By Samantha L. Quigley
WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2006 – With reports circulating of a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said quelling the Taliban is only part of the bigger response needed for a secure and peaceful country. "It's not eliminating the Taliban. It's ending terrorist violence in Afghanistan," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" today. "We have defeated (terrorists, but) to defeat them completely, to take them off the agenda, for us that is the purpose."
President Bush will meet in Washington with Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf later this week to discuss the best way to accomplish this.
Karzai said he believes that cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the best way to defeat terrorism in the region.
In an interview on CNN's "Late Edition," the Afghan president said he is waiting to see the results of a recent agreement between the Pakistani government and tribal chieftains of Pakistan's Waziristan province, which borders Afghanistan.
Musharraf said the agreement will help control cross-border movement of terrorists. "Unfortunately, since the agreement was signed, we saw more violence in Afghanistan exactly at the border areas with north Waziristan (in) Pakistan," Karzai said. "Our governor ... was assassinated with a suicide bombing, so we'll have to really see ... if the agreement will hold as signed."
Focusing on "madrassas," or religious schools, also is essential to ending terrorism, Karzai said. Often madrassas aren't religious schools at all, but terrorist training camps where hate is taught, he said. "If you go there and stop them and remove those places, it will be much safer for all of us," Karzai said.
Eliminating poppy production, the proceeds from which often fund terrorism, also would make the country safer, he said. Afghanistan is responsible for about 95 percent of the world's supply of opium, made from the seeds of poppy flowers. In Nangarhar province, implementation of alternative livelihoods helped reduce poppy production 95 percent, Karzai said.
Years of war, destruction and desperation made Afghanistan the leader in the production of poppies, and therefore opium. Karzai and his government have taken steps to eradicate poppy crops, though it will take perhaps another five to 10 years and the implementation of alternative livelihoods to achieve this goal, he said.
"(It's) an embarrassment to Afghanistan, but a reality," he said. "We are facing a difficulty (in eradicating the crops), but we are not failing the challenge."
Nor is the country standing alone in its challenges. It continues to enjoy the support of the western world and is grateful for the resources it has received.
"I think the West has stood with Afghanistan quite steadfastly so far, and they will stay with us because this is not just a fight for Afghanistan," Karzai said. "The world may have a difference of opinion over Iraq, but the world is united on Afghanistan."