Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday about the newly announced U.S. war plan and other issues. Here are some questions and answers from the interview:
Q: Can you work with Richard Holbrooke? (Holbrooke, President Barack Obama's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, reportedly asked Karzai during a heated meeting the day after the first fraud-marred ballot of the presidential election whether he would agree to a runoff vote.)
Karzai: "I work government to government. I don't work based on personal friendships. I want to have personal friendships. I have some personal friendships. I have no problem at all with Mr. Holbrooke, or any other official in any other government."
Q: How did you feel about the benchmarks that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown set for Afghanistan? (Brown said that during a Jan. 28 conference in London, a clear timetable should be set for training Afghan security forces, battling police corruption and appointing nearly 400 provincial and district governors.)
Karzai: "Very unfortunate and very artificial. It is extremely insulting. But it doesn't affect me and it doesn't affect the Afghan people."
Q: Senator McCain said that if in 2011 the Afghan forces are left to defend the country without American forces, that your government would fail and you might be assassinated. (Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said this month in an interview: "Hamid Karzai knows very well that if U.S. troops leave, he'll be leaving shortly thereafter, or find himself probably assassinated." )
Karzai: "If Karzai is the leader of the Afghan people through a genuine election, a proper vote of the Afghan people, he should have no fear for his life once the foreign forces leave."
Q: Do you see your brother Ahmed Wali Karzai continuing as head of the provincial council in Kandahar as a move toward dealing with corruption? (Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president's half brother, has denied a raft of allegations, including that he is on the CIA payroll and is involved in drug trafficking.)
Karzai: "I have spoken to Western officials in the last five years repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly. I have written to them and they all come back to say they have nothing. They have nothing on him. Some of them have said that this is political, propaganda by some countries that would like to undermine what we're doing. ... So I have exhausted myself on that."
Q: So you will not remove him?
Karzai: "It's not in my power to remove an elected official. He has been elected, head of the provincial council. On the one hand, we are talking about rule of law for this country. And on the other hand, we're trying to make the president of Afghanistan behave like an absolute ruler. I'm an elected president in accordance with the constitution and the constitution does not allow the Afghan president expel people from their districts. I have no power as such."