Michael Ware


TIME: Karzai on the Dangers He Faces


Afghan President Hamid Karzai talked with TIME's Tim McGirk and Michael Ware in Kabul:

TIME: How do you intend to crack down on the power of regional warlords?

KARZAI: The demands of the Afghans are very straightforward. They want disarmament and the removal of warlords, they want corruption to end, and they want the emergence of an efficient, streamlined, coherent government. And for that, we need reforms.

TIME: What would happen if coalition forces pulled out?

KARZAI: It wouldn't be wise or right. Afghanistan is not yet capable of standing on its own feet, of defending or sustaining itself. We have to continue to fight terrorism.

TIME: What's the greater threat: the Taliban's resurgence or factional fighting among the warlords?

KARZAI: Terrorism is a threat but not to the government, only to individuals. Factional fighting or warlordism is a bigger threat. It eats into the fabric of society. So it has to be strongly addressed and removed.

TIME: Would you consider bringing any former members of the Taliban into your government?

KARZAI: For us, there were ordinary Taliban who have gone back to their homes. And there were others, supported by al-Qaeda, who committed many crimes. If they come back, we'll try them. But they're not more than 100 or so.

TIME: What about the other Taliban commanders?

KARZAI: They're welcome if they've not done crimes. I've received a letter from the former Taliban foreign minister. It was a very nice letter. He had concerns, recommendations. And we've asked some people to see him. We might engage with people like that.

TIME: Is U.S. policy strengthening the warlords?

KARZAI: This sort of conflict probably existed one and a half years ago. But for a long time now, the U.S. has been clear on what should be done in Afghanistan--and that's to support the government and its institutions.

TIME: How strong is tribalism in the new Afghanistan?

KARZAI: The tribal linkages have been there for ages. Tribalism is a very good thing as long as you act as a tribal chief, but it's a horrible thing if you turn it into a government function. The reason the Taliban came to Kandahar was because government posts were divided on a tribal basis, and that's what I'm going to end. All over the country, this should stop.