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Karzai: U.S. Responsible for Islamic Radicalism

Karzai says the United States pushed the Afghans toward radicalism, then abandoned the nation—leading to 9/11.

DOHA, Qatar—The United States and the West either accidentally or intentionally caused the wave of Islamic radicalism sweeping the Muslim world, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday.

In a long speech to a joint audience of U.S. officials and leaders from several Muslim countries, Karzai argued that radicalism in Afghanistan was imposed by the United States and its Western partners during Afghanistan’s struggle against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and the U.S. continues to cause radicalism across the Muslim world with a failed policy called the global war on terror.

“The United States, the rest of the Western world, and our neighbors tried to impose radicalism on our resistance against the Soviet Union,” Karzai said at the 2013 U.S.-Islamic World Forum, hosted jointly by the Brookings Institution and the government of Qatar. “The more radical we looked and talked, the more we were called mujahedin. The consequence of that was a massive effort toward uprooting traditional Afghan values and culture and tolerance.”

The U.S. pushed the Afghans toward radicalism and then abandoned the country, Karzai said, which set the stage for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

“When the mujahedin succeeded, the next day … the U.S. and Europe closed their embassies and left and we were left to the wishes of our neighbors and those around us,” Karzai said. “That brought us to the tragedy of September 11 and the destruction of the twin towers and the attack on America, and thus the return of the U.S. and NATO to Afghanistan.”

Now the war on terror is causing more radicalism, Karzai said. Some in the Muslim world believe that the United States accidentally is causing increased radicalism across the region while some believe that the United States is causing radicalism in the region on purpose, according to Karzai.

“The argument is that definitely the Muslim world has seen more radicalism, from Pakistan and Afghanistan all the way today to Mali and Nigeria. Is this the unintended consequence of the war on terror, as some would argue, or was this intended by the United States and the West, as some others would argue?” Karzai asked himself.

“In my view, the West, as led by the United States, needs to explain itself to the Muslim world,” he said. “Is the war on terror really against terrorism? If it is, and if it has caused more radicalism in the Muslim world, especially the youth, then something has gone wrong.”

Karzai went on to question whether the U.S. and NATO properly fought the war on terrorism by bringing military might into Afghan villages and homes. He also questioned whether the U.S. has gone after the sanctuaries of terrorism, a thinly veiled reference to Pakistan, where Taliban leaders are suspected to reside.

The U.S. might not be intentionally increasingly radicalism across the Muslim world, Karzai conceded, but he said the U.S. and the West have to do a better job to convince Muslims of that.

“If there is an increasing view among youth in the Muslim world that radicalism is actively promoted by the West, the question is why and for what purpose? If this is not the intention of the West, then the West has to explain to the Muslim world if things have gone wrong and a corrective course must be taken,” he said. “If we in the Muslim world are wrong about the intentions of the West, then it is for the Western world to explain to us their intentions and objectives.”

Karzai also took time during his speech to criticize the U.S. for not being an objective broker in the Middle East peace process.

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“Has the U.S. given an impression to the Muslims of impartiality on the issue of Israel-Palestine? No,” he said.