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With Eye on Past, Karzai Lays Out Vision for an Independent Afghanistan

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/world/asia/with-eye-on-past-karzai-lays-out-vision-for-independent-afghanistan.html
April 17, 2012
With Eye on Past, Karzai Lays Out Vision for an Independent Afghanistan
By ALISSA J. RUBIN and GRAHAM BOWLEY [Afghanistan] [AfPak] [Obama’s “surge” continues] [after “surge” has success around Kandahar, insurgency strikes back?] [a look into how the very nature of America’s presence in Afghanistan is changing rapidly] [twin suicide attacks in different parts of Afghanistan demonstrate just how far is left to go before things improve there] [followup] [Karzai sort of lays out his vision of Afghanistan moving forward?] [*]
KABUL, Afghanistan — In a sweeping speech on Tuesday that touched on some of the heroes of Afghanistan’s past 150 years, President Hamid Karzai laid out a vision of a modern, independent Afghanistan that could outlast security upheaval and foreign entanglement. And he made an emotional defense of his outreach to the Taliban, [*]urging the insurgents again to lay down their weapons, if only to hasten the withdrawal of American forces.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/world/asia/with-eye-on-past-karzai-lays-out-vision-for-independent-afghanistan.html
April 17, 2012
With Eye on Past, Karzai Lays Out Vision for an Independent Afghanistan
By ALISSA J. RUBIN and GRAHAM BOWLEY [Afghanistan] [AfPak] [Obama’s “surge” continues] [after “surge” has success around Kandahar, insurgency strikes back?] [a look into how the very nature of America’s presence in Afghanistan is changing rapidly] [twin suicide attacks in different parts of Afghanistan demonstrate just how far is left to go before things improve there] [followup] [Karzai sort of lays out his vision of Afghanistan moving forward?] [*]
KABUL, Afghanistan — In a sweeping speech on Tuesday that touched on some of the heroes of Afghanistan’s past 150 years, President Hamid Karzai laid out a vision of a modern, independent Afghanistan that could outlast security upheaval and foreign entanglement. And he made an emotional defense of his outreach to the Taliban, [*]urging the insurgents again to lay down their weapons, if only to hasten the withdrawal of American forces.
Speaking at an event to celebrate the time of King Amanullah, a reformist ruler in the 1920s, Mr. Karzai appeared to be trying to set himself up as a similar leader who is intent on guiding his country to independence from foreign domination, be it Britain in the past, or the United States today, and as part of a leadership tradition that embraced education and modernization. [*]
Coming at a time of perhaps the greatest uncertainty in recent years — with vital strategic talks with the West under way, another fighting season begun and deep public disillusionment with his administration’s corruption — his speech offered a window into what seemed a deeply personal longing for a united Afghanistan that looked to the future, even as he invoked the past. [*]
“There are many similarities between today and the time of Amanullah Khan,” Mr. Karzai said. “Then, as well, they wanted development on the one hand, while on the other struggling for independence from the British oppression and still trying to protect the value of freedom.” [*]
Today, he said, young Afghans are intent on making their own future. “This is a steady wheel that is progressively moving toward more development, and it will not turn back,” he said. “This is a young man’s engine with a power that does not know cold or any other obstacles.”
His speech was most passionate when he turned to the Taliban’s recent attacks on the capital, clearly showing conflicted feelings about an insurgent movement rooted in his native southern homeland and his own Pashtun ethnicity. [*]
He deplored the loss of life — for both the attackers who died fighting as well as the members of the Afghan security forces who died trying to protect civilians. And he took an almost fatherly tone about each side, even as he lamented how the Taliban had upended people’s lives.
“Thirty-five young people who came to Afghanistan in the name of suicide bombers were apparently Afghans; some could have been foreigners, and all were probably Muslims,” he said. “All were young, and instead of educating themselves and becoming mullahs, becoming a teacher or a doctor or an agriculturalist, he committed suicide. He didn’t do anything for himself or for his family or for his country or religion. And he also caused the death of other Muslims.” [*]
As for the security force members, Mr. Karzai lauded their sacrifice.
“Police, soldiers from our Ministries of Defense and Interior and N.D.S.” — the National Directorate of Security — “who went and sacrificed themselves, they bravely protected their country,” he said. “And there were other victims, the thousands of children who were deprived of going to school that day and thousands of families who were heartsick.” [*]
Still, he defended his outreach to the Taliban and his frequent description of them as “brothers.” Such references have infuriated many Afghans, not least those who lost family members fighting them and felt their lives had been destroyed by the group’s restrictions on education.
“Some people become angry at me in the media when I call the Talib ‘my brother,’ ” he said. “They say: Why do I call them brothers? But I am not quitting this, and I will call them brothers again even if it is criticized.” [*]
Then he appealed to them as Afghans to stop their fighting, arguing that although they claim to want NATO troops to leave the country, their attacks give the alliance an excuse to stay. “Again, you have worked to help foreigners stay here,” he said.
More worrisome to some listeners was that after first suggesting the Taliban were responsible for Sunday’s mayhem, he appeared to back away from that, addressing the Taliban about the attack “if you have done it or not.” That raised questions about whether he was striking an apologist note, perhaps seeking to blame some other group. [*]
These alternating embraces and reproaches of the Taliban may also reflect the conflicting views of his inner circle of advisers, which includes former mujahedeen commanders from northern Afghanistan who have little affection for the Taliban, some supporters of the West and some close to Pakistan, or with ties to former Taliban commanders. [*]
And at root, this is one of Mr. Karzai’s quandaries, whether to embrace the movement of Afghan youth who long for an outward-looking future or to hew to the country’s often warring past.
In that, and on other issues, he has often seemed to want things both ways. Throughout his speech, when it came to the United States he expressed a desire to be free of foreigners telling the government what to do, but also a wish for continued aid.
“On the one hand, we want the foreign forces to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014. On the other, we want to have close relations with the world,” [*]he said.
Near the end of his speech he added that he wanted Americans to save money by sending their troops home, but that out of the money they save, “they should leave some amount for us.” [*]

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