Shortly after strong public accusations against Pakistan’s intelligence agency and a strategic pact with India, Hamid Karzai has decided to tone down the aggression towards Pakistan. In an interview to Pakistan’s leading Urdu news channel, Geo TV, Karzai claimed that if there is a war between America and Pakistan, Afghanistan will support Pakistan. While the Western media is “confounded” by Karzai’s message, finding the remarks in sharp contrast to his recent statements about Pakistan’s military institutions supporting Islamic militants.
However, after viewing the entire interview, it appears that Karzai’s message is essentially the same as before but in a different tone. What Karzai really said is more of an implicit warning. He said, “If it comes to a brother to brother relationship you’ll find that af will be there for you in times of difficulty and that is the pain that we have, that is the pain that we have that please brother stop using all methods that hurt us and are now hurting you. Let’s engage from a different platform, a platform in which the two brothers only progress towards a better future in peace and harmony and Afghanistan will be with you“.
Throughout the interview, Karzai emphasized that Pakistan’s military and government must stop allowing the extremists to set up training grounds within Pakistan. He said that Afghanistan and Pakistan share a relationship of suspicion and distrust that is more than 60 years old. “Afghanistan and Pakistan will not see a better peaceful day unless Pakistan decides to cut links to extremism”.
When asked why NATO and Afghan intelligence were unable to stop militants from coming into Afghanistan, Karzai responded that he was not talking of the failures of NATO and the Afghan government to provide security to the people of Afghanistan. The topic of discussion, said Karzai, is the growth of radicalism and miltant sanctuaries in pakistan.
The major news sources in the West have been focusing entirely on one part of the interview where Karzai said that Afghanistan would stand by Pakistan in case of an armed conflict from an outside force be it India or the United States.
Wall Street Journal – Karzai’s Pakistan Comment Jolts West
“It was totally careless, unnecessary and, yes, irresponsible,” said one Afghan official. “He hasn’t pleased anyone except, maybe, a few Pakistani generals.”
New York Times – Karzai Says Afghanistan Would Back Pakistan in a Conflict
“But the comments, which were broadcast Saturday on Pakistani television, again displayed Mr. Karzai’s ability to mystify his Western backers who have shored up his administration with billions of dollars in aid and military support during his nearly 10 years as Afghanistan’s leader”.
Washington Post – Karzai says Afghanistan would back Pakistan if US attacks it; draws criticism from Afghans
“The comments set off a firestorm of criticism in the country. Afghan lawmakers argued they were particularly hypocritical coming just weeks after the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani by a suicide bomber”.
Karzai did make some incomprehensible comments such as insinuating that despite the differences in opinions with America and the West on the issue of befriending Pakistan, he has done has utmost to befriend Pakistan. However, he did criticize Pakistan for expecting Afghanistan not to have any strategic and trade relations with India while Pakistan continues to maintain economic and cultural relations with the neighboring country. Most of what he had to say about Pakistan may appear conciliatory on the surface but the reality is that he is still maintaining his argument that Pakistan is responsible for harboring extremists and promoting terrorism. Keeping in mind that he is speaking on a Pakistan channel and he doesn’t want to embitter the relations between Pakistan and his own government, it is natural that he would speak in a friendly matter. Therefore, to me that doesn’t sound like he’s softening his approach towards Pakistan or setting himself up against the Western world.