Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai speaks during an interview in Kabul. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Former President Hamid Karzai has warned that withdrawal of U.S. led forces before a peace deal between the Taliban and the Kabul government would plunge the country into chaos.

He said in an interview with Arab News that “a hasty withdrawal without the achievement of peace will definitely lead to more chaos and uncertainty.”

The U.S. and the Taliban reached an agreement in February under which the US-led forces will pull out by May 2021. The deal brought the militants to the negotiating table with the Kabul government to reach a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing government.

“We don’t want that. We want the U.S. to complete the peace process that it has begun, to make it come to fruition. We want stability in Afghanistan,” Karzai said.

During his last days in office in 2013, Karzai blamed the U.S. presence in Afghanistan for fueling extremism, militias and civilian casualties, and refused to sign a strategic security partnership to allow U.S.-led NATO forces to remain in the country. Now, however, he acknowledges the role of the U.S. in the peace process.

“I do see the sincerity in US efforts to bring some form of stability to Afghanistan, which is welcome and which is what we want,” he said, recalling the doubts of many in the Kabul administration, which was excluded from the February Taliban-US deal.

Referring to Afghanistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Karzai said Riyadh has a key role to play in the reconstruction of Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of war.

“Saudi Arabia is a great, great friend and brother of Afghanistan,” said Karzai. 

“The Afghan people treat Saudi Arabia as an elder brother with immense respect and love. It definitely has a role in Afghan peace and reconstruction,” Karzai concluded.


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