Afghan President Karzai Declares Iran a Helper

The Bush administration considers Iran to be a dangerous influence on its neighbors. But Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, regards Iran as a helper. Karzai visited President Bush at Camp David. Said Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, talks with Steve Inskeep.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Here's a difference in perspective. The Bush administration considers Iran to be a dangerous influence on its neighbors. But one neighboring leader regards Iran as a helper. That's the word that Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai used on CNN. Karzai has been visiting President Bush, who took time this week to ask if Iran is indeed a positive force in Afghanistan.

We're going to talk about this with Said Jawad. He is Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States. He's in the studios. Thanks for coming by. Good morning.

Ambassador SAID JAWAD (Afghan Ambassador to the United States): Thank you very much. It's a pleasure being here.

INSKEEP: How is Iran a helper to Afghanistan?

Ambassador JAWAD: We have a strategic partnership with the United States. We are fighting terrorism in Afghanistan in a region that is surrounded by countries who are pursuing different foreign policies. And those foreign policies, they've been very fluid and changing.

In the past five years, one of the success of our foreign policy in Afghanistan has been to keep Iran engaged in Afghanistan in a positive way. We know - we are aware of the reports of Iranian negative influence in Afghanistan. We are looking into these reports, but we are still hopeful to keep Iran engaged in a positive way in Afghanistan.

INSKEEP: What does it mean? What are they doing for you?

Ambassador JAWAD: They are building roads in Afghanistan. They are involved in providing educational opportunities for Afghan kids and a variety of reconstruction project. Their private sector is involved in the rebuilding process in Afghanistan.

INSKEEP: And this is a government that is famously divided, that can sometimes be seen to be doing - pursuing two policies at once or several policies at once. Is it possible that you have parts of Iran's government working for you while other parts work against you?

Ambassador JAWAD: This is quite possible. It's not only the government that's divided. There are a lot of influential individuals and organizations that operate outside the government. That's why were a evaluating the reports that we are receiving about the flow of money or weapon to the spoilers in Afghanistan.

INSKEEP: So, would you encourage the United States to pursue a different policy toward Iran, given what you're saying about your neighbor?

Ambassador JAWAD: No. We are in another particular condition. Iran is our neighbor, so we envy our - we are facing that big challenge of fighting of terrorism and al-Qaida in Afghanistan. So we have to a lot more careful on how to prioritize the available resources to us.

INSKEEP: Let me ask you about another of your neighbors, Pakistan. We're expecting this week a big meeting of local leaders, tribal chiefs and other leaders, from both Afghanistan and Pakistan to talk about the problems of the Taliban and al-Qaida, who are strongest along that border region. What do you expect out of that meeting?

Ambassador JAWAD: This is going to be truly a historic meeting. Seven hundred people from both Afghanistan and Pakistan will participate in a big convention, or loya jirga, as we call it in Afghanistan. And basically through that mechanism they will seek ways of fighting extremism by using the traditional institutions, the tribal leadership and other country.

INSKEEP: Although they're going to talk but not necessarily impose any particular agreements on each other.

Ambassador JAWAD: Oh, they do. It's very structured the way their convention will take places. On the first day, both President Karzai and President Musharraf will deliver speeches. And then that 700 group will split into seven working groups, and each working groups will deal with one important issue - security or terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And then they will come up with recommendations.

INSKEEP: What can those local leaders do that the national governments in those two countries have been unable to do?

Ambassador JAWAD: Both national governments are saying that they are doing whatever they can do, but the reality on the ground is that you are not making a whole lot of progress against the Taliban and al-Qaida. Those people will sit down and figure out what is wrong. While Afghanistan is saying that we are doing everything that we can do, while Pakistan is claiming that they are doing everything that they can do, then why we are not still able to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan?

INSKEEP: Is Pakistan doing everything that it can do?

Ambassador JAWAD: There are signs of improvement, and we welcome this sign of improvement.

INSKEEP: Meaning you were not satisfied before?

Ambassador JAWAD: There is room for improvement, certainly.

INSKEEP: What is one sign of improvement, in just a couple of seconds?

Ambassador JAWAD: Some of the Taliban leadership are still living in Pakistan.

INSKEEP: That's not a sign of improvement?

Ambassador JAWAD: That's not a sign of improvement. And the logistical and ideological support for the Taliban continues. And as we can see, this is a source of danger for Pakistanis themselves. Look at the Red Mosque. This is exactly what we've been telling to our friends in Pakistan, that extremism could not remain contained.

INSKEEP: Okay. Well, we'll have to stop the discussion there. But, Ambassador, thanks very much.

Ambassador JAWAD: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: Said Jawad is Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States.

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