ABC's Diane Sawyer Interviews Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Diane Sawyer sits down with Hamid Karzai

The following is a transcript of ABC News' Diane Sawyer's interview with Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The president says he is grateful for the "little help" that has been sent to his war battered country but disputes President Obama's claim that Afghanistan once had a "blank check" for the U.S. The interview took place on January 12, 2010 in Kabul.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC ANCHOR: Well, again, Mr. President, thank you so much for letting us be here. We have a new ABC News poll conducted around the country, with an enormous number of people. Seventy percent of them said they now approve of the performance of the government, and 90 percent of them said that they prefer the Karzai government especially to the Taliban and other forms. These are -- these are numbers that signify what?

VIDEO:Exclusive: Afghan President Karzai Grateful to U.S. for Little Help
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HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: Well, ma'am, this -- this poll has some interesting figures. Ninety percent of Afghans approving the current government over the Taliban government is quite true. Probably more people prefer a democratic government, a government that has liberties, a government that has opportunities given to people, where you have the choice of choosing your way of life, is preferable to what the Taliban were.

On the performance of the government, 70 percent, I don't know, perhaps surround that that figure (ph). We've been -- we've been now in -- in -- in government for eight years. That's a long time. People get tired of seeing the same faces and the same -- the same performance.

VIDEO: Diane Sawyer Sits Down With Hamid Karzai
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So I -- I hope that is true. I hope the 70 percent is true. That would be a high mark of approval. I'd be satisfied eight years on even with 50 percent, so I hope that's true.

SAWYER: There is a sense in the poll that with the re-commitment of American troops that there is a feeling this is a chance, maybe a last chance, but this is a chance to make a quantum difference in what is happening in Afghanistan. Do you feel this year is the last chance?

KARZAI: I cannot describe it as the last chance or the only chance, no. I can call it a great opportunity that we must grasp this year and use it effectively and properly for the good of all of us, for the good of Afghanistan and for the good of America and the rest of the world.

I can say that this is an important opportunity with the renewal of interest in Afghanistan by the United States and the rest of the world with more awareness within Afghanistan on our shortfalls and shortcomings and the requirements for a better Afghanistan. I guess you have to use it very carefully and very effectively.

SAWYER: General McChrystal said yesterday and General Caldwell -- both had headlines -- General McChrystal said he feels that the surge has already changed the feeling among the people that there is a possibility that the Taliban will not return and, therefore, that changes the cooperation they're willing to give. And General Caldwell said he feels he can make the 240,000 Afghanistan security forces by the end of 2010.

KARZAI: In terms of numbers, yes, but in terms of institutionalizing the forces, in terms of giving them a memory (ph) and a culture of a force, we will require a longer time. In terms of equipment, in terms of the means of...

SAWYER: You said five years before the forces can actually control security in the country and 2024 before it's financially feasible?

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