JIM TRAUB: Good afternoon. I’m Jim Traub. Welcome to today’s meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations.
I’d like to add that participants around the nation and the world will be involved in this meeting via a live webcast on the council’s website. Naturally, you all know from many prior meetings that you must immediately turn off your BlackBerrys, your cell phones and whatever other PDAs you happen to be carrying. And this meeting, I am told to remind you, is on the record.
So we’ll be talking this afternoon about Afghanistan with my two distinguished guests. Ambassador Jawad—now, I don’t want to go into any detail about their biography. You have it here. Ambassador Jawad, before his current position as the ambassador to the U.S., was the chief of staff and also the adviser on international relations to President Karzai. And though he has pointed out that few Afghans have managerial ability, he is one who, no doubt, does, because he has an MBA from an American institution, Golden Gate College—Golden Gate University?
AMBASSADOR SAID TAYEB JAWAD: Yes.
TRAUB: So a man of many parts.
And on my other side is Barnett Rubin. Anybody who has ever read anything whatsoever about Afghanistan knows very well who he is, because he is a man who knows everything about Afghanistan. He was here at the council for six years. He worked with Lakhdar Brahimi on the Bonn settlement that set up the Afghanistan Interim Government, which certainly is one of the few unalloyed successes of the Bush administration foreign policy in the last two terms. And he is now at the Center for International Cooperation.
And so we’re going to speaking first for about 25 minutes and then I’ll throw it open to others. I’d like to begin by asking a general question. Maybe we’ll start with you, Barney (sp).
For a long time the Bush administration has spoken of Afghanistan as being clearly a success, whatever one thought of Iraq. That’s become increasingly difficult over the course of the last year or so. And just recently Newsweek had a cover which asked, “Are we losing Afghanistan?”
And so I guess the question is, first of all, are we losing Afghanistan? And second, if we are, does that mean previously we had not been, and now something bad or worse has happened that means we are losing Afghanistan?
BARNETT R. RUBIN: Well, of course, Afghanistan does not belong to us and it never will. (Laughter.) So we should think of it in some other way.
First the question is, what is success in Afghanistan? And from the very—from right after September 11th, there were competing ideas of what that was. Recently, because I’m starting to work on a book on that period, I went back over “Bush at War” to see what they were talking about, and as far as I can tell, there were no high-level political discussions about making peace in Afghanistan, stabilizing Afghanistan, establishing a government in Afghanistan. There were high-level political discussions about putting together a coalition of Afghans and other countries to eliminate the al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and eliminate the Taliban regime; and the decision then to go and support a political transition and reconstruction was made late and, in a way, secondarily.
Now, of course the two things are intertwined, and the fact that there was a contradiction between the counterterrorism strategy and the stabilization strategy created problems from the beginning. I’ll just say it’s not something, you know, that has just happened recently. And it was a problem—actually in January 2002 I wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times called “End Warlord Rule in Afghanistan,” more or less pointing out this contradiction. Before he left Afghanistan at the end of 2003, Lakhdar Brahimi circulated what is known as a non-paper, which, curiously enough, is a paper—
TRAUB: (Off mike.)
RUBIN: (Laughs.) Yeah, a paper with no signature on it—in which he said that while the formal benchmarks of the Bonn Agreement had been met that far—and they were entirely met eventually—nonetheless, Afghanistan was not fully meeting the goals of the Bonn Agreement because of shortfalls in provision of security, national reconciliation and reconstruction, and he might have added international cooperation as well, and we’ve seen those things become much more visible since then.
TRAUB: Ambassador, let me just ask you a piece of that question. I mean, I take it you might take umbrage at the notion that Afghanistan, as Barney said, is a thing which the—that we, the United States, has lost. But to what extent do you—or does the government of Afghanistan blame the Bush administration for not having provided whatever either military or economic or political resources were, in your view, required and therefore leading to the problems that Afghanistan is now suffering?
JAWAD: Well, if you look at the U.S.-Afghan partnership or friendship, we have to start with the Cold War. The fact is that the Afghan people were very much willing—and they are still willing—to partner with the international community. We have—during the Cold War, we have created a successful partnership by Afghans, the United States and other countries fighting communism. But while we pushed back extremism—while we pushed back communism in Afghanistan, with your assistance, we fell victim of a parallel invasion of extremism. A lot of the extremism was infused into Afghan society purposely by neighboring countries or foreign institutions.
So—and when the Cold War ended—and again, one of the few countries that was a twice victim, first a victim of Cold War because the Soviets invaded us, and then also a victim at the end of Cold War because we lost our strategic significance, or it was perceived that we lost our strategic significance. But then the Afghan leaders, the Afghan people were demanding actually the engagement of the United States, of the Western countries to help build Afghanistan. But it didn’t happen. So we have to look at a little bit beyond the two terms of the current president.
So over there, the assistance that could have been actually—could have been way cost-effective to build Afghanistan and the national institutions in Afghanistan would have prevented a civil war and then also after that the takeover of Taliban, which terrorized Afghanistan and made Afghanistan into a base of terrorism.
The fact that Afghans are demanding the engagement and the partnership of the international community is an important asset. And it’s—and if you look at, well, we’re losing Afghanistan—losing this asset will be very costly for us, for the region and I think for global security.
TRAUB: But there was all this talk even at the time, which has continued until now, about this whole question of a light footprint, should there be a light footprint or a heavy footprint? And it was often pointed out in books by folks like James Dobbins, who write about these things, that the per capita expenditure on the part of the international community in Afghanistan in terms of post-conflict reconstruction was trivial by comparison with the kind of expenditure you saw in Kosovo and in other post-conflict situations.
Now, you could say, well, that’s because Afghanistan didn’t have the capacity to absorb that kind of spending. So do you feel that the failures we see today, or the problems we see today, are in a significant way because of a lack of significant international engagement in Afghanistan?
JAWAD: Exactly. Well, the way the war against terror was conducted, it empowered a lot of the elements that have caused a lot of problems for Afghanistan, the so-called warlord—their services were enlisted in order to fight al Qaeda and Taliban, to some degree, but later on their power remained unchecked.
And also the political system that was created in Afghanistan was to truly to give a say and gave a power to everyone who had power. And again, Afghanistan, after 30 years, the power mostly came from the rule of gun. The traditional leadership, the legitimate power, was destroyed because of the war and distractions. A lot of the people who came, who participated in the political system, with a few exceptions, were there because they had the military might, because there was—it was too costly to confront them, it was too costly for Afghanistan, because we had to depend on your support, you know, had we done this, and that support was not available. And that’s—this is the reason that it’s become almost impossible to build a civil society in Afghanistan while people with guns and also, later on, people with access through money to narcotics were preventing establishing a civil society in the country.
TRAUB: Well, Barney, what about that, this light footprint, heavy footprint, how much we should have been engaged question? Is that in fact a significant cause for the problems that we see today?
RUBIN: Well, it is, but it’s not simply a matter of light or heavy footprint. I would say maybe it’s more a question of right footprint, because I think that what Afghans and, say, the United Nations and others whose main priority was the stabilization of Afghanistan would have liked to see was a broader security footprint, which doesn’t just mean more troops. It means troops with a mandate to provide security to Afghanistan, because most of the U.S.-led forces, the coalition in Afghanistan, did not have a mandate to provide security to Afghanistan. It had a mandate to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda. So Afghans found that the forces they were allied with in Afghanistan actually increased their insecurity.
Now, there’s another force in Afghanistan—now the two have merged—which is the International Security Assistance Force, which is authorized, under a Security Council resolution pursuant to the Bonn agreement, and which has been under the command of NATO since 2003, which had a mandate, has a mandate of helping the government of Afghanistan to provide security. Initially it was restricted to Kabul.
Now, I think that there was a lot of advocacy early on to expand ISAF, as it is called, to have a broader footprint, to provide security to Afghans and to Afghanistan, and to provide an umbrella that would limit the power of those warlords and make possible the building of a civilianized power structure.
Now, the aid agencies is another matter. When Mr. Brahimi talked about the light footprint, what he had in mind was not the military footprint but the civilian footprint, thinking of the—comparing it to the U.N. presence in Kosovo or East Timor, which were U.N. administrations—and people now forget, but there was some discussion about putting Afghanistan under a U.N. administration—he wanted a light civilian footprint, to empower the government. But in fact we never got that light civilian footprint, and Afghans—what they complain today about very much is not too many troops, though they complain about their behavior sometimes, but too many civilian aid organizations using up resources, driving up rents, spending Afghan aid money on a first world style of living in fourth world country, and so on.
TRAUB: So I want to come to the governance issues in a moment, but let’s just stick for a second with the security issues. And I think it’s—by the way, would be good to add that the principal spokesman, I believe, for a larger ISAF force—principal spokesman in the Bush administration was our very own Richard Haass, who argued for an additional 50,000 or so troops. And of course he lost.
Are we in a situation now where that mistake—that is, not providing sufficient security before—has created a dynamic in terms of the expansion of the Taliban, in terms of a broad sense of fear about lack of security, in terms of narcotics increasing, where even if now we brought those additional forces, perhaps it would be too late?
What’s your view on that, Barney?
RUBIN: Well, that’s only part of the truth because as a result of that, you have—not only of that. I don’t mean to say that if only the right decisions had been made Afghanistan would now be a stable, democratic, prosperous country. It’s one of the five poorest countries in the world, but nonetheless, one of the best armed ones. But, you know, the Taliban are active in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The situation in northern and western Afghanistan is not so different in terms of governance, poverty, insecurity. You know, if somebody—Russia or Tajikistan wanted to start an insurgency in Badakhshan, in northeastern Afghanistan, they could do it very easily for almost no money because people are so disaffected there. But there’s no insurgency there.
So the other problem was not taking into account the regional dimension of the problem and having a very simplistic one dimensional approach in particular to Pakistan, not—this is what my article in today’s Wall Street Journal was about—
TRAUB: Which I got to mention. I had promised Barney I would mention that, so Barney had to mention it himself, which I’m very sorry for. (Laughter.)
RUBIN: Yeah. And it derives in part from a—something that Fareed Zakaria wrote about in Newsweek recently, to mention another realist thinker, that—formerly Council on Foreign Relations—that—
TRAUB: She’s still a member—
RUBIN: I would imagine so, yes. You know, which is we are making—we’re not surprisingly—since it’s the same people who are making the decisions, we’re making very—the same mistakes as during the Cold War; that is reducing the will to friends and enemies and judging them on that basis, not making distinctions among them—you know, calling all terrorists part of the same phenomenon or all people who engage in terrorism part of the same phenomenon—and also treating—say, looking at Pakistan through the question “Is it with us or against us in the war on terrorism?” rather than taking into account the complex regional dynamics. And of course, I know policymakers don’t want to have an academic telling them about complex regional dynamics; they want options for action. I understand that.
But there were options for action that would have been much more effective, and unfortunately, we’re just getting to those five or six years later to address the long-standing conflict between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And that really has created a situation where forces in Pakistan have exploited these internal weaknesses in Afghanistan to strengthen the Taliban insurgency.
TRAUB: So Ambassador, let’s talk about Pakistan because clearly this has become an extremely—not only an acrimonious issue, but a publicly acrimonious issue now in the aftermath of this dinner with President Karzai and President Musharraf at the White House, which President Bush thought he could build a bridge between them, but didn’t—obviously he didn’t succeed.
As I understand it, Afghanistan feels that the Pakistan secret service, the ISI, and many other elements in the Pakistan military and intelligence wing are still actively and covertly supporting the Taliban, and until that can be addressed, the security problem is not going to be successfully addressed.
Is that the view?
JAWAD: That’s correct. But before I go to Pakistan, I just—on the issue of number of the troops and insecurity in Afghanistan, I would like to add that the reason for the spike in terrorist activities in Afghanistan is three-fold.
The first is truly the fact that outside Afghanistan Taliban are still able to operate training grounds. They were never completely eliminated from Afghanistan. They were just pushed aside, and then, they acquired the necessary resources, the necessary assistance, ideological, financial and logistical support that you will talk about. And more importantly, even the relatively small number of the troops that were present in Afghanistan, they never established permanent, sustained presence in all parts of Afghanistan. They’d carryout big military sweep operations periodically, which is not the best option of fighting terrorism because it’s important to clear the areas from the presence of the terrorists, but it’s equally important to hold the area.
TRAUB: And the Afghanistan army does not yet have the capacity to do the holding part you’re saying, that this requires foreign troops.
JAWAD: It’s not—no. The holding part is not a military matter, it’s a governance matter. It’s—the government should be present there.
We have to be able to establish a credible court system, a school, a clinic, so that the people can see the difference, so that the people can see the face of the government by having a court or a school or a clinic. That has not taken place in many areas. And it’s—and in many areas, for instance, a district administrator does not have a building to stay in. He is staying in his own home. And even a year or two years ago, a district office did not even have a flag—just physically to buy the flag and have to do it themselves to fly it over that building that was maybe small, like a (key ?) house or the residents of somebody there—an influential person in the district.
Now it’s getting a little better. We are building this capacity. The issue is governance. You can hold it—the holding part is not necessarily military. It’s—another big issue is also the regional factor. In addition to Pakistan, also terrorists are drawing inspiration from what’s happening in other parts of the world, including Iraq.
And we have been trying to convince our friends in Pakistan that peace and stability in Afghanistan is beneficial for Pakistan. The trade amount that Afghanistan is conducting right now, it’s 1.4 billion (dollars) with Pakistan, mostly imports from Pakistan. It’s a lot more than the $30 million trade that was conducted during the Taliban with Pakistan.
Unless we really go after the sources of terrorism, as President Karzai has mentioned many times, and go—for instance, close down some of the madrassas who are preaching hatred and also close down the training camps that are operating on the other side of the border, it will be difficult to fight terrorism effectively in Afghanistan unless we fight extremism in Pakistan.
TRAUB: But that’s the issue. Do governments view that President Musharraf is in effect complicit with the support for the Taliban or rather that he does not actually have full control over the forces which are complicit with the Taliban?
JAWAD: Pakistan has a very powerful army. The country has an extremely powerful army. President Musharraf has mentioned many times that he is proud of the army and its performance in its institutions of intelligence. And that’s why when the question of hot pursuit of some of the terrorists comes up, they always say, “There’s no need for that. We have a capable army. You tell us, we’ll go after them, we will get it for you.”
But if this is the case, then Afghanistan and probably the nuclear issues are the two most important national security issues for Pakistan, and therefore for the army. And we are sure that they have the capability of stopping terrorist infiltration into Afghanistan, if the will is there.
TRAUB: Barney, in the paper you wrote for the center about Afghanistan, you make the intriguing argument that until Pakistan is democratized, it will remain a threat to Afghanistan. Could you explain the connection between the kind of internal change that you think Pakistan needs and the security situation that gives rise to all this?
RUBIN: Well, I wouldn’t put it quite in that way; that is, democratizing Pakistan—which we have to define—would not solve the problem with Afghanistan. Pakistan had an elected civilian government at the time that Pakistan decided to shift its full support to the Taliban. In fact, it had an elected civilian government headed by a Western-educated woman.
TRAUB: You can be a democracy without having been democratized after all.
RUBIN: (Laughs.) Yes. This issue is not—to be precise, the issue is not so much having an elected head of government—civilian head of government. The issue is whether Pakistan has a state which is under the control of civilian political leaders, who have the authority and capacity to define the national interests of Pakistan. And that has never happened, whether Pakistan had an elected civilian head of government or not; that is it has a military—militarily controlled state.
Now—and even that by itself will not solve the problem. The problem is how—in a way, Pakistan—Pakistan’s policies toward Afghanistan are a function of its relations to India primarily, as are most things in Pakistan’s national security policy. It wants to keep Indian influence away from its border. It wants to keep Indian influence out of the government of Afghanistan. It wants to assure that it has what it calls strategic depth on that side. And in addition, secondarily, it wants to assure that Afghanistan does not become a pull of attraction for its own ethnic Pashtun and Baloch minorities, and that has been particularly a concern since the break-up of Pakistan in 1947.
So bear in mind Pakistan is a country with a neighbor—a hostile neighbor, as it sees it, eight times larger than it is, and which was partitioned and lost a majority of its population in a war with that neighbor, a war in which most of the present military leadership fought. So therefore, they are quite sensitive about their territorial integrity, understandably so.
So in a way the evolution of Pakistan—you know—and I should add, there’s continuity between Pakistan’s policy there and that of the British empire, which had a similar policy in Afghanistan toward the Russian threat; that is keeping it away from its borders, keeping its influence out of the government of Afghanistan.
TRAUB: So you’re saying Pakistan is a neo—has a neocolonial approach to its border situation?
RUBIN: Actually, Pakistan has a paleocolonial approach—
TRAUB: (Laughs, laughter.)
RUBIN:—because the frontier agencies are still run under the frontier—that is the federal—federally administered tribal agencies are still run under the frontier crime regulations, which were promulgated by Lord Curzon, the viceroy of India, in 1901. And while the rest of Pakistan became a more or less modern state and has had elections—although also military coups—the frontier areas are still running under the frontier crimes regulations that were enacted not even during late colonialism—you know, during the height of colonialism. And that is, of course, the area that has now to some extent been ceded to the control of local Taliban and is one of the important staging areas for action in Afghanistan.
If I might just mention something else, Jim, of course you are a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, and there was an excellent article last Sunday by Elizabeth Rubin—no relation of mine—on the—in which she documents with great detail and her own experience the very active presence of the Taliban and their leadership in Quetta. Now, some of you may remember when General Musharraf was right where we are now. And I asked him about that, and he said, “It’s absolutely impossible for Taliban to be in Quetta because there are two divisions of the Pakistan army, a garrison there, and we’re in complete control.” But New York Times Magazine has just documented that that’s not—that there are Taliban there, including their leadership, as well as two divisions of the Pakistan army. And who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?
TRAUB: Now, one more question, Ambassador, and then I’m going to turn it over to the audience. I’ve been inviting you to criticize various others so far, whether the international presence or Pakistan. But in terms of criticisms that have been leveled at your own government and President Karzai, one that’s been persistent is, he felt too politically weak to move against the warlords, who dominate the country outside of Kabul. And that’s created a self-perpetuating phenomenon, where these folks extort their own taxes, become their own centers of revenue, permit drug lords to flourish, in some cases have secret deals with insurgents.
Is President Karzai simply in too weak a position to move against these people? Or is there some other strategy at work?
JAWAD: No, he’s certainly not in a weak position to move against them.
There are two issues on the question of warlords in Afghanistan. First is the question of resources. The state building process in Afghanistan, when it started after the Bonn process, relied on the military and financial support of you, of the international community. And that support, in the form of the military or financial, was not there for Afghan government to take a comprehensive plan of—either military or financially, actually, confront the warlords and push them aside. That’s one reason.
And then the other reason was that having no other option but to bring the so-called warlords or the local strongman into the fold, President Karzai started a process of bringing them into the political system.
It did work, in many instances, well. A lot of the very influential people with a lot of (weapons ?) now are working as a technical minister in the cabinet of Afghanistan, which by itself is accomplishment. Ismail Khan is one example. He was emir of Herat, but now he is working as the minister of power and energy in Kabul.
But in the same time, while dealing with some of the bigger name—larger figures was politically possible, again, due to a lack of resources, dealing with the smaller one—with the secondary leaders on the countryside, especially outside Kabul, was not possible, and they remained in power or they retained their influence, and later also that influence was merged with the narcotics and the proceeds of narcotics.
And therefore—and also, on a question of, for instance, the human rights violations that took place in Afghanistan, since the judicial system—the judicial reform in Afghanistan was not completed, and a lot of the criminals who should have been brought to justice could not have been brought to justice, because the system was not in place. And in a post-conflict country, if you—either you have to go for stability or justice, and it’s always—in the short term, you have to go for stability, but in the long term, people are entitled and would like to have some type of justice. But if you don’t have in strong institutions a credible court system, what you’re going to be delivering instead of justice will be revenge.
We—an important accomplishment of President Karzai is that he had prevented another cycle of violence in Afghanistan and prevented another cycle of revenge, with the limited resources that he had. He had the whole support and legitimacy of the Afghan people—of course, he was elected with a very strong mandate—but to build the nation, resources are needed. This is the same question when I—when we talk about the authority of the Afghan government, every chief of police, every governor, every police officer in Afghanistan and the countryside is appointed by the Afghan government. But do they—are they able to provide services? Are they are able to protect the Afghan people? No, because simply they don’t have resource.
And again—we will take that a step further—the Afghan government—as they said, “Well, there’s corruption in Afghan government.” That’s true. It is. It is. Our police—and one—the first—one reason is lack of human capital. There is no—when I was chief of staff in Afghanistan, and President Karzai would ask me to go find a district administrator for Oruzgan or Tarin Kot or Badakhshan, first it was very difficult to find a person with that qualification. Second, even if I was able to find someone, most of the cases, they will be people in their 60s or 50s who were trained under—before the Soviet invasion. And I will go to that person and tell them, “Would you go to be chief of police in Oruzgan?” he would have said, “How much are you going to be paying?” This is a most logical question. Says, “$45 a month.”
He says, “You’ve got to be kidding. I can make $300 driving a car for an NGO in Kabul. Why should I take the gun and fight al Qaeda?” And then still he is a good man. He is patriotic. He’s a good Afghan. He’s committed. He will go to that, take this assignment, and I’ll send him as the chief of police to Tarin Kot. I’m not going to be able to give him a phone, a car, a (flag ?), a guard. Up to very recently, up to three months ago when I was in Tarin Kot, the entire province of Oruzgan, the size of the state of West Virginia, had 45 police officers—to fight narcotics and also to protect people.
So with these kind of resources, of course the person who ends up going as the chief of police to to Tarin Kot might be a person who will be abusing his gun and his uniform. That’s logical. Otherwise, a decent person with a college education will not take this job.
So it’s, again, a matter of resources to build the capacity. The capacity of the Afghan government is weak because the resources are limited. Capacity is a commodity on the market. Whoever has money will buy it. The NGOs, U.N. and others who came to Afghanistan, after the first week they were able to establish their offices, with the Internet connection and everything, because they have the resources. If you have the resources, you can buy it.
TRAUB: Barney, just very quickly, this whole warlord question. Should one thing of it as a resource question or as a fair trade of stability for—justice for stability, or is there some blame that attaches to President Karzai on this one?
RUBIN: Well, of course—I wouldn’t say blame. Of course there’s some responsibility. We can second-guess him. He had to make some very difficult decisions, and one might criticize some of them. But he made those decisions without really having the resources, as Ambassador Jawad said, to make better ones. Perhaps he is overly cautious, but on the other hand, the risks were significant.
And we should bear in mind—I just want to emphasize something Ambassador Jawad said before. In 2002 there were five or six major armies in Afghanistan under the control of very powerful figures, armies paid for and equipped by the United States. And these five or six armies have been demobilized, and none of those leaders, whose names you know, is now commanding armed forces. They are very influential people, and their influence is not always exercised in a legal or peaceful manner. But they are not commanding armies.
But there is a vacuum of authority at the provincial level and even more so at the district level because of the lack of investment in state institutions. And of course, that investment also becomes much more difficult when you’re under attack in a way from two directions. One is from outside, because people are not only going to such places at very low salaries and without resources; they are also risking their lives, in many cases. A governor with whom I met—who is an old friend of mine—in early August was killed by a suicide bomber a few weeks ago. And, you know, he’s a qualified professor. He was living in Australia. He could have stayed there. And on the other hand, the government capacity is under a kind of attack by the drain of capacity, by the large footprint of the international civilian presence in Afghanistan, in a situation where, you know, Afghanistan has possibly the lowest literacy rate of any country in the world.
TRAUB: All right. Well, thanks very much, gentlemen.
Now we’ll throw it open to all of you. And I’m sure you know the proper admonitions, which is, state your affiliation when you ask a question, and of course ask a question with the cool-headed, analytical, non-polemical style that we treasure here at the council.
Yes, sir? The person behind Jeff there. Yes, you.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. My name is Roland Paul. I’m a lawyer. Some years ago I was on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
My question is to Ambassador Jawad. In the recent Taliban spring offensive, the number of Taliban fighters in the public information is about 3,000. Is that about right? And how many, roughly, generally, how many Taliban in that offensive were either killed or captured by NATO, American or Afghan forces?
JAWAD: No, the number is higher than 3,000. It might be 3,000 in the four—or in the areas where the military—Operation Mountain Thrust was conducted. But overall, the number of the Taliban operating in at—south of Afghanistan are more than that. It probably borders sometimes between 9(,000) to 10,000.
And they have acquired a lot more mobility in the form of—especially motorcycles and cars and jeeps.
During the military operations, especially in Kandahar and Panjwayi and Helmand, a significant number of the Taliban, were killed because they were concentrating very much on hitting the NATO countries very hard, and they were—they were—while the --- about a year ago, they were moving around in Afghanistan in groups of three to five people, in this—in Oruzgan, when I visited them, when I visited the province about four months ago, and also in Kandahar, (the reports and other ?)—they were visible in groups of 20 to 50 people moving around, especially at the nights, even sometimes during the day.
This has ended after the military operation, and that’s why they have lost a lot of people. Just in Helmand and Kandahar, they probably lost more than 800 fighters. That—but again, the solution is not just actually taking the numbers away. If the sources are still operating on the other side of the border, their friends, their cousins and others will be recruited and will be sent again.
It’s equally important to build the capacity of the Afghan government, the national security institutions, especially the police force, especially the police force and the army, to protect the people and to deliver services.
The way the terrorists operate today—they kill a clergy, they burn a clinic, they destroy a mosque, and we don’t expect a NATO soldier to stand on guard in front of a home of a clergy or a mosque. This is the job of the Afghans. This is the job of the Afghans, especially police force. Therefore, more resources are needed to build the capacity of the police in Afghanistan.
QUESTIONER: John Temple Swing. Twice you have referred—and Barney particularly—to the fact that the NGOs in Afghanistan are a drain of resources, are living high on the hog. And I really—one would have postulated that in the absence of official government support for Afghanistan, the role of the NGO community would have made a net—was a net advantage for Afghanistan. I was wondered if you could say a bit more about their role, and whether they are really a net drain. Or are they really doing some good in Afghanistan?
RUBIN: Well, first, I didn’t say NGOs. I said international civilian presence. And the NGOs are a small part of the international civilian presence. A much larger part of the international civilian presence is commercial contractors who get the very large contracts, not NGOs, and international agencies.
They of—but they, like NGOs, do not bring money—new money. They are, in a sense, competing with the Afghan government for the same money from donors. There are only very, very few small NGOs like Medecins Sans Frontieres—George, I don’t know about IRC, but—that have their own donor base. But IRC, I believe, relies mainly on its grants and contracts with governments and donors for its activities, and international agencies.
So—now, there’s a problem in that you do need an international presence. The Afghan government has very low capacity. But it is also true that the Afghan government’s capacity in many ways is now lower than it was, than when we entered the country, because the most competent people that it still had are now working for these international organizations.
So at the same time that we have capacity building programs, we also have—the operation of the capacity building programs actually drains capacity; in other words, it’s the availability of so many $300-a-day jobs as drivers.
Now, this is not an Afghanistan problem, not at all. Maybe it’s a little bit more obvious in Afghanistan because the level of human capital is so low there compared to many other countries. It’s a way that the aid system operates in general. And I must say this is the first time that I have seen it operating up close outside of a humanitarian operation—and we’re not talking about a humanitarian operation, which is different. And, you know, Ashraf Ghani, the former Finance minister, goes around saying that the aid system is broken; and when you see it operating, it is not really equipped to build up national and local capacity. It does more of the opposite, and there are some major changes required, not just in the U.S. but where the international system works.
TRAUB: Way in the back there. All the way in the back, yes.
QUESTIONER: Yes. I’m Jane Regan from Associated Press Television News. Ambassador, we have a question that—actually, we’ve also gotten calls from Europe asking me to ask this question. Today I guess in the newspapers in Europe, there were photographs of German troops in your country posing with a skull, presumably of an Afghan civilian. And you mentioned briefly—one of you made a brief comment about the behavior of foreign troops on Afghan soil. We wonder if you could respond to that photo in specific and then in general.
JAWAD: The foreign troop presence in Afghanistan are doing an important—a very important, historic job. They are not only defending Afghanistan, their own country in the West, they’re representing certain values that are important in order to fight the war against terrorism effectively. And it has happened in Afghanistan and other places, that some of these young soldiers are actually doing things that do not actually reflect the value of the societies that they do belong and the values of the institutions that they serve.
So we see this as an act of individuals and—but again, we would like, actually, in case of the Germans, for instance, an investigation into that, because that will reflect into the institutions that they do belong or the countries that they serve. We think that they have an important responsibility to be sensible to the cultural values of the countries that they are fighting. Because as much as we are fighting the terrorists, militaries—they’re also conducting a very effective PR and public relations campaign against us, against humanity, against freedom. I mean, we should not give them, actually, any opportunity to undermine the good cause that these soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan or in other countries, that I hope—we hope that there will be an investigation carried out by the German government. And we hope—and we are certain this is the act of certain misguided individuals, and it should not reflect the institutions of the country that they are belonging to.
RUBIN: Can I comment on that? I think in a way, this very photo-worthy incident is very much a distraction. I mean, no one imagines that this incident was the result of any policies of the German government.
I think—but there are serious political issues around the behavior of foreign troops in Afghanistan which have nothing to do with this incident. And those have to do—foreign troops and paramilitaries—first of all, with detention policy. Again, not unique to Afghanistan, but the fact that there was no redress for people who were detained actually was a major obstacle to counterinsurgency because many people affiliated with the Taliban who did not want to flee to Pakistan, where they would be subject to pressures of various sorts, found that they had to because otherwise they were endanger of being sent to Guantanamo with no redress. And once in Pakistan, they were subject to pressures by people who would tell them, “If you don’t go and attack certain targets, we will tell the Americans you’re a terrorist and send you to Guantanamo.”
Second, President Karzai has asked for a year and a half now that the—at least, that I know of—that the military forces in Afghanistan not undertake searches of houses without cooperation with the Afghan authorities because that is considered a very grave breach of personal honor, which can drive people onto the other side, particularly as it affects women of the family, and that they minimize as much as possible the use of bombing. And I think the use of bombing has become more careful as a result, but nonetheless, the use of such weapons continues to create some more enemies.
Finally, there is no status of forces agreement between the United States and—between Afghanistan and the coalition. To some extent, this is minimized now as NATO command has taken over, and ISAF at least is under a bilateral agreement. But the fact that the relations with some of the forces still are not regulated by Afghan sovereignty, it continues to be an irritant five years after the force has entered the country.
TRAUB: On the far side there. Yes, sir, you.
QUESTIONER: Yes. Carroll Brown. I have a question for the ambassador. You referred to the increased resources available to the Taliban. And my question is: Where do these resources come from?
And secondly and related: What is the role of narcotics in the situation in Afghanistan today? And what is the role of narcotics in the economy of Afghanistan, and what’s being done to bring it under control?
JAWAD: The financial resources available to Taliban, some of them are domestic, a lot of which is coming from narcotics. They are collecting a 10 percent tax called “ushur” in the provinces where—illegally actually, where the cultivation is taking place, and they’re also collecting taxes and asking for protection money for trafficking, which is a lot more money than the cultivation.
The assistance that’s coming from outside is the same sources that continue to feed extremism, and in Pakistan and in Central Asia, it’s coming from the Gulf countries and the larger area. That sources of funding have not dried out—this private money that’s coming, but it is—it’s still there.
The effect of narcotics on the Afghan economy is extremely destructive because the size of the GDP in Afghanistan is very small, and even—over all, the drug economy could easily actually supersede and take over the legal economy. And if that happen, it will undo everything that’s been accomplished in Afghanistan because the proceeds of narcotics not only feed Taliban and terrorism, but also lawlessness in Afghanistan, and it’s caused also tremendous corruption in the country. But what we have done in Afghanistan and what—is—we are trying to fight narcotics in five different fronts at the same time.
The first—an important part is alternative livelihood, to provide a dignified life for a farmer. And again, if you—if the option for a farmer is between life and death, he will take the option of life, even if his action is illegal. But if you give them a dignified life, he will take it, even if it’s less money. That’s one part.
And on that regard, the amount—the alternative livelihood program implemented in Afghanistan has been ad hoc, outside the Afghan government budget and uncoordinated. A better degree of coordination is needed.
And the question of funding was also raised. All—from all the assistance being given to Afghanistan, only 5 percent has gone to the Afghan government budget. And only 12 percent of the entire funding given to Afghanistan by all the donor community—only 12 percent has gone to the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which we can draw under certain conditions.
That said, on the narcotics, this is law—interdiction is very important and for that, again, building the capacity of the national police force.
Eradication is one of the aspects. We don’t think that there’s a silver bullet solution. We cannot—you cannot fight narcotics by just emphasizing eradication, especially when we are fighting narcotics.
Regional cooperation and also strengthening sustained development—that’s the way it fought effectively in Turkey, by truly increasing the size of the legal GDP and providing development all over the country, building the infrastructure.
TRAUB: Yes, back there.
QUESTIONER: Farhad Peiker from Outlook Afghanistan. Since this is the—Afghanistan’s update, I think when you talk about the major problem of the country, warlords are not any more the problem, because, as the panelists said, that they are—most of the bigger ones are gone. So there are few smaller ones. They’re either with the government or with the Taliban. So there’s no armed force—independent armed force rather than the Taliban or the people with the government.
If they’re involved—there are more people involved in drugs that—they are within the government structure than to be outside of the government structure. So I just wonder if we can find some other words for the—term or—for the names of the warlords, because they are really inside of the government.
And secondly, Ambassador, I just came from Afghanistan like a month ago, and there is a perception in the country that it is the United States government that doesn’t want to exert enough pressure on Pakistan to stop the cross-border infiltration. What do you think, as an—Afghanistan’s top representative here in this country? Thanks.
JAWAD: The way Pakistan operates in Afghanistan is complicated. Barney has mentioned about some fear or phobia that’s outside or bigger than Afghanistan, that Pakistan has been living with.
In addition to that, there has been also a design. It’s not only fear, but it’s also a design. And this is a—this has been an established policy of the country. And again, as Barney had mentioned, civilian and non-civilian government have pursued the same policy established by the military.
The amount of the leverage that the United States has on Pakistan is another issue. And a drastic change of policy, it will be—requires a lot more resources, not necessarily financial resource, but also better knowledge about the region, something that, unfortunately, is not really available, an in-depth knowledge about overall what is called the greater Middle East, and specifically places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, the complexity of the Afghanistan-Pakistan relations.
We see, actually, with the presence of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, an increased pressure on Pakistan to cooperate more. And there are, of course, different approaches, different ways.
We think that a peaceful, prosperous Afghanistan will be a best friend of Pakistan. It will give them even any type of assurance against India or (whatever they think ?). They have had actually complained in the past that there might be some Baluchis or others actually operating or being trained in Afghanistan.
We have almost 40 countries present in Afghanistan military-wise. A lot of these countries have their own military intelligence. And those military intelligence, a lot of these countries are close friends of Pakistan. They can give them enough assurance that this is not the case. We cannot afford—we don’t want to have, actually, additional trouble in our part of the world.
Our approach is really conciliatory. We really would like Pakistan to become convinced that there is no other option but peace and stability in the region, and that could be only done if Pakistan cooperates sincerely. We see extremism is a danger not only for Afghanistan but also for Pakistan in the region. And it’s not—as President Karzai has said many times, you cannot use extremism as a selective tool of policy. It will hurt everyone. It will hurt everyone in the region. And that must end.
TRAUB: Anyone else? Yes, Jeff?
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Jeff Laurenti, The Century Foundation. A retrospective, then prospective, question. Back in the fall of 2001 as the campaign against the Taliban was gathering steam, there was a lot of talk that after the conflict, you would need Muslim-country troops as the core of an international presence. And then as soon as the fighting seemed to end, that went poof. There was no more talk of it. Why did it disappear? And has there been any difficulty for the international presence in not having a substantial Muslim face to it over these past couple years?
And then more prospectively, do the Taliban have a centralized political-military chain of command so that if somebody wanted to have some discreet negotiating feelers out to them, there’s somebody to talk to if there’s indeed something to talk about?
JAWAD: The issue of having Muslim soldiers in Afghanistan. Again, there are designs in our region. When the bombing started in Afghanistan, it was the month of Ramadan five years ago, October 6th. In our neighborhood, our region, they were saying that, “Well, if you start attacking Taliban, the sky is going to fall. The entire Afghan nation will rise against you, and they are good fighters, and all the Islamic nations will be”—yet you sent only 2,000 special forces, and the Taliban disappeared, fell apart. It was a myth, actually; it was a myth created by someone else, people who were supporting the Taliban. That was part of that design too.
So we certainly—even right now, we have in Afghanistan, as I mentioned, 40 countries have military presence, but you don’t want to have actually our neighbors to have soldiers in Afghanistan. Their equipment is welcome.
The Afghan people, as I mentioned, they’re looking for partnership with the international community. They really appreciate, they are grateful for your assistance. They see you and NATO and others as a way of building Afghanistan. We have suffered from those sources we were talking about. Who will send the (extra million ?) to Afghanistan? Who will support the Taliban in Afghanistan? Well, these countries, these sources. So we are realistic, we are pragmatic. The name doesn’t mean anything.
Again, we would like the international community to stay engaged in Afghanistan and to help us stand on our feet, and this is the only—and this is an important asset. This is an important asset for Afghans, for the region, for the global security that they are demanding. Of course, if it—if we fail to the deliver—and by “we” I mean the Afghan government and the international community together—there will be a lot of frustration among the population in Afghanistan. And you already see it. There will be no resentment, but there will be frustration.
It says, “Well, you have been here for five years, and my lights are still off. How come?” Ninety-five percent of Afghan does not have access to electricity. So it is—but that’s still—the willingness of—to coordinate with the international community and to ask the engagement of United States and the international community is very strong there. This is the only way that Afghanistan can build itself and stabilize Afghanistan and the region.
TRAUB: Barney, do you want to speak to the second half of Jeff’s question? Does the Taliban have a phone number? And if so, should we be trying to call it? (Light laughter.)
RUBIN: Well, there—Mullah Omar is still recognized as the leader of the Taliban because the main commanders of the Taliban have given bayat to him, that is they have pledged an allegiance, an allegiance which cannot be taken back. However, the United States has taken the position that it will not negotiate with Mullah Omar and Mullah Dadollah (ph) and a few other people who, by the way, have absolutely no interest in engaging in such a negotiation.
Now, I think that the condition for political negotiations with the Taliban—let me put it this way. The situation for political negotiations with Taliban or the Taliban was much better several years ago when they had been defeated or marginalized and they didn’t see clearly a way to come back. Now, they believe that they are winning. Mullah Omar had a very short, but pithy statement on the occasion—(inaudible)—which just came out, which he clearly indicated that they will be escalating the war and indicated what his plans are for the members of the current Afghan government.
So therefore, whether they have someone who can deliver or not, at the moment they have no interest in negotiating. The condition for political solution with the Taliban internally in Afghanistan, which is necessary, is cutting off their external support so that they see they don’t have another option, and until that happens, it’s the same situation that we had in Afghanistan for 20 years before that. You could never get a political settlement among the various armed groups, because all of them thought it was more advantageous to go to their foreign patrons and get more money and arms than to settle their differences politically.
TRAUB: I think—I’d love to keep going. I’m afraid it’s 2:00. Thank you all very much, and I think we will bring it to a close. (Applause.)
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