, which demands only two five-year terms, Mr. Karzai? I see you shaking your head already.

KARZAI: Well, well, I'm sure, Christiane, I will prove a lot of speculations wrong, as I have done in the past. So I like to -- I like to have a good country, a peaceful country, a respected country. And I like my children to be raised in this country. And that can only happen if we - - if we respect and remain committed to a way of life that we have adopted.

AMANPOUR: Absolutely. Will you step down?

KARZAI: Definitely. That's what the constitution of Afghanistan is asking. Even if the constitution allowed it, I wouldn't go ahead, because it's not right for one person to keep doing the job of the president for almost 12 years.

We need -- we need younger, fresher minds to come forward and do, in a perhaps more innovative way, things that we'll be doing so far and take the country forward. That's -- there's no question there. But whether the election should be in 2014 or 2013, the constitution says 2014.

But I've been thinking, with myself and some of my colleagues, that because of the heavy agenda of 2014, whether there will be a way forward for us, either in bringing the elections to 2013 or bringing the withdrawal of the international forces to 2013, that's something that I'm thinking about, I hope we'll find a way, or we can go and continue to have the election in 2014.

AMANPOUR: Got it. Let me just repeat it so that I'm completely satisfied that I heard you right. You are saying that, no matter what, no ifs, ands or buts, you will not stand for reelection, whether it's in 2013 or 2014?


KARZAI: Definitely not. I -- and I'm surprised when there is this question asked. I see a lot of Western politicians and media talking about the president, plotting to stay. No.

Afghanistan, ma'am, is inherently a democratic country. And I like to, as an Afghan, to prove that to myself and to the rest of the world, and leave a better legacy than continuing.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, you've spoken quite eloquently about your vision for a -- for a better and more progressive future for your country. You have two children, you've just had another baby, and it's a girl, so congratulations to you.

KARZAI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Do you have a vision of a great future for your little girl and for other women and girls in Afghanistan, and do you worry that if the Taliban comes back in any form or fashion, whether it's a negotiated way or not, that it's going to be to the detriment of all the girls and women in Afghanistan again?

KARZAI: Christiane, the Taliban will not return to take power in Afghanistan. That is gone. That is done with. I wouldn't have told you this three years ago. But I can tell you this today, with confidence, that the Afghan people will not allow that.

Second, that if there is a peace process and a successful one, and as a result of that peace process the Taliban come back to participate in their own country and society, this has to be -- this has to be in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the Afghan people and the Afghan constitution.

And the Afghan people and the Afghan constitution have chartered their way forward into the future, where the Afghan woman will be equal partners with men in bringing this country to a better standard.

AMANPOUR: I hear what you're saying, and I understand about the constitution. But as you know, of course, the majority of the country, sadly, is still illiterate, despite the education gains. And as you also know, the Taliban, their interest was in having a basically anti-women Islamic caliphate.

What if some of these people come in and get government positions? Even if they say that they're going to abide by the constitution?

KARZAI: Even if they get government positions, that will not be the case. The country has changed, ma'am. It will be a great tragedy and misfortune for Afghanistan beyond imagination if that were to happen.

AMANPOUR: Agreed. On that note, Mr. Karzai, thank you so much for joining me.

KARZAI: Good to talk to you. All the best wishes.


AMANPOUR: President Karzai had a lot more to say about prospects of talks with the Taliban, and about how NATO might pursue the war on terror going forward. He made a lot of news, and I'll have the rest of our conversation on Friday, here on our program.

But now, we're also covering another breaking story. What would you do with $57 billion? If you were this man, that is not a hypothetical. Just elected president of the World Bank today, he has the task of pouring those billions into developing countries. Dr. Jim Yong Kim may indeed be the right man for the job.

But there's been much controversy since many believe there's a woman who's even more qualified. We'll meet them when we come right back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And now to controversy at the World Bank. Just a short time ago, the bank announced that American Dr. Jim Yong Kim will be its next president. But that comes after a hotly contested race.

The job traditionally goes to an American. But this year 39 former World Bank officials rallied around the Nigerian finance minister, insisting that she might be the best person for the job.

Nevertheless, Dr. Kim got it. He's a physician who's done much of his work in the developing world, and he's currently the president of Dartmouth College. And he joins me now from Lima, Peru, for his first TV interview.

Dr. Kim, welcome to this program and congratulations on being selected as the World Bank president. Let me ask you first and foremost what is your vision for this job? Everybody's working, waiting to hear that.

JIM YONG KIM, WORLD BANK PRESIDENT: Well, Christiane, I'm here in Peru because this is where I started my work on the problem of tuberculosis. But what I've seen here is very similar to what I've seen in my listening tour, in which I went to very poor developing countries to middle income countries, even to developed countries.

And what I've heard is really clear across the board. People in every one of these countries want their economies to move down the path of growth. They want, especially in the private sector, a robust growth that leads to jobs.

There's not a single country that I went to, including my own country, the United States, where robust economic growth that creates jobs, especially for young people, it has to be the top priority. And it'll certainly be mine when I go to the World Bank.

The other thing is, you know, I saw countries that had literally billions of people who want to join the new global middle class. There's still a billion people living in extreme poverty.

You know, I was very involved in the acceptance and the global consensus around the millennium development goals. I still think that we have a long way to go to get to 2015, which is the deadline for those goals, in lifting people out of poverty and also helping these 5 billion people join the global middle class.

Finally, I think, at the World Bank, we've got to really think and look around corners and look ahead a little bit, of issues like climate change are critically important.

And because the World Bank traditionally deals with governments directly, having a big impact on these cross-border issues like climate change has got to be a priority. We have to prepare for the problems that we know will be even greater in the future.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Kim, can I just play for you a little bit of an interview that we had with your main challenger, and that was the Nigerian finance minister?

KIM: Sure.

AMANPOUR: She told us that she's spoken to you, that she supports you. But here's what she said about the selection process.


NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA, NIGERIAN FINANCE MINISTER: We should open up the process to people regardless of nationality and that it should be open to the -- to the best person to be selected to run the World Bank. I think this is a way of ensuring that we close the democratic deficit in governance, in global governance, that now exists.


AMANPOUR: So she's saying it should be a much more democratic vote and that, of course, because of the U.S. being the biggest contributor to the World Bank, it's traditionally been a U.S. head, and you are from the United States.

What can you to assure the Nigerian minister, many in the developing world, that they've made the right choice?

KIM: Well, as you said, I've spoken with the minister. She congratulated me and we pledged to work very closely together. And I ran, not as an American. I'm very proud to be an American citizen. But I was born in Korea. I grew up in the United States. I've worked in Latin America. I've worked in Africa. I've worked at the global level at the United Nations around HIV and other issues.

And my entire life I've spent investing in poor communities. You know, just this past -- just yesterday, I went to a very poor squatter settlement in the northern corner of Lima, where I met former patients, former community health workers.

Things have changed a lot in that community over time. But I want the world to know that this has been my life's work. My life's work has been to listen carefully. I'm an anthropologist. Listen carefully to the aspirations of the poorest people in developing countries and then try to lift the sights of people like me who have access to resources to match those aspirations.

You know, at a time when very few people thought HIV treatment would be possible in Africa, I insisted that people not say that things are not possible in Africa, when, in fact, it is a moral responsibility, I argued, that we provide the kind of support for people living with HIV that would allow them to live healthy, productive lives.


KIM: I think it would be hard to imagine the kind of economic growth that we see in Africa today if -- with the European support, with American support, with the support of the U.N. system and the World Bank, but most importantly with the extremely hard work of Africans in their communities, I think it would be hard to imagine the kind of growth that we see today if we hadn't made those kinds of investments in human beings.


KIM: This is what I've done my entire life, is what I'll continue to do.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Kim, thank you so much indeed for joining us. Thanks for giving us your first interview and we wish you good luck. We'll be watching. And we will be right back.




AMANPOUR: And now for our final thought. Imagine sitting on the story of the century, with no way to tell it. It did happen to Carlos Hurd, a young newspaper man, sailing to Europe on the steamship Carpathia, just as the Titanic was sinking.

When the Carpathia stopped to rescue survivors, Hurd had the scoop of a lifetime. But the Carpathia's captain imposed a news blackout. Hurd interviewed the survivors, jotting notes on scraps of paper, and putting his story in a cigar box, jerry-rigged with champagne corks to make it float.

Arriving here in New York Harbor, he spied his editor on a tugboat, tossed the box into the water and the rest is history.

And that is it for our first program. Tomorrow, Syria's cease-fire is hanging on by a string. We'll talk to some of the key players. In the meantime, log on to, where you can watch our show every day, as well as my documentaries and archives. Thank you so much. Goodbye from New York.