CNN. In the first part of my interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, he says he is happy with President Obama's drawdown announcement, does not regret saying U.S. troops risk becoming an occupying force and wants American taxpayers to understand he is trying to fight corruption and make better use of U.S. aid. Read the transcript below and watch the video above.
Fareed Zakaria: You know, Mr. President, there was a big debate in the United States about what exactly the president should say, and there were some who felt he - he should have announced a slower withdrawal, some a faster withdrawal. If you had a magic wand, would you have preferred this to be a slower withdrawal?
Hamid Karzai: The announcement that was made last night by President Obama is welcomed by the Afghan people. The number of troops that he has announced to be withdrawn this year and the rest, next year, is a sign that Afghanistan is taking over its own security and trying to defend its territory by its own means. So we're happy with the announcement.
As for the number of troops, we have no opinion on that.
No opinion, meaning you leave it to the military commanders? But when you look at what the Red Cross says, security in Afghanistan is at its worst point, the number of violent deaths are at the highest point. How could this be the optimal number, given the security environment you're in?
Regardless of what the security situation in Afghanistan is, it is the responsibility, it's the job of the Afghan people to defend their country.
Having said that, I can confirm to you today - and I've had this confirmed by the local means, not by government means or the means of NATO, that security in parts of the country has improved, that life is better now. Of course, not desirable, but better.
But the Afghan NGO points out, the NGO Safety Office in Kabul points out, that there have been a 66 percent increase in attacks by insurgents. Why do you think this is happening?
Not the kind of attacks that would worry us. These are incidents, not attacks of the kind that would enable anybody to take a village or a road. These are IED attacks and suicide attacks, which we can not stop unless we have addressed the root cause of all of this trouble.
So in terms of overall security of the country, in terms of the mobility of the forces, the mobility of the people, things are better.
There has been considerable worry in the United States about some of your recent comments, particularly, you talked about the fact that the United States' forces are in danger of becoming an occupying force in Afghanistan, which prompted the outgoing Ambassador Karl Eikenberry to say you are risking losing support in the United States when we have troops there risking their lives to try to secure Afghanistan and build it. To have you describe them as an occupying force is very unhelpful.
Do you regret having made that comment?
No, I don't regret having made that comment. That comment was not seen in the full sentence that I spoke. This was after the incident of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, where children were killed in an aerial bombing, and where I said no more of such aerial bombings on our residents. And the question was what if they continue?
Now, if Afghanistan is a sovereign country, when Afghanistan asks that these operations cease, and, even then, if they continue, this means that we are not in charge of our country, and that of course becomes an occupation. It was in this context that I spoke, and I stand by that.
You know, people worry that you might be playing a game of trying to whip up a certain amount of nationalist sentiment against an outsider like the United States, a game that has been played in Pakistan, for example. Are you trying to gain popularity by stoking a certain amount of anti-Americanism?
No. The United States and the rest of the world, they came to Afghanistan after September 11, and the purpose of that was to bring security to the United States, to Europe and to the rest of the world. Afghanistan cooperated in that in the fullest of terms. For a number of years, we took casualties and we were silent.
But then, the war did not go in the direction that advised, that we felt should go. But our casualties kept increasing. The Afghans need a return to normal life.
My statements are neither hostile nor inflammatory, nor designed to get anything but an understanding from our partners that the Afghan people need to feel secure, that the Afghan people need to see this war or this fight against terrorism take a direction in which they can see the end of the tunnel.
One of the things that people worry about in terms of the legitimacy of the Afghan government, the legitimacy of Afghan forces - you talked about the growing acceptance of the Afghan National Army. What they worry about is the legitimacy of your government and of corruption, and some of it, as you know, is often directed, those attacks, toward you or your family, your brother.
Do you believe that you can claim that your government is less corrupt than it was before?
I can claim that we're working harder than we did before. I can claim that we know a lot more of the corruption and the sources within Afghanistan and outside of Afghanistan than I knew before. I can claim that the Afghan government, under the circumstances, is doing its best to handle this. I can also claim that Afghanistan would be a lot better place if our international partners cooperated with us on corruption and cleaned things at their own end, as well.
You understand the frustration of the American taxpayer who sees that the United States has disbursed $16 billion to Afghanistan in developmental aid over the last 10 years and does not seem to see enough in return for it. The money does not seem to have achieved much.
The money, where it was invested directly, has achieved. The United States has been growth for us. The United States has been schools and clinics for us. But the United States has not invested in major infrastructure projects for us, like dams and electricity that we can produce for all.
We have an argument about that. Afghanistan has made its point of view very, very clear. For example, a project in Kandahar for the protection of electricity, where the U.S. government spent $215 million on providing generators, we disagreed with. We felt that this money could be spent better by building a dam in that region, that would give a lasting, sustainable economic environment to the people of the region. So if the investment of the United States is done in consultation with Afghanistan and based on Afghan priorities, it will produce a lot better result.
We are grateful to every penny that the U.S. taxpayer has given to Afghanistan. Afghanistan will account for that part of the taxpayer's money that the Afghan government has spent. Where we are in charge, we are accountable, and we are grateful immensely for the U.S. taxpayer's money. They are hard working people, and that has to be respected.
Where we are not in charge, I hope the U.S. taxpayer would understand our predicament.