Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has sharply criticized the United States and its allies for "failing" in their mission to fight extremism and bring stability to the war-torn country, instead leaving it in "total disgrace and disaster."
In an interview with AP published on June 20, Karzai said extremism was at its "highest point" and urged his compatriots to unite and "stop killing each other" as the Western-backed government in Kabul and battered Afghan security forces ready for the departure of foreign troops.
International forces are in the process of leaving the beleaguered country by September 11, a deadline set by U.S. President Joe Biden to end a conflict that began 20 year earlier when the terrorist attacks on the United States prompted the U.S.-led invasion and ouster of the Taliban government that sheltered the Al-Qaeda network.
The Taliban has already made considerable gains since the official start of the U.S. and NATO withdrawal on May 1, capturing dozens of districts across Afghanistan.
"The international community came here 20 years ago with this clear objective of fighting extremism and bringing stability...but extremism is at the highest point today. So they have failed," Karzai said in the interview.
"We recognize as Afghans all our failures, but what about the bigger forces and powers who came here for exactly that purpose? Where are they leaving us now?" he asked, before adding: "In total disgrace and disaster."
Karzai had a conflicted relationship with the United States during his 13-year rule from 2001 to 2014. He has since maintained great political influence in his country.
During Karzai’s presidency, women were given more rights, girls could once again attend school, a vibrant civil society emerged, while roads and other infrastructure were built. But his rule was also tainted by allegations of widespread corruption and a flourishing drug trade.
The ex-president, who has criticized U.S. war tactics over the past two decades in Afghanistan, welcomed the troop withdrawal, saying Afghans were united behind an overwhelming "desire for peace" and needed now to take responsibility for their future.
"We will be better off without their military presence," he said. "I think we should defend our own country and look after our own lives."
"We don’t want to continue with this misery and indignity that we are facing. It is better for Afghanistan that they leave."
Biden announced in April the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500-3,500 U.S. troops, saying the United States was leaving having achieved its goals: Al-Qaeda was greatly diminished and Osama bin Laden was dead. The U.S. president also said that the United States no longer needed troops in Afghanistan to fight the terrorist threats that might emanate from the country.
As the final military withdrawal is already more than half complete amid spiraling violence across Afghanistan, efforts to bring about a political end to the decades of war in Afghanistan have been elusive.
The already-slowing intra-Afghan peace talks launched in Qatar last year largely broke off when Biden announced the pullout of U.S. forces later this year following a May 1 deadline the previous U.S. administration had agreed with the Taliban.
"The only answer is Afghans getting together...We must recognize that this is our country and we must stop killing each other," Karzai said.