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President Karzai’s address to the Peace Jirga

(Broadcast live by state-owned National Afghanistan TV the same day; subheadings inserted editorially)
[Karzai in Dari] In the name of God! His Excellency Hazrat, our jihadi leader and speaker of the senate, His Excellency Qanuni, Speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, our esteemed jihadi leaders, our esteemed MPs and senators, members of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan, our tribal elders, religious scholars, diplomatic representatives of the foreign countries in Afghanistan, our youth, esteemed members of the Consultative Peace Jirga, brothers and sisters, hello. You are very welcome! Welcome!
Karzai welcomes elders
[Karzai continues in Pashto] I am happy! I am very grateful that today, my hope is being fulfilled – a hope that I have been nourishing for more than two years. Today we all sit together and talk about peace, representatives, MPs, senators, religious scholars, tribal elders, brothers and sisters. I am very happy to see all the country's elders present here. I am happy that a great elder of our country, esteemed Senator Gholam Nabi Khan Tokhi, came with me and is sitting in the first row. Hajji Agha has also arrived, but I do not see esteemed Mawlawi Mohammad Hanif Balkhi, neither in the first nor in the second row. If he is sitting among the religious scholars, somebody should bring him forward as he is an elder of our country.
[Karzai continues in Dari] Is Mawlawi Balkhi present? Esteemed Mohammad Hanif Balkhi! Where is he? There he is. Welcome! His place is in the first row. He is an elder of the country. He is a great religious scholar of the country. He has published books and publications. He is our country's pride. My dear elders! We have organized today's event representing you, the people of Afghanistan, to consult with you. Many elders and scholars have come from around the country. Some of them may be sitting in the front; some of them in the back. I wish there was space for everyone to sit in the front, but there is no space, I apologize. We have invited the elders to represent you. Mr. Yari, there comes Hajji Agha! Mr. Yari, take the youths back and make space for the elders! Rahimi get up and give the place to Hajji Agha! Come on, give the chair to him! Come this way!
Progress on education
[Karzai continues in Pashto] Anyway, dear brothers and sisters! I welcome you again! The years of pain and suffering of Afghanistan are many. The Afghan nation has suffered since the former Soviet Union's occupation up to this moment in this gathering. However, we will not talk about the past thirty years today, because it is a long story of sorrow as well as pride. We will only talk about the past nine years and the hopes we have been nourishing. Countrymen! When the interim administration was established, when esteemed Ostad Rabbani transferred the power to me, when the transitional government was established in this tent and I was elected by the Loya Jirga, I felt as if our pain and suffering were over. I felt that the good days and nights were back and that no Afghan would be suffering anymore! Well, we started life with many hopes. One of the very beautiful scenes was ringing the bell in Nejat High School, no in Esteqlal High School which is now called Amani High School. I rang the bell there and it meant: Our country’s children will go to school again. Millions of our children started going to school. They started a new life. We were happy that no Afghan mother or father would be concerned anymore, wondering if their thinking son or daughter would get an education or if they would get home safely. It had been our hope that all children in Afghanistan would be able to go to school again one day, study and learn and get prepared to serve this land. Thank God, this came true in most parts of Afghanistan. The millions of children we sent to school then are in grade nine today, some of them have graduated and are in the universities, others have already graduated from university and became doctors, engineers and economists.
But unfortunately, in some parts of the country the children went to school for some years - but then their school was burned, the children were martyred, and mothers lost their sons.

Achievements so far
At the same time, the flag of Afghanistan started to be hoisted all around the world. The flag was present all around the world. It is hoisted all around the world. Its colors are well recognizable. The flag is seen with respect. While there were only three embassies in Afghanistan in the past, there are embassies and agencies of more than 60 countries and international organizations in Afghanistan today. Embassies and ambassadors of Afghanistan are present worldwide. There is no event, place, or conference where Afghanistan is not represented. We are present in all of them. We compete with the neighbors. We are ahead of them in some cases. We are present and we are visible.
Some of our other hopes were fulfilled as well. Roads and canals have been constructed; we have electricity to some extent; our living conditions have improved a bit; our money has increased a bit.
Value of currency
While there was only 180m dollars in our treasury nine years ago, we have about 4.5bn dollars in our treasury today; 4.5bn dollars. The Afghani's value has increased. The Afghani is circulated. The Afghani is worth more than the Kaldar [Pakistani currency]. The Afghani is even worth more than the Toman [Iranian currency].
The other day, the minister of finance came and wanted to consult with me. He said that there was a problem. I asked what kind of problem. He said that the Afghani had become very expensive and something should be done to make the Afghani a bit less expensive. I asked why he wanted to make it less expensive. He answered, because our neighbors will not be able to buy our products; our melons, grapes, almonds and carpets with an expensive Afghani and for other reasons. He is doing it now, but whether he succeeds or not is not clear, because the Afghani is competing with the Dollar now. No matter how much the Dollar tries, the Afghani does not become less expensive than 46 Afghanis the Dollar. It is stable.
Reasons for failure to achieve peace
Our health system has improved, too. We achieved all these things, but: We did not achieve the one great thing – the thing that each family, woman, child, old man and grandfather has been hoping for: overall peace in this country. We did not achieve this. Today, we will talk about it and see why; and what would be the ways to fulfill this hope, with the kindness of God. In my opinion, there are three major reasons.
The first reason …
When the Taliban and their elders came together in Kandahar I was in Shawali Kot, a district of Kandahar. I had just received information from the Petersberg Conference in Bonn that I was elected as the president of the interim administration. Then the chief of Baghran, one of our country's elders and jihadi leaders, I hope he is present here - it would be good if he was here - anyway, the chief of Baghran along with some Taliban elders including esteemed Mawlawi Obaidollah, Mawlawi Abdorrazaq, Sayed Tayeb Agha and other Taliban ministers came and gave me the letter of their surrender. They said a government was established, its leader was in Afghanistan and that they didn’t see the need to fight anymore. They said, we hand over the control of Afghanistan to this government. They gave me the letter in Shawali Kot. I am a simple man. I gave the letter back to them and told them I would announce it on the radio in the evening. This is what happened. We came here. The government was established.
I think, somebody out there is firing some rockets. Don’t worry. Sit tight. Everything is fine. Everything will be fine even if they kill us here. We are accustomed to it. All our children are used to it. Even my three year old son is used to it. The other day, the Minister of Interior was with me when we heard a blast. I asked the minister what it was. My son was with me. He said, don’t worry, it was a bomb. We just didn’t care. [A man interrupts]
[Unknown man in Pashto] We are Afghanistan's mojahedin. We are never scared of attacks.
[Karzai continues in Pashto] Excellent! Thank you! Anyway, we started the government. Most Taliban returned home.
[Karzai continues in Dari] Listen carefully, brothers and sisters! Most Taliban went home, most of them. A limited number of them left Afghanistan for Pakistan and other places, but a decisive majority of the Taliban went home and started ordinary lives. Our government was established. I came to Kabul, but here the government was not implemented. The people were harassed because of the Taliban. Our government officials would bully people and break into people's houses by force to search them. They usurped properties and houses, arguing “you are Taliban” or “you are linked to the Taliban”. This happened all around Afghanistan. Some people had to leave their houses and villages. I could tell many examples. The foreigners too, conducted raids and searches for Taliban, and more people were forced to escape and leave the country. The government, some government officials and employees have misbehaved, for personal benefits and due to ignorance. The foreigners, too, made big mistakes. All of this represents one of the three reasons why we have failed to reach peace so far.
Appeal to moderates to join government
Another reason is that no attention was paid to our neighbors. Nobody was watching what was happening abroad. Hotbeds and training centers of terrorism were established there. Members of the Taliban, members of Al-Qa'idah and members of other terrorists groups were trained and came back to Afghanistan, trampled upon, killed and bothered this land's sons. They martyred religious scholars, tribal elders and innocent government employees and made the nation grieve. They detonated bombs.
[Karzai continues in Dari] The Afghan government and the foreigners have the responsibility to make those Taliban turn around and come home, who have been forced to leave their homes and take up a weapon due to the cruelty, the misbehavior or other wrongdoings of the Afghan government and the foreigners. They have the duty to make them come back to their country and homes - with apologies and respect.
[Karzai continues in Pashto] There are thousands of such Taliban and other people, also in Hezb-e Eslami who are neither enemies of this land nor enemies of the land's religion, nation, or history. They are ordinary people like us. They have escaped out of fear. They do not have a home anymore. I personally know some people who were imprisoned five months ago illegally. They were friends in jihad. I stayed with them during the jihad days. I stayed with them and have eaten their food. I have travelled with them. I found out about them a few days ago and released them. Their home is in Kandahar, but after their release they have left Kandahar and went to Chaman. They went because they were afraid. There are thousands of people who are not enemies of this land. We call on them to join us in peace. We call on them to become compatriots. We tell them that they are welcome in our midst.
[Karzai continues in Dari] To clarify once again: We call on any individual from any corner of our land, any area, any tribe or generation, who is angry or afraid, that a mistake has happened. Come back to your home. We will find a solution, God willing. There are thousands. They are no enemies of this land. They belong to this country and they want to live here. Their life outside Afghanistan, in Iran, or Pakistan, is miserable. They live in fear there as well. Our call for peace is to the son of this land who has gone there due to fear or distress, not hostility.
But there is another group as well; a group that comes and kills peoples' children. I was with brothers yesterday evening, writing down some notes for this speech, when I received a message. There is a famous writer called Hotak Nuri. I think his name is Saleh Mohammad Khan Nuri, if I am not mistaken. He has written a good book in Pashto.
[Karzai continues in Dari] There are many beautiful stories in it, such as Adam Khan and Dorkhanai, Taleb Jan and Sherino and so forth. The writer of the book is a knowledge-seeking Muslim and religion-loving person. His son works with us in the presidential palace, in the president's office. His last name is Nuri. I heard yesterday that Mr. Nuri's cousin, a teacher, was warned by someone in the name of the Taliban not to work as teacher anymore. He was scared that the Taliban might kill him, so he left teaching, went to Kandahar and started working for a river cleaning project in an area called Malajat. He worked as a foreman. The day before yesterday, while he was praying in a mosque, some Taliban martyred him. While praying! His brother was standing next to him. He attacked the murderers. They killed him, too. They have martyred two brothers, because they were cleaning a stream for people and earning a bite of halal food.
Those who committed this murder and who have committed thousands of similar murders, are the enemies of Islam. They are the enemy of humanity and of the people of Afghanistan. It is beyond our power to forgive them. Only God can forgive them. They are cruel. They are the enemies of Afghanistan and of Islam whether their names might be Taliban or Al-Qa'idah or anything else, and they are cruel. We can neither forgive nor talk to them, can we? They go and kill a person in a mosque who works for 5,000 Afghanis cleaning a stream, or they close schools, or they martyr teachers and religious scholars. Many great religious scholars of the country have been martyred. Therefore, we cannot forgive or talk with Al-Qa'idah or such cruel persons.
[Karzai continues in Pashto] Here, I call on those in Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iran: If you are a Taliban leader, you must raise your voice and call these actions illegal. These men went to the mosque and killed a poor man who worked cleaning a stream for 5,000 Afghanis. You [the Taliban leader] should step away from him. I call upon you again, my brother, my dear Taleb Jan, this is your land. Come back! I will blame myself, if your fate was my mistake, but even if it was your mistake, I would not blame you, if you just stopped the destruction. Do not kill children anymore. Accept the invitation for peace. Free yourself from the control of outsiders. Today, he gives you a weapon, but tomorrow, he imprisons you. What kind of a jihad is it? You declare that you will not reconcile until the foreigners have left. The foreigners say they will not leave until you have left. But you say you will not stop until they are gone.
Well, it sounds as if you have agreed with each other.
We must also thank the West
You have given them [the foreigners] a pretext not to leave. They won’t leave until you stop fighting in your land. I swear to God, they will not leave. We will not let them go until they have rebuilt the country. We thank them. They have served our land. I argued a lot with them. Still, we thank them. Their representatives are present here. They have served this land. They have brought roads, salaries and a bite of food to this country. They have helped us to do things in this country which we would not be able to achieve in 50, 100 years. We count their mistakes, but we also count their achievements. I thank them. Therefore, you, the Taliban, should not use them as an excuse for fighting.
Relations with NATO, USA
[Karzai continues in Pashto] Our strategy with the foreigners, with NATO and with the Americans is very clear. We have had problems with them for two years. We had some differences and everyone knew about that. You were at the same time listening to my speeches and their propaganda. However, since the day General McChrystal was appointed, the situation has stabilized to some extent. One of his good points is that he always tells me the truth. When something happens, he comes to me and says Mr. President, this happened, what am I supposed to do. Civilian casualties have decreased. However, it does not mean that we are happy. No, we are not happy. We want civilian casualties to be prevented totally. We see that the number of raids has decreased. But, we want them to come solely under the Afghan government's authority. The justice system should be under the direct control of the Afghan government, not any foreigner. We should be handed over the command of all this. During my visit to the United States, I explicitly discussed this issue with the US president, the secretary of state and other US officials. Despite all the problems we had I am grateful that they received me warmly.
You must have heard or watched on your TVs that the whole US government was engaged in negotiations with us for three or four days. And I told their president that, brother, these are the issues which make the Afghan nation worry. I told him: We are happy in having relations with your government and want to have long-term relations with you. We know that having good relations with the US is in the best interest of Afghanistan. However, the civilian casualties sadden us. The night raid operations upset us.
I also showed the American president a picture of a poor Afghan family from Konduz province which was given to me by General McChrystal. I told him: This is the real Afghanistan. Don’t think that only we, the white people sitting here today, are Afghanistan. In fact, this (photo) is the Afghan people's reality. This is a poor woman, and this is her poor child.
He told me: Brother, this is not a political issue. I see this as a humanitarian issue. And he agreed with me that by the 10th of this [solar] year's Dalwa month [30th January 2011], [Karzai confirms the date with someone sitting at the jirga] all the prisons will be handed over to the Afghan authorities. There will be also a deadline up to which the Afghan government will get the authority over all the prisons and the justice system. None of the foreigners will have authority over the justice and judicial systems by then anymore. These decisions were made. However, we still want civilian casualties and searches of people's homes to decrease more and more attention to be paid to what is going on in our neighboring countries. We ask the international community to take care of this.
Regarding peace, the West, particularly the United States and Europe, are of the same opinion. Yesterday I received a call from the US foreign secretary who wished me success and assured the United States' multilateral cooperation with the government of Afghanistan. I also received a call from Mr. Cameron, the British prime minister, who announced his support and cooperation. Also the UN Secretary General gave me a call. Our relations with them have been improved a great deal. Now we wish to go on, restoring peace and security on our soil.
Relations with neighbors
[Karzai switches to Dari] We have tried our best over the past some years to restore peace in Afghanistan. One of the best examples was improving the relationships with our neighbors. If you remember, we began with the Afghan-Pakistani Peace Jirga. Our relations with Pakistan are now much better than before. We have a better understanding of Pakistan now. We have brotherly relations with Pakistan. I hope we will continue our brotherly relations with Pakistan and move towards a successful future. We intensified our efforts and repeatedly called the Taliban and other opponents as well as our neighbors for peace talks. We discussed with them. The Turkish government, one of Afghanistan's close and old friends, held several meetings aiming to stabilize relationships between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are very grateful for the support of the Turkish president, the Turkish prime minister and the Turkish people. They are trying their best for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan.
Our country's tribal elders, religious schools and other elders tried their utmost to bring peace to Afghanistan. The custodian of the two mosques, the Saudi king, tried his best to bring peace to Afghanistan. I had sent a letter to H.E., the custodian of the two mosques, three years ago and I told him that Afghanistan was suffering from several problems. I explained the problems Afghanistan was facing. I waited for a reply for two months, but received no response. Then I gave him a call and asked him whether he had received the letter or not. He said no. He asked me how I had sent him the letter and I replied, through their embassy. After some days, a representative of the embassy came to me and told me that the custodian of the two mosques had read the letter and was very pleased about the peace efforts initiated by the Afghan government. The guardian of the two mosques is of great value for the Islamic world. Five times a day we pray in the direction of Kabba. The custodian of the two mosques also hosted a meeting between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. They invited us to Saudi Arabia and welcomed us warmly. They are always ready to help and assist the Afghan nation in the restoration of peace. Whenever we raised our voice, they responded positively. We thank the custodian of the two mosques very much. We hope he continues his efforts.
High expectations
I already told you that the United States and the West also showed willingness to support us. Now it is our responsibility to achieve our objectives. Now it comes down to us and our disenchanted brothers. They should realize that whatever we do only harms the people of Afghanistan. Therefore, we should accelerate our efforts and try our best to restore peace, satisfy our disenchanted brothers and bring them back. This jirga, my brothers and sisters, is supposed to find ways and means to bring peace. I am standing here in front of you, my dear brothers and sisters, and declare that the people of Afghanistan are looking forward to your advice and consultations as well your decisions. They want you to free the country from all the challenges it is facing. The people of Afghanistan have high expectations. I hope that in three days you will be able to convey a message to the people of Afghanistan about how peace and friendship with the world can be achieved. Brothers and sisters! I want you to consider those peaceful relationships very carefully. Respect and greet the nations who are friend with Afghanistan. They are here with us today.
Appeal to Taliban to stop fighting
[Karzai switches to Pashto] Did you understand? We must try to achieve a lasting peace and protect the achievements that we have made so far, develop sound relations with the world and lead the country towards prosperity and sustainable development. So, I once again call on the Taliban to come back to their soil and not to create challenges for this country and neither for themselves. Anybody dying in this conflict, regardless the site he is on, is a son of this soil. So let's get rid of all the killings and build this country. We will build this country following your advice. We will accept whatever decision you will take. I wish all of you success. We will meet again in three days. Thank you very much
[Karzai comes back and talks again] Dear elders, your session will start and I will leave with your permission. We will sit together again in three days. We hope to have a positive message then, about a better future of this nation. I will go. Goodbye.