Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai claimed Wednesday that the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) was a tool of the U.S. Karzai, a former ally to Washington who has become increasingly critical of U.S. foreign policy, said America’s’ two-year fight against ISIS has been “weak.”
Speaking to Voice of America’s (VOA) Afghan Service, Karzai criticized a recent U.S. attack on ISIS in Afghanistan. On April 13, the U.S. dropped the largest ever non-nuclear weapon —known as the mother of all bombs—on an ISIS stronghold in the country’s east. Karzai said the attack, which he condemned at the time, failed to eliminate the group. (The assault killed 95 ISIS militants).
“I consider Daesh [the U.S.’] tool,” Karzai went onto say, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “I do not differentiate at all between Daesh and America.”
The U.S. is currently battling ISIS in Afghanistan, along with NATO forces and local troops. Washington has promised to defeat the group by the end of the year, while combined military efforts have already cut the number of districts ISIS holds from more than 10 to between three and five. (Afghanistan is split into 398 districts).
Karzai worked closely with U.S. officials when he was president of Afghanistan. He took office in 2001, and remained in power until 2014, governing throughout the U.S.’ invasion of Afghanistan. For years he welcomed American efforts to try and rid his country of the Taliban.
But his relationship with Washington became increasingly tense and he eventually accused the U.S. of sharing a common goal with the Taliban to destabilize Afghanistan. In 2014, he refused to meet with then-President Barack Obama at a Bagram military base during a surprise visit with troops.
Now, Karzai seems to be lending his support to another country: Russia. During his VOA interview, he brushed away claims—made by the U.S. and rights groups—that Russia has been assisting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Moscow, which supports including the militants in peace talks, says it has never armed the group, but it has communicated with them.
“[Russia] talk[s] to the Taliban, the U.S. also talks to the Taliban. Norway, Germany and other countries also talk to them,” Karzai said. “Russia has the right to hold talks with the Taliban.”
Karzai was also scathing of the U.S.’ refusal to attend Moscow-brokered talks last week on the future of Afghanistan, telling VOA that Washington is not sincere about bringing peace to the country. The U.S. had declined to attend the summit, the third of its kind, saying that Russia’s motives were unclear.