KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The younger half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai is calling on Canada and other NATO forces to delay leaving the country until the job is done.
Ahmad Wali Karzai, head of the Kandahar provincial council, said Tuesday he is disappointed that Canada and the United States have set deadlines for leaving Afghanistan.
Canada’s current military mission to Afghanistan is due to end in July 2011.
Karzai thanked Canada and Prime Minister Stephen Harper for all that have been accomplished, but asked Canadians not to leave just yet. He urged Harper to reconsider the pullout plans.
“We are hoping he continues supporting Afghans. We thank him for the past but we hope that he continues,” Karzai, 48, said in an interview with The Canadian Press at his palatial home in the heart of Kandahar city.
“What we are fighting is not only the enemy of Afghanistan. This is the enemy of the world. This is the enemy of every human being so don’t leave us alone.”
“You have to be committed to what you promised. You cannot leave in the middle and say, ’I’m packing it in’,” he said.
“You have to finish the job and I don’t know if the job is finished.”
“We are patient. The international community is in a hurry. You cannot rush things. We are confused with the international community. They were united when they were coming here — they are not united as they are leaving,” he said.
In Ottawa, NDP Leader Jack Layton expressed misgivings about Karzai’s call and other recent suggestions that Canada should extend its involvement in Afghanistan.
“So I think Canadians who believe, as we do in the New Democratic Party, that we should bring our military engagement to an end should be very concerned about the dynamic that’s at play here,” Layton said.
“Mr. Karzai’s call could — who knows — help to provoke the Liberals and Conservatives to come to some kind of an agreement to stay longer.”
“I think that would be out of sync not only with the motion adopted by Parliament but out of sync with the view that most Canadians have — which is that we have to find a new direction forward in Afghanistan than the one that we have been pursuing all these years.”
Karzai said if international forces leave before Afghanistan is ready, all the work of the past nine years would be for naught. He said foreign insurgent fighters from Pakistan and Iran are continuing to enter Afghanistan at a steady pace.
Karzai, dubbed ’King of Kandahar’ for his powerful position in the southern province, said the Taliban is claiming victory as a result of the upcoming departure of international troops and using it as a way to recruit new members.
“The international community helped them with their recruitment — they announced they are leaving,” he said.
“The Taliban are already telling people in Panjwaii and Zhari and saying, ’Which side are you going to be on? Join us — we are winning.’ It’s a major contribution in their recruitment.”
Karzai said Canada has made a difference in the province but more work needs to be done.
Looking ahead to the day when Canadians and Americans begin to leave, he said he’s not optimistic that Afghan security forces will be up to the task of filling the gap.
“I believe things will get worse. This country will go back to the way it was in the 1990s and it will be the same story. Whatever we have achieved in the last nine-years will be gone,” Karzai said.
President Karzai and his brother are among seven sons born to Abdul Ahad Karzai, tribal leader of the half-million-strong Popalzai tribe.
Ahmad Wali Karzai has long been the target of criticism and controversy.
He was the target of an assassination attempt in May 2009. He has been the subject of international whispers and conjecture, and a variety of allegations including claims that he was on the payroll of the CIA.
He has also been accused of using his family connections to line his pockets and alleged to have links with the drug trade — although U.S. officials acknowledged they had no compelling evidence to support the allegation.
And Ahmad Wali Karzai is challenging anyone to prove their claims.
“I welcome any kind of question, any kind of challenge, any kind of investigation. I have nothing to hide,” Karzai said with a shrug.
“I’m like the spice of the dish. You cook a stew without spices — it doesn’t taste good, so they put a little Ahmad Wali Karzai in it and everyone will eat it. That’s it – I am a good story.”
“No one has tried me in the court for the last nine years,” he said.
“My power is the people. You don’t see tanks parked outside, I don’t have any military bases or air planes,” Karzai said with a chuckle.
“My own people — they don’t see me as a drug dealer. They don’t see me as a problem. This is politics, totally politics.”