Karzai Discusses Afghan-U.S. Relations
Published: Friday, January 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 11, 2013 19:01
More than 10 years after his first lecture in the United States, held in the same location, Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited Georgetown this evening to talk about the future of Afghanistan’s relationship with the United States.
In his talk, “Afghanistan Beyond 2014: A Perspective on Afghan–U.S. Relations”, held in Gaston Hall, Karzai acknowledged that expectations had not been met on either side of the partnership but expressed confidence that peace and stability are assured in Afghanistan’s future.
The Afghan president, who met with President Obama earlier today for what the White House called bilateral meetings, also announced an expansion of his country’s relationship with the United States in a bilateral security agreement. This new dynamic entails the reduction of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a limitation in the use of these same troops after 2014, the continuation of U.S. training efforts and the transition of the control of security and border protection into Afghan hands.
Karzai, who holds an honorary doctorate degree from Georgetown, began his speech by commenting on the progress made so far on the goals undertaken by the United States and Afghanistan in 2001, which included freeing the world of terrorism, removing the Taliban from power and establishing a democracy in Afghanistan. According to Karzai, the partnership was successful in freeing Afghanistan from the control of the Taliban. He particularly credited the return of women to the workplace and classrooms as well as the growth of technology in the country as examples of this progress. However, the two nations have made less advancement in other areas.
“The second part – freeing us all from terrorism and radicalism - didn’t work as smoothly as we expected,” Karzai said.
In that vein, Karzai noted the complaints of both Americans and Afghanis, saying that the war on terror has been costly to both the U.S. and Afghan people. Despite that, he believes that Afghanistan is moving in the right direction as it approaches its third set of presidential elections and the reduction of U.S. operations in its territory.
Karzai particularly expressed confidence in a more mature relationship between the United States and Afghanistan and the future success of a peace process that will retain the elements of social progress made since the Taliban’s fall. Going forward, Afghanis on a local level advocate the continuation of U.S. support but also U.S. acknowledgment of their sovereignty as a nation.
“We will forget the less than pleasant aspects of our relationship, and we will move forward in the gratitude of the [Unites States],” Karzai said.
After speaking for less than 20 minutes, Karzai ended his talk with a revised version of the end of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by the Wood on a Snowy Evening.”
“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 we sleep,” he concluded.
After the lecture, the floor opened to five student questions, one taken from an open poll on Facebook and four drafted by Georgetown student groups. These included the International Relations Club, the Georgetown University Student Veterans Association, the Muslim Students Association and the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, which helped organize the event. Students posed queries about the threat of Al Qaeda, Afghanistan’s unemployment problem for former fighters on both sides of the civil war, the government’s plans for education policy and the hope that Karzai can offer against claims of corruption and worries about the nation’s security. The president responded vaguely to each of the questions, stating that Al Qaeda is no longer a security issue and that the government will continue to be concerned with the education of women.
Through both his lecture and question answers, Karzai attempted to diminish concerns about the stability and future of Afghanistan as a nation and its relationship with the United States.
“The hope has already been offered in Afghanistan,” he said.