Afghan Leadership Must 'Exude Steadiness'
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
In Afghanistan, as the U.S. pours 30,000 more troops into the South and prepares for a spring offensive, the president of that country continues to lash out at Western governments. Hamid Karzai has said in recent days that foreigners committed the fraud that plagued the last presidential election, that Western troops are increasingly regarded as invaders, and that today's insurgency could become tomorrow's national resistance.
The White House calls these comments troubling. For reaction from Kabul we've reached Daoud Sultanzoi. He's a member of Afghanistan's parliament.
Welcome back to the program.
Mr. DAOUD SULTANZOI (Parliamentarian, Afghanistan): Thank you very much.
MONTAGNE: Just for a big picture, what do you make of President Karzai's tone in recent days? It's both defiant and also at least here in the West he's being described as erratic.
Mr. SULTANZOI: It's almost a comical tragedy, in my opinion, the way this behavior - at least the impression that this behavior gives by a president. And I think the people of Afghanistan were confused enough, and these kinds of behaviors do not help that state of confusion. So these kinds of statements do not build credibility. I think these statements are undermining public confidence even further, because Afghanistan has to exude - at least the leadership has to exude confidence and steadiness, and this doesn't show that.
MONTAGNE: President Karzai has been trying to secure the support of elders in Kandahar for this spring's offensive against the Taliban, which should help the West in the fight there. Why do you think he's doing that at the same time that he's being so critical of the West? It doesn't seem to make sense.
Mr. SULTANZOI: Well, I can understand why he's doing that. He's from Kandahar, and he expects that there's eminently a military operation there. And he also knows that this military operation would probably have causalities, and also, it would require the government to produce something after the military operation.
So he's trying to safeguard against those pitfalls, and also he wants to cover his own (technical difficulties) in terms of the aftermath of the military operation, because the government may not be able to produce what the people of Kandahar have been asking for just in these meetings. They've asked for fighting corruption. They've asked for better governance. They've asked for justice. And these are, in fact, things that are backfiring on the government -on him, I guess.
MONTAGNE: You're a parliamentarian, and the parliament just rejected a decree that President Karzai issued, which basically gave him complete control over the panel that will decide fraud in elections. Will that work? I mean, does the parliament have that power?
Mr. SULTANZOI: We have passed the law based on the merits of the law. It wasn't against Mr. Karzai or anybody else. It was for ensuring a good election and a transparent election and making sure that the same mistakes of the last election was not repeated. If he doesn't implement it, the perception and the reality is that the international community would be looked at as - as much responsible as he is in breaking this law. So the parliament has done its job. The parliament has passed the law, rejected this decree. Now it's up to Mr. Karzai and his international backers to make sure that it's implemented.
MONTAGNE: The Obama administration has taken quite a tough stance with regard to Mr. Karzai. They've pushed him openly, quite publicly, to end corruption. They've criticized him when he doesn't. What is your thinking on this? Is this the right way to get results from President Karzai? One almost feels like he's being pushed over the edge.
Mr. SULTANZOI: I don't think there's an edge here. There's a - if there was an edge, then we are considering that this is all about Mr. Karzai. This should be about Afghanistan. This should be about terrorism. This should be about the rule of law, not about one person. If one person doesn't (technical difficulties) you're just going to give up on the whole mission? The Afghan people are able to handle this government's misbehavior, but the reason nobody walks on the streets or demonstrates is because the U.S. is here, the NATO is here, the troops are here. Otherwise, Mr. Karzai would not be able to behave the way he is, with such impunity. Your president has given him the teeth, so it's your teeth that's he's biting the people of Afghanistan with.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. SULTANZOI: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: Daoud Sultanzoi is a member of Afghanistan's parliament.
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