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Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Published on August 3, 2009
Interview given by Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, to the "Le Figaro" newspaper

Paris, August 3, 2009

AFGHANISTAN/STRATEGY

Q. - What do you think about the British report published yesterday lamenting "the absence of a unified vision and strategy, grounded in the realities of Afghanistan’s history, culture and politics"?

THE MINISTER - First of all, I would like to salute the French soldiers’ courage and professionalism. I am very familiar with Afghanistan’s history. Over seven years I spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, several months a year, as a doctor. Of course, we have to ask ourselves what goals we are pursuing and what the results are. After the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, the objective was to fight al-Qaida. Then the international community pledged to defend the existence of a democratic government, although practices in Afghanistan aren’t always those of Western democracy.

We are not going to impose peace, but we can create the conditions to achieve it. For this, we must be in sync with the population. This is our strategy and I saw for myself that in Kapisa this collaboration with civilians has become a reality. The region is very poor. We have contributed for example to building warehouses to store pomegranate seeds, the only valuable local product, and so sell them at a better price. We have also launched medical and school projects, etc. We want to build peace with the Afghans, I would even go so far as saying under the Afghans’ leadership. That, obviously, doesn’t please the Taliban, but that’s what we have to do if we want to establish confidence.

Q. - Do the Americans share this view?

THE MINISTER - The Americans have changed their strategy since Obama’s arrival. They have understood that if you don’t convince the people, you have already lost.

TALIBAN/DIALOGUE

Q. - Some experts take the view that peace will be possible only by talking to the Taliban.

THE MINISTER - Of course there must be negotiation with the Taliban. At all events, with those ready to lay down their weapons and talk. But it isn’t for us to do this, it’s a matter falling within the elected Afghan authorities’ remit. So far, the only attempt to negotiate, supported by President Karzai, took place in Saudi Arabia (…). Some people have tried locally to make contact with the Taliban for various reasons, to do with military matters, local organization, etc. Above all, the Allies must have a coordinated attitude and the necessary conditions have to be fulfilled. This is a United Nations operation and it must not be forgotten. Nothing would be worse than everyone negotiating separately.

Q. - Why haven’t these contacts been successful?

THE MINISTER - Because the Taliban don’t want peace. Or, more exactly, there are two kinds of Taliban. There are those who could be integrated in a legal government, and President Karzai has already said he is ready to welcome them to Kabul as soon as they want to negotiate. Peace will be possible with the Taliban who are keen to see peace and above all agree to comply with a number of rules. At the end of the day, it’s with them that the future president will make peace. And then there are the advocates of global Jihad. They refuse to negotiate.

20 AUGUST ELECTION

Q. - Under those conditions, what credibility can be accorded to the 20 August presidential election?

THE MINISTER - If the Afghans succeed in voting as properly as possible, it will be a major failure for the Taliban. Now, we have to ask ourselves how the future government will proceed. The Afghan Constitution doesn’t provide for a prime minister. There are proposals for the four most important ministerial departments - army, economy, education and health - to be run by a "super minister" or coordinator, so that the efforts being undertaken could be monitored. For the moment, we know where the money isn’t getting to, i.e. it still too seldom gets to the people and this is what we are collectively endeavouring to correct./.

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