Afghan president Hamid Karzai delivers hopeful address on future of Afghanistan
Friday evening, the President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai and his security motorcade descended upon Georgetown for a talk on the future of Afghan-U.S. relations. Key Bridge closed down temporarily due to the arrival of Karzai, who also met earlier that day with President Barack Obama to enter into a bilateral security agreement and plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan over the next years.
His arrival was heavily anticipated and met with a round of applause from the students and dignitaries at the event. Over 550 students waited in line for only 400 available student seats. As Karzai stepped to the podium, he mentioned the honorary degree Georgetown bestowed upon him in September 2006. He expressed hope that his son might also get the opportunity to attend Georgetown in the future.
The speech, characterized by moments of laughter and stern reflection, kept the audience enraptured for the entire hour. He reflected, initially, on the unpleasant realities of the ongoing war on terror. “It has been costly to you in America, so many of your men and women in uniform and civilians have lost lives. It has been costly to our other allies. It has also been costly, massively, to the Afghan people,” he said. “We have lost in the past 10 years tens of thousands of civilians to violence.”
Karzai lauded the progress has made Afghanistan in the past twenty years with the help of the U.S. government in providing education to women.
He also added criticism that the U.S. media presents a biased view on Afghanistan. “If I watched television in the United States or Europe and judged Afghanistan … I would lose all hope,” he said.
He went on to cite statistics that show improvement: the availability of telephones to 18 million people, the existence of over 30 public and private universities, and 8 million Afghanis enrolled in school.
He predicted that 2014 will see immense growth for Afghanistan, alongside the removal of almost all U.S. troops on the ground. “The worst period of suffering is behind us. A new period has begun … where your sons and daughters will no longer be burdened with protecting Afghanistan, where the Afghan sons and daughters will take their mantel and will move forward.”
Leaders of four student groups were given the opportunity to ask questions to Karzai: The International Relations Club, the Georgetown Student Veterans Association, the Lecture Fund and the Muslim Student Association.
From GUSVA, TM Gibbons-Neff (COL ’15) who was twice-deployed to Afghanistan asked the president what he would say “to an American family that has lost a son or daughter in Afghanistan and what … they died for.” Karzai’s response:
The United States came to Afghanistan for the security of the United States and by extension the rest of the world and also for Afghans. Those unfortunate incidents of lives lost in Afghanistan were for the safety and security of the United States for the American people and also by extension for the rest of us in the international community.
Questions from the other groups focused on Al Qaeda, rehabilitation programs for ex-Taliban fighters, and furthering education availability to women in Afghanistan.
On that foggy evening in Gaston, Karzai’s message was to emphasize promising development, economically and educationally, in Afghanistan, and to appreciate the reliable partnership with the U.S.
“Afghanistan will remember the United States as a country that helped,” he said. “We will forget the less pleasant aspects of the relationship.”
Photo: Miles Gavin Meng