Karzai Says War on Terrorism Must Have Regional Focus

Hamid Karzai Afghan President Hamid Karzai addresses the Asia Society in New York on September 23, 2008. (Elsa Ruiz/Asia Society)

NEW YORK, Sept. 23, 2008 - The international community should not have fought the war on terrorism exclusively in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an address at Asia Society headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

From early 2002, the Afghan government stated repeatedly to the international community that the war should have a more regional focus. "Events proved us right, unfortunately," President Karzai said, adding that Pakistan is now suffering just as much, if not more, than Afghanistan.

President Karzai insisted that the roots of terrorism must be collectively addressed, laying out a multi-pronged strategy for its success: ending institutional and financial support for radicalism, and—in a clear reference to Pakistan—stressing that no country should ever benefit from "using extremism as an instrument of policy."

Rather than fighting the symptoms of terrorism as the West has been doing, Karzai stressed the need to focus on the roots of the problem, also saying that some effort must be made to rescue those who have fallen prey to extremism out of poverty and desperation.

President Karzai said he sees "a ray of hope" in Pakistan for the first time now that Asif Ali Zardari has been sworn into office as Pakistan's president. He expressed hope that Zardari would have the instruments to make the changes necessary, including backing from the United States and the rest of the world, and the wherewithal to tackle extremism inside his embattled country.

Commenting on his meetings at the UN, Karzai said he was very pleased to meet Governor Sarah Palin, the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate, who was "concerned" and asked "the right questions on Afghanistan."

Karzai repeatedly expressed gratitude to the US, brushing aside concerns about America's waning popularity in the region as a result of the "collateral damage" of NATO and US operations, adding that when the US is criticized for the mistakes it makes in these operations, it is criticized as a "friend."

Listen to the complete program (47 min., 14 sec.)

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