Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he believes Al-Qaeda was a “myth” but insisted he was not propagating a conspiracy theory about the international extremist network blamed by the U.S. for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Speaking to Al Jazeera’s UpFront on the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Karzai said he had never received a report from Afghan intelligence services on Al-Qaeda and that had “never come across them.”
"I don’t know if Al-Qaeda existed, and I don’t know if they exist. For me, it’s a myth. I have to feel tangible about it before I can say they are there," Karzai said.
Karzai served as president of Afghanistan from 2004 to 2014 — a reign that was often marked by strained and at-times hostile relations between him and the U.S. government.
The difficult relationship saw itself manifested through the end of Karzai’s presidency. He refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S., which authorized about 12,000 foreign troops to remain in the country beyond 2014 and allowed the U.S. keep bases in Afghanistan. It was later signed by Karzai’s successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
In his outgoing speech before leaving office last year, Karzai warned Ghani’s government to be "extra cautious" in its dealings with Washington and the West. He also blamed the U.S., who he said "had their own agenda and objectives," for the prolonged war in Afghanistan that began in 2001. Tens of thousands of Afghans, and more than 2,200 U.S. and foreign troops, have died in the conflict.
When asked by UpFront host Mehdi Hasan how he would respond to those who call him a conspiracy theorist, Karzai said it was his "feeling" that Al-Qaeda was a myth.
"Saying that something does not exist does not mean a conspiracy," he said. "It’s my judgement, it’s my feeling. Maybe they are there, but I have not seen them and I have not had a report about them — any report that Al-Qaeda is operating in Afghanistan."
Karzai also said it was a "fact" that the 9/11 attacks were "neither conducted from Afghanistan nor were the Afghan people responsible." When asked if he believed Osama bin Laden carried out the 9/11 attacks and plotted them from Afghanistan, Karzai answered by saying, “That is what I have heard from our Western friends.”
"That’s what the Western media says," Karzai said. "There is not doubt…a terrorist operation was conducted in New York and in Washington. The tragedy of Sept. 11 was a true one."