By Samuel Burke, CNN
In the only interview that President Hamid Karzai granted while he was in the United States, he expressed confidence to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the Afghan people will accept the United States’ demand for immunity for American troops left in place there after the 2014 withdrawal.
In a joint press conference with President Obama on Friday, Karzai had stated that he would take the issue to his people, but now he has said that immunity is likely to become a reality.
“I can tell you with relatively good confidence that they will say ‘alright, let’s do it,” Karzai told Amanpour about selling the issue to Afghans. “And I’m sure that they will understand.”
At the press conference, President Obama said that he had stressed to Karzai that “the United States already has arrangements like this with countries all around the world, and nowhere does the U.S. have any kind of security agreement with a country without immunity for our troops.”
In the final stages of the U.S. intervention in Iraq, President Obama was unable to obtain a similar agreement, propelling him to withdraw all U.S. forces from that country in December 2011.
Karzai rejected the notion that has been floated that the U.S. might leave “zero troops” in Afghanistan after the pullout is completed at the end of 2014.
He told Amanpour that Afghans need some type of U.S. presence for “broader security and stability” after the withdrawal. For that reason, Karzai believes Afghans will have to grant the U.S. troops left there immunity.
“The United States will need to have a limited number of forces in Afghanistan,” he said, but was unwilling to give an exact number. “That’s not for us to decide. It is for the United States to decide what number of troops they will be keeping in Afghanistan and what strength of equipment those troops will have.”
Karzai said that Afghanistan has turned the corner in terms of battling the Taliban. He does not believe those Islamic fundamentalists will ever regain the strength to enforce their radical agenda again – the closing of girls’ schools and subjugation of women.
“Having experienced the growth of Afghanistan – the creation of a critical mass in Afghanistan that is necessary for turning the corner from bad towards better – I think we have turned the corner,” he said. “I think there is now a critical mass in Afghanistan of the educated – of the Afghan people who want a future of progress and stability. And I think, also, that the Taliban have recognized the corner has been turned – the majority of them.”
CNN’s Juliet Fuisz produced this piece for television.