Hamid Karzai has ruled out signing a security deal with the United States until disagreements over sovereignty are resolved. In angry remarks, the Afghan president condemned the Nato alliance for a military occupation that had caused “a lot of suffering, a lot of loss of life and no gains because the country is not secure”.
At a press conference where he discussed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that keeps foreign troops in Afghanistan, Karzai was questioned about a Nato airstrike on 5 October in Nangarhar province that the Afghan government claimed killed five civilians. He cast doubt over whether the agreement would be renewed.
Karzai said: “The United States and Nato have not respected our sovereignty. Whenever they find it suitable to them, they have acted against it. This has been a serious point of contention between us and that is why we are taking issue of the BSA strenuously in the negotiations right now,” Karzai said.
“They commit their violations against our sovereignty and conduct raids against our people, air raids and other attacks in the name of the fight on terrorism and in the name of the resolutions of the United Nations. This is against our wishes and repeatedly against our wishes,” Karzai said, using some of his harshest language to date against the US-led military coalition.
“The United States and its allies, Nato, continue to demand even after signing the BSA they will have the freedom to attack our people, our villages. The Afghan people will never allow it.”
Separately, in an interview with the BBC’s Newsnight programme, Karzai – who is serving his final six months in office – hit back at previous remarks by Barack Obama, the US president, who has described his Afghan counterpart as unreliable and ineffective. “They want us to keep silent when civilians are killed. We will not, we cannot,” said Karzai.
Nato says the Nangarhar attack was retaliation for insurgents trying to mortar the base and while it believed no civilians were hurt, it had opened an investigation into the incident.
Karzai said he will convene a council of elders in one month to help him make a decision on the pending security agreement. The US wants a deal by the end of October to give American and Nato military planners enough time to prepare for keeping troops in the country after the scheduled 2014 withdrawal instead of a total pullout similar to the one in Iraq.
Karzai told Newsnight that his priorities included bringing the Taliban back into government under a power-sharing agreement. “They are Afghans. Where the Afghan president, the Afghan government can appoint the Taliban to a government job they are welcome,” he said. “But where it’s the Afghan people appointing people through elections to state organs then the Taliban should come and participate in elections.”
He rejected the idea that womens’ interests would be harmed by bringing the Islamist hardliners back into power. “I have no doubt that there will be more Afghan young girls and women studying and getting higher education and better job opportunities. There is no doubt about that; even if the Taliban come that will not end, that will not slow down.”