Hamid Karzai, the former Afghan president, has called al-Qaeda a “myth” and described any link between Afghanistan and the 9/11 terror attacks a western conspiracy
His comments came on the 14th anniversary of the a wave of plane hijackings which killed almost 3000 people across America.
“I have not seen them and I’ve not had any report about them, any report that would indicate that Al-Qaeda is operating in Afghanistan,” said the former president in an interview with Al Jazeera English. Mr Karzai left office last year after more than a decade in power.
“It is for me a myth… For us, they don’t exist.”
Al-Qaeda have repeatedly claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, which were mostly thought to have been planned from Afghanistan, where the extremist group had relocated from Sudan during the 1990s.
Relatives of those who died are due to hold commemorations in New York, Pennsylvania and outside Washington today.
The assault on these cities – the deadliest attack on American soil in the country’s modern history – prompted the US-led war with Afghanistan. More than 16,000 civilians were killed in that conflict.
Mr Karzai said on Thursday that: “Afghanistan was as much a victim of terrorism as was America, as were the people who were killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks.”
Asked whether he believed the attacks had been planned from the country he would go on to rule, he said: “That is what I have heard from our Western friends. That’s what the Western media says. There is no doubt that an operation, a terrorist operation was conducted in New York and in Washington.”
Bin Laden’s time in Afghanistan is well documented. The former Al-Qaeda leader arrived there in 1996, living first in Jalalabad and then settling in Kandahar, the spiritual and administrative headquarters of the Taliban.
Mr Karzai was Washington’s favoured presidential candidate when the Taliban fell in 2001, but the relationship quickly soured. By his final year in office, the former leader was said to keep a list of complex bombings across the country that he suspects were planned by Americans, although the officials also admit they have no firm evidence of a US role.
Relations with neighbouring Pakistan were also strained, and Mr Karzai used Thursday’s interview to claim Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) fighters in Afghanistan are “definitely” members of “Pakistani militias”.