Afghanistan’s former president has criticised both the US and Pakistan, accusing them of using the Afghan war to further their own interests and calling on Washington to sanction Pakistani military and intelligence officials.
Hamid Karzai said his country is in “terrible shape” 16 years after the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban. Mr Karzai became president shortly after the fall of the Taliban and held office until 2014.
In recent weeks, Kabul has been battered by a wave of attacks claimed alternately by the Taliban and a rival Islamic State affiliate, which killed scores of people and brutally exposed the US-backed government’s failure to secure the capital.
Mr Karzai told the Associated Press: “The US cannot tell us: ‘Well, if I am not here, you will be worse off.’ We are in a terrible shape right now … We want to be better. We want to have peace. We want to have security.”
The former president said Washington wants to establish permanent bases in Afghanistan to project power in the region, while Pakistan wants to turn Afghanistan into a client state.
He said US forces are not in Afghanistan “to stop extremism”.
“In my view their intention is to keep us divided and weak so they can carry on their objectives in this region,” Mr Karzai added.
“They have their global politics and rivalries. They have China as a great rising power. They have Russia as a revitalised, re-energised great power on the world scene, and they feel threatened and challenged.”
Echoing complaints from Afghanistan’s current government, Mr Karzai accused neighbouring Pakistan of harbouring Taliban militants. He called on the US to sanction Pakistani military and intelligence officials.
“We hope the US will now act in Pakistan,” he said. “‘Act in Pakistan’ doesn’t mean that the Pakistan people should be hurt or that war should be launched in Pakistan.”
US president Donald Trump has ramped up pressure on Pakistan since the start of the year, suspending up to two billion dollars (£1.4 billion) in military aid after accusing it of failing to crack down on militants who launch cross-border attacks on US and Afghan forces.
Pakistan denies these allegations, blaming the violence on the Kabul government’s failure to secure the country.
Mr Karzai’s bleak assessment came a day after US senators questioned the direction of America’s longest war. At a hearing on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee noted that Washington is spending roughly 45 billion dollars (£32 billion) a year in Afghanistan, with the vast majority of the funds going to security. Just 780 million dollars (£559 million) goes toward economic aid.