Former Afghan leader calls for sanctions on Pakistan officials

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KABUL — Afghanistan’s former president lashed out at both the United States and Pakistan on Wednesday, accusing them of using the Afghan war to further their own interests and calling on Washington to sanction Pakistani military and intelligence officials.

Hamid Karzai said his country is in “terrible shape” 16 years after the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban. Karzai became president shortly after the fall of the Taliban and held office until 2014.

In recent weeks Kabul has been battered by a wave of attacks claimed alternately by the Taliban and a rival Daesh (the so-called IS) affiliate, which killed scores of people and brutally exposed the US-backed government’s failure to secure the capital.

“The US cannot tell us ‘well if I am not here, you will be worse off.’ We are in a terrible shape right now . . . We want to be better. We want to have peace. We want to have security,” Karzai said.

Karzai said Washington wants to establish permanent bases in Afghanistan to project power in the region, while Pakistan wants to turn Afghanistan into a client state.

He said US forces are not in Afghanistan “to stop extremism.”

“In my view their intention is to keep us divided and weak so they can carry on their objectives in this region,” Karzai said. “They have their global politics and rivalries. They have China as a great rising power. They have Russia as a revitalized, re-energized great power on the world scene and they feel threatened and challenged.”

Echoing complaints from Afghanistan’s current government, Karzai accused neighboring Pakistan of harboring Taliban militants. He called on the United States to sanction Pakistani military and intelligence officials.

“We hope the US will now act in Pakistan,” he said. “Act in Pakistan doesn’t mean that the Pakistan people should be hurt or that war should be launched in Pakistan,” he added.

US President Donald Trump has ramped up pressure on Pakistan since the start of the year, suspending up to $2 billion in military aid after accusing it of failing to crack down on militants who launch cross-border attacks on US and Afghan forces.

Pakistan denies such allegations, blaming the violence on the Kabul government’s failure to secure the country.

Karzai’s bleak assessment came a day after US lawmakers questioned the direction of America’s longest war. At a hearing on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee noted that Washington is spending roughly $45 billion a year in Afghanistan, with the vast majority of the funds going to security. Just $780 million goes toward economic aid. — AP


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