Hamid Karzai: Exclusive Interview

Newly elected Afghan President Hamid Karzai leaves the site of the loya jirga, or grand council, in Kabul, Saturday, June 15, 2002.
AP Photo/Pool

Afghanistan, still bristling with guns, is in danger of sliding back into civil war.

In his first interview since the assassination of his vice president, President Hamid Karzai tells CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer that he is relaxed and sleeping well.

I get "good sleep, I'm quite satisfied," he said.

But Karzai is anxious to conceal a dangerous rift in his government - hostile opposition from his own defense minister, the former warlord General Mohammad Qasim Fahim.

Fahim's soldiers are the only ones besides the peacekeepers, the so-called ISAF force, allowed to carry guns in Kabul.

Determined to hang onto his own power, Fahim is trying to block the formation of the new national army.

When asked bluntly, Karzai parries questions about Fahim, but admits indirectly there is a big problem.

"The irony here is that when an Afghan walks on the streets - when he sees one of our own troops - he feels nervous. But when he sees an ISAF force he feels relaxed and happy," Karzai said.

The brutal assassination last week of one of Karzai's chief allies, Haji Abdul Qadir, has even prompted public speculation that it, and another assassination of a government minister earlier this spring, were plotted by Karzai's enemies inside his own Cabinet.

"Well if that is the case, we will find out," he told Palmer. "I've already announced an investigation and a committee to look into the security arrangements in Afghanistan."

And if these bitter power struggles plunge Afghanistan into another round of civil war, Karzai says he will call on the U.S. for help.

"If I cannot do it with my own Afghan resources, I would definitely ask the international community to help, including the United States."

After months of delay, more than a billion dollars of U.S. aid money is ready for Afghanistan's reconstruction. American officials have their fingers crossed that Hamid Karzai can hang on until the money begins to flow. Then he can offer his enemies a powerful incentive to lay down their arms and cooperate.