China Trots Out Corrupt Ex-Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Whine About U.S.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan speaks during the Opening Ceremony & Leaders Panel at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum at ExCel on October 29, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images for 9th World Islamic Economic Forum)
Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images for 9th World Islamic Economic Forum

China’s state-run Global Times published an interview Friday with Hamid Karzai, whose 13-year term as president of Afghanistan was defined by widespread corruption and an opium cultivation boom, in which Karzai praised Beijing’s relationship with Kabul and disparaged the “failure” of U.S. forces there.

Karzai has resurfaced recently as American forces draw down the presence in the country after two decades. While owing his presidency to the United States — American forces toppled the Taliban regime there in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and helped broker the establishment of Karzai’s government — Karzai spent much of his tenure demanding the United States leave. Now that American military forces are expected to complete their withdrawal from the country in September, the 20th anniversary of the jihadist attacks on the U.S. homeland, Karzai has asserted that Washington has an ongoing “responsibility” to Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump negotiated the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of a deal with the legitimate Afghan government, currently led by President Ashraf Ghani, and the Taliban last year. The agreement required the Taliban to cut ties with international jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and stop attacking American troops. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to withdraw from the county by May 1, 2021.

Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, announced in April that he would not honor the deal, instead keeping American forces in the country through September. Taliban leaders responded by asserting that Biden breaking the agreement allowed them to continue their jihad against American forces. The Taliban has since escalated a campaign to conquer as much territory as possible out of Kabul’s control before the full withdrawal scheduled for September.

“It’s clearly turning out that the United States has failed,” Karzai told the Global Times. “Not only did stability not come, conflict did not end, and new terrorist groups emerged.”

Karzai asserted the United States should only leave Afghanistan “responsibly” and that Washington has a “responsibility” to provide Kabul security assistance.

In contrast to his harsh words for America, Karzai claimed China — which has played a negligible, at most, role in the Afghan war despite sharing a border with the country — had been “a very constructive player for peace and stability of Afghanistan.” Karzai heralded China’s alleged promotion of “civilized interaction.”

China has repeatedly encouraged a greater role for the Taliban, a jihadist terrorist organization, and hosted Taliban delegations for talks. China has attempted to elevate its role in the country through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global infrastructure debt-trap program that cuts through Central Asia, and has expressed interest in the country for its abundant reserves of rare earth metals.

The former Afghan president’s remarks echoed his remarks in an interview last week with the Associated Press in which he claimed that the American legacy in his country was one of “total disgrace and disaster.”

“The (US/NATO military) campaign was not against extremism or terrorism, the campaign was more against Afghan villages and hopes;” Karzai claimed, “putting Afghan people in prisons, creating prisons in our own country … and bombing all villages. That was very wrong.”

“We will be better off without their military presence,” he asserted, contradicting his future interview with the Global Times in which he insisted Washington had a continued security responsibility to the country.

Karzai ruled Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. Karzai attracted widespread distrust and unpopularity, both in the United States and at home, for giving unqualified family members high-paying government jobs and presiding over unprecedented growth in the country’s opium trade, which has largely benefited the Taliban. U.S. document leaks published in 2019 by the Washington Post revealed American officials concluding that, by 2006, Karzai’s Afghanistan had “self-organized into a kleptocracy.”

“In recent years, dozens of Karzai family members and close allies have taken government jobs, pursued business interests or worked as contractors to the United States government, allowing them to shape policy or financially benefit from it,” the New York Times revealed in 2010. Many of those individuals lived in the United States prior to Karzai’s presidency and had minimal ties to Afghanistan.

“At least six Karzai relatives, including one who just ran for Parliament, operate or are linked to contracting businesses that collect millions of dollars annually from the American government,” the far-left American newspaper reported at the time. “American officials say the Karzais and a handful of other well-connected families have benefited from the billions of dollars that the United States has poured into the country since 2001.”

One Karzai cousin who did not accept a government told the New York Times, “My relatives have told me they can’t understand why I don’t come over with them and get rich.”

While evidence of corruption mounted, Karzai actively intervened to prevent prosecutions of allegedly corrupt individuals, among them some of Afghanistan’s most powerful politicians. Karzai admitted to blocking the prosecutions and claimed he did so on the grounds of protecting them from unjust judiciary activity “reminiscent of the days of the Soviet Union.”

“The president, his family members, his deputies and his cabinet members are involved in corruption and looted banks and none of them were prosecuted,” Afghan Senator Fazel Hadi Muslimyar said of Karzai in 2012, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo News, which noted that Muslimyar “predicted they will never be prosecuted.”

That year, Karzai faced a new allegation of handing a cousin’s company, Watan Oil and Gas, a suspect $3-billion oil deal. The Karzai government granted Watan the deal alongside a Chinese government company “despite accusations that another of their companies used US funds to pay protection money to the Taliban,” according to reports from the time.

By 2012, after over a decade with Karzai at the helm of the country, Transparency International listed Afghanistan, tied with Somalia, as the most corrupt country in the world.

Karzai has more recently responded to corruption allegations by blaming the United States for giving Afghanistan too much money.

“What could we do? It was U.S. money coming here and used by them and used for means that did not help Afghanistan,” Karzai told the Associated Press in 2019.

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