KABUL — Hamid Karzai still hasn’t forgiven the nation that put him in power. “When the U.S. brings more planes, who are they going to bomb? Our villages and our homes,” he told Foreign Policy in his first interview since the Trump administration announced its new strategy for Afghanistan, a hint of anger breaking through his usually diplomatic demeanor.
It has been three years since the former Afghan president, once a close ally of the United States who depended on American backing, left his old role. He is adamant that he has no interest in returning to the presidency. But Karzai is far from retired.
We met at his Kabul residence, a heavily secured private house, and in keeping with the Afghan traditions of hospitality, the former president greeted us humbly at the door. The home is a stone’s throw away from the presidential palace, a building he held control over for the better part of this century. He led us to his library, which displayed an endearingly motley taste in literature, including Shakespeare and the Constitution of India.
At 59, Karzai has no public office, but in a country where relationships, from family to clan, are the driving force of politics, he is still entangled in affairs of state. He continues to consult with a number of power players, both within and outside the government. In an average week, he says he meets over 400 people, and up to 6,000 on the national holidays when he hosts tribal elders, political leaders, and activists all over the country. “Busy, busy, busy!” he says, “The Americans are keeping us busy.”
The same was true, of course, when Karzai was in office and custodian of Afghanistan’s alliance with Washington. But his assessment of the United States — and the present Afghan government that is cooperating with it — has taken a decided turn for the worse.
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