Hamid Karzai on Pakistan

Last year was one of Afghanistan's bloodiest since the end of Taliban rule in 2001. The embattled Afghan president, speaking with NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth on the sidelines of the economic conference in Davos, complained of Pakistani "complicity" with the resurgent rebels but said he saw a new seriousness about fighting Islamist terrorists from Pakistan's isolated ruler, Pervez Musharraf. Karzai also called the Bush administration surprisingly understanding about his government's warm ties with Iran—and hinted that he might run for another term in 2009. Excerpts:

Weymouth: How are the Taliban affecting you in Afghanistan?
By trying to prevent progress, by trying to prevent reconstruction, by killing our people, by [preventing] our children in southern Afghanistan from going to school, by killing the community leaders, the religious leaders, intimidating cultural leaders. By all the means.

How strong are they now?
They would not be strong without support.

From Pakistan?
I've just had a very good trip to Pakistan, so what I would say is that Pakistan and Afghanistan and the United States and the rest of the world must join hands in sincerity in order to end this problem. They have to take [action].

The last time I interviewed Musharraf, I thought he was very angry. It's really a crazy situation [in Pakistan].
Yes, very much. I found him to be more cognizant of the problems of extremism and terrorism. And that's a good sign, and I hope we will continue in that direction.

Do you think Musharraf will do something about it, send forces into the problematic areas?
We have to end extremism. We have to end support to extremism in the region. Unless we do that, the picture is one of doom and gloom—for Pakistan, and as a consequence for Afghanistan.

When I interviewed Benazir Bhutto in December [the Pakistani opposition leader was assassinated 15 days later], she said to me, "I feel they are going to come knocking at my door one night."
Unfortunately, her death, the way it happened, proves her point. That's the irony. That's the sad thing about her death. She predicted something, and she was proved right in that prediction. So it must be listened to. We cannot use extremism as a tool for any purpose. It will hurt us eventually, as it has begun to hurt Pakistan.

The United States is sending 3,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Will that help?
I'm happy about that, yes, yes. The American contribution to the war against terrorism is fundamental and strong.

Will it make a difference?
It will make a difference when the Americans are clear and straightforward about this fight.

What do you mean by that, Mr. President? "When the Americans are straightforward about the fight"?
[When] they mean what they say. [When] they do what they say.

Do you think the U.S. is sending the right type of troops? Should they be Special Operations troops?
That's a professional issue. It has to be addressed by the military.

How much influence does Iran have in your country right now, Mr. President?
We have had a particularly good relationship with Iran the past six years. It's a relationship that I hope will continue. We have opened our doors to them. They have been helping us in Afghanistan. The United States very wisely understood that it was our neighbor and encouraged that relationship.

So in other words, you don't agree with President Bush's assessment of Iran?
On which question?

He called it part of the "axis of evil." And there's been a lot of discussion about an Iranian nuclear program …
We don't like a nuclear region, of course. Nobody wants nuclear weapons. Who wants to have weapons of destruction around their homes? Nobody. But the United States has been very understanding and supportive that Afghanistan should have a relationship with Iran.

Are you going to run for another term in 2009?
Well, I have things to accomplish. What was that line from Robert Frost? "The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."