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News and Views

Opening Remarks By His Excellency Hamid Karzai

President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Opening Session of World Economic Forum 

Davos, Switzerland 

23 January 2008 

Your Excellency President Couchepin,

My esteemed friend, Professor Schwab,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be back in Davos.  Professor Schwab, thank you once again for inviting me here and for the opportunity of addressing this prestigious gathering. 

A little over six years ago, on 11 September 2001, the world was shaken by an unprecedented event.  Overnight, to millions around the world who had hitherto remained immune from the peril of terrorism, a new, gruesome reality was brought home.  International terrorism was not, however, born on 9/11, nor was it a surprise that terrorists had chosen the World Trade Centre, a symbol of global wealth and prosperity, as their target. (Years of Afghan suffering at the hands of terrorists could not awaken the world)  

So, on 11 September 2001, we all woke up to a changed world:  a world that could no longer remain undecided about this glaring threat.


Six years later, the world is still at war and terrorism is far from being defeated.  While Afghanistan is still a critical battlefield, a rapidly spreading war is engulfing the wider region.  Terrorist attacks have evolved in number, tactics and brutality.  New battle fronts are opened up each day.  Our strategies in this war have often been short-changed by a host of deceptive rhetoric or due to lingering misconceptions about the nature of the enemy.

Over the past three months, the terrorists have blown up a mosque during Eid prayers in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing over 50 worshipers; they have attacked a sugar factory in Baghlan, Afghanistan, killing over sixty school children and six Afghan parliamentarians; they have hanged an elderly lady in rural Helmand and decapitated another in Wazirstan, on charges of spying for the US, { killed hundreds of community & spiritual leaders}; and, to cap it all, they have assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a brutal attack in Rawalpindi. 

I am sure the events of the past few weeks in Pakistan have caused tremendous distress in many corners of the world.  It seems like the mutant of extremism is dangerously unleashed across the region. By all indications, the wildfire spread of terrorism across our region bodes terribly badly for the whole world.

Here are some questions that beg answers:  Why is terrorism still a threat, as it was six years ago?   What sustains this threat and why have we not succeeded, to the extent that we should have, in eliminating it?  I believe today is an appropriate time, and this forum an appropriate place, for us to reflect on our war against terrorism – a war which we must win. 

In that spirit, let’s not lose sight of who ‘the enemy’ actually is.  The terrorism we are fighting is an existential force, not a conceptual challenge.  It has nothing to do with religion, nor with any idea of a greater cause.  It is political and sponsored in essence.  The unbridled extremism we see in our region does not emanate from a legitimate ideology, nor does it represent a societal reaction to the so-called clash of civilizations.  The terrorism we are fighting is a political mutant, a Frankenstein, created through the folly of short-sighted policy for the reckless pursuit of misperceived interests.  It is a venomous snake that some among us tried to nurture and befriend at the expense of others, which I hope we realize now it was a mistake.

The focus of our war against terrorism, ladies and gentlemen, must be the elimination of the sanctuaries where terrorists hide and recuperate.  We must destroy the elaborate terrorist infrastructure in the region, their sources of motivation and finance and their networks for recruitment.  And to be able to do so, governments in the region need to move beyond rhetoric and cease to seek the pursuit of interests in the use of extremist politics.  Complacency must no longer be tolerated. No individual or entity must be allowed to support extremism with impunity. 

Clearly, ladies and gentlemen, no effort to break the vicious cycles of terrorism and violence can succeed without a focussed, determined, and sustained global partnership. Whereas a global endeavour to fight terrorism is vital, the war can only be won if local populations are empowered to confront it. This is the only way forward.


Thank you.

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