Town Hall: Reflections on 9/11 and Its Legacy

Monday, September 13, 2021
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President, Council on Foreign Relations; Author, The World: A Brief Introduction; Former Director of Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State (2001–2003); @RichardHaass

Principal, Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel LLC;  Former Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor (2001–2005); Former National Security Advisor (2005–2009); Member, Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations

Chief Executive Officer and Vice Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.; Former Deputy Director for Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency (2002–2005); Vice Chairman, Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations

Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Chief Compliance Officer, and Corporate Secretary, Activision Blizzard; Former Homeland Security Advisor (2004–2008); Member, Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations


White House Correspondent, New York Times; CFR Member

SANGER: Thank you very much, and welcome everybody to this virtual CFR meeting, from 9/11 to the past—the past twenty years to the current moment. We had hoped to be able to do this in person, and at the Council headquarters. Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t allow that. But we have four terrific panelists who I look forward to talking to for the next hour and a quarter. We’re going to speak until probably about ten minutes after 5:00, and then after that we’re going to open it up to all of your questions. So we’ll have about forty minutes for our four panelists to walk through some of these—some of these issues.

Let me introduce them briefly. We start with the only person who actually is sitting in the CFR building right now, Richard Haass, president of the Council for the past nineteen years and, of course, served in George H.W. Bush’s administration as the senior director of Near East and South Asian affairs. And then served, of course, in the Bush administration as well. Richard is seen frequently on panels at the Council, so I won’t dwell on his many awards.

Steve Hadley is joining us. He’s a principal at Rice, Hadley, Gates, and Manuel, which is a strategic consulting firm. Of course, he was the national security advisor from 2005 to 2009. And prior to that, was assistant—was deputy national security advisor serving under Condoleezza Rice, one of his current partners. Had also been on the National Security Council staff and the Defense Department as assistant secretary for international security policy from 1989 to ’91.

Jami Miscik is joining us. She’s the CEO and vice chairman of Kissinger Associates. But prior to that she was the global head of sovereign risk at Lehman Brothers, and had a twenty-two-year career in intelligence, was ultimately the CIA’s deputy director for intelligence, which is responsible for all of the agency’s intelligence analysis and the production of the presidential daily brief, and was director of intelligence programs at the National Security Council.

And Fran Townsend is joining us. She’s the executive vice president of corporate affairs at Activision Blizzard. She’s had other private sector posts prior to that and, of course, was one of the first homeland security advisors during the Bush administration.

So I welcome you all. And let me just start, I know we’ve all done this on various panels at various moments in the past few days, so we’ll make it brief. But just to situate our participants today, tell us a little bit about where you were on 9/11. And I promise we won’t dwell on this; we’ll go forward pretty quickly. I will start, to say that I was at the Booker School with President Bush. I had flown in the night before. I remember having dinner at the Colony Resort that night with a group of colleagues, and we were talking about how this may have been one of the most boring presidential trips ever because it was a series of the same speech on no child left behind.

Till President Bush came out, I remember, and in his jocular way found us at the table, suggested that everyone there should bill their dinner to the New York Times, and we all joked a fair bit. And I think it was probably the last time I saw him laugh for more than—more than a year. And the next morning we were at the school as everything unwound. And then I made my way over to the flight school where Mohamed Atta and other attackers had been trained, which by one of those coincidences of history was only twenty miles from where the president slept the night before 9/11, and did those first interviews, which we were very proud of because we got there thirty-six hours before the FBI made it into the same building.

Steve, you were, I assume at the White House that day, in those meetings with Condi that were underway?

HADLEY: I was. I was in the Situation Room. We were having a staff briefing when the first plane hit. And it was a—no way to kind of figure out what had happened. And of course, the second plane hit, and we knew pretty clearly what had happened. Condi then departed to go down to what’s called the PEOC, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. I stayed in the Situation Room to try to help coordinate the response and support the president in the response. We then got word that the White House was being evacuated because there was word that a plane was heading towards the White House potentially. Heading towards Washington, potentially the White House.

And people looked at me and said: Are we going to evacuate? And I said, well, you know, I think the president actually needs us to stay here to help him manage the crisis. Is everybody comfortable staying? If not, you know, no harm no foul. Delighted if you want to leave. Nobody left. I thought that was—showed the commitment of the team. Sadly, about ten minutes later I got a call from Condi. She says: Come down here in the PEOC. I need you down here. I said, Condi, I’ve just agreed with everybody. It’s Band of Brothers. We’re going to stay here now understanding the risk. I can’t now go down to the safety of the PEOC.

She said, tough, head on down. I need you here. (Laughs.) So I then abandoned my team, having exposed them to a risk, and took refuge in the PEOC. Well, thanks to those heroes on that plane, no target—no further target in Washington was at risk. But I thought, you know, President Bush, in his remarks at that site, captured the extraordinary courage of the people—of the men and women on that airplane. And a lot of us are alive today because of their courage.

SANGER: I’m going to come back and ask you a little bit about his remarks, which I thought were the most notable thing of the twentieth anniversary, in just a moment.


TOWNSEND: So I had spent the previous several years running the—what was called the FISA unit, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And so from ’98 going forward, I had seen the vast majority of the secret wiretaps and search warrants focusing on the growing terrorist threat. And, you know, when you hear that the light was blinking, we understood—those of us who had been working—sort of the Cole, the one that came before the Cole, the attempt that failed, the East Africa embassy bombings. Those of us in the counterterrorism community could feel the rise of the threat.

The morning of it I was two weeks into the maternity leave for my newborn second son—(laughs)—when I saw the first plane hit the north tower. And I think because I had been following the thread, it was almost intuitive. It was visceral. I knew that this was al-Qaida. I handed the infant off to my mother and I immediately started calling—I first called my partner at the FBI who I’d worked all these cases with. John O’Neill had recently retired from the FBI to take the job as the chief of security at the World Trade Center. I got a hold of him, and he was OK. He texted me back that he was fine. And that was the last time I spoke to him. The rest of the afternoon we were all talking with other FBI agents in New York about what needed to happen. And we never heard from John again. He was in the north tower stairwell when the tower collapsed.

SANGER: Hmm, wow.


MISCIK: Well, I was in the DCI’s conference room. We were having our morning senior staff meeting when the door opened, and it was a representative from our operations center saying a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. And I think we all just knew. Sort of what Fran was talking about, we had seen the—what was publicly referred to as the chatter in the terrorist world really picking up in the preceding months. The Director of Central Intelligence had put out a memo saying the system is blinking red. In August, on the 6th of August, we had written a piece saying bin Laden determined to strike the U.S. And so when we heard that, even though it was just the first plane, even though it was reported to maybe even be a small plane, I think everyone in that room knew this was the attack we had warned about, worried about. And it was in our homeland, as opposed to just on our interests abroad.

Couple of other things I remember from that morning. When the flight manifests first came across the wire and our people recognized two of the names on there as being terrorists. I remember being concerned about the first lady. If the president wasn’t going to be able to make it back to Washington that night, would she be safe at the White House? Should we find her a safe house to be in? And the thing I really struggled with was I knew what to do before the attack. You know, you disarm, you disrupt, you deter. I knew what to do after the attack in terms of, you know, hunting down, finding, terminating. But during the attack, not knowing how long the attack phase would last, was something that I think we really struggled with.

You know, was it over after New York and Washington? Were other cities going to face similar consequences? There were multiple planes over the Atlantic, as I recall, not responding. And it turned out they were just on the wrong channel, but at that time now knowing when that attack phase was going to end was really a difficult thing to grapple with. And—

SANGER: And of course, that went on for weeks as we worried about a second wave, and the reports of a nuclear device headed to New York. And I don’t think anybody would have bet at that moment, Jami, that we would have gone two months, much less twenty years, without a second attack.




HAASS: During this Bush administration I was at the State Department. I was the head of the policy planning staff, but I also wore some other hats as an envoy of the U.S. government. So I was over in Ireland that day. I was literally in the office of the Taoiseach, the prime minister, part of my portfolio as the U.S. envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process, when the phone rang. He thinks it was his office; I think it was mine. But anyhow, the phone rang about the first plane. We literally put on the TV and watched the second plane hit the tower. Obviously, everything we had been talking about suddenly seemed irrelevant. We talked between ourselves. We went out and did an impromptu press conference.

Like everybody else overseas, I was—I was stuck. So I spoke to Secretary Powell, decided to go on, of all places, to Belfast. And what was so odd about that is as an American who grew up, you know, when I did, Belfast was a city I always associated with terrorism. For three decades, during the Troubles, just over three thousand people lost their lives. And here I was, heading to Belfast which suddenly seemed safe compared to the United States. I met with all the leaders of Northern Ireland and basically said: Any American tolerance or excuse for terrorism has just ended.

And this, obviously, had real resonance with Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams. It was a way of saying: Even your supporters who looked the other way, after this no American is ever going to look the other way again at politically motivated violence that kills innocent men, women, and children. And interestingly enough, just as an aside, a few weeks later the decommissioning of arms—the giving up of their arms actually got underway. I went to London. I wrote a strategic memo to the secretary about what I thought our policy should be, what we needed to do about Pakistan, what we needed to do elsewhere.

And then when I returned to the United States a few weeks later my “reward,” quote/unquote, was he and then the president made me coordinator for the future of Afghanistan. And that’s how I spent the next six months.

SANGER: Well, these were remarkable stories. And we could spend the entire time on them. But let me turn to some of the big lessons that have sort of—we’ve been kicking around in all of these discussions on the anniversary time. Steve, I was struck by President Bush’s speech, that we referred to earlier, because he drew a straight line basically from the terrorism we suffered that day to the January 6th events. He sort of took us by surprise in doing this. And said, while their motivations were different, they’re drawn from—I can’t remember his exact phrase—but it was something like, you know, from the same cloth out of this.

And we’ve all been struck by the fact that the days after 9/11 led to this huge outpouring of unity in the country and among our allies that the virus has clearly not created. In fact, if anything, it’s fed division. So I’m wondering if you could just start us off a little bit with sort of thoughts about why you think that unifying moment shattered so quickly. And if, God forbid, we would have similar attack today or in the future, would we be as unified as we were on those days in 2001?

HADLEY: Well, it’s a good question. You know, I think President Bush didn’t suggest there was a straight line between 9/11 and January 6th. He said domestic terrorism and international terrorism have different motivations and different roots. But he did point out, as Richard said, that they share a contempt for human life. They are willing to take human life for a cause. And it was those kinds of things that linked them together.

There was a great outpouring. I think part of it is America was attacked from abroad. And that, in some sense, is something that naturally brings people together. COVID—and in some sense, we all stood together, and all had to assume some obligations to ensure the country would not be subjected to attack again. And that effort, as you pointed out, was quite successful. COVID’s interesting—not to get philosophical about it—but COVID also now is starting to impose obligations on us—vaccinations, masking, and all the rest. And you know, it runs counter to, in some sense, American individualism. We’ve always been willing to tolerate a variety of responses from individuals.

COVID is the one case where the decision you make could potentially put other people at risk. Your exercise of your independence not to vaccinate, not to mask, actually could threaten other people. And in some sense, it gets at a seam in American culture. It turns our individualism—which is a great tradition. And our independence, in some sense of skepticism of authority—it turns it against us and makes it harder to deal with the COVID-19. And I think that’s why you have not seen the kind of unified response to this threat from COVID-19 that you saw with respect to 9/11.

SANGER: Hmm. Fran, had we suggested prior to 9/11 that people take off their shoes, empty out their bags, go through the kind of thing that we’ve all come to, you know, basically take as second nature now when we walk through an airport? I suspect you probably would have had the kind of reaction that we’ve seen about vaccines. And yet, somehow or another the shock of 9/11 made Americans understand the threat in a way that the virus has not.

TOWNSEND: You know, David, I was—I’ve been amazed at sort of the willingness of Americans to chip in, to contribute to the collective security of the whole. I think in many ways we underestimate that willingness of Americans to say: I have a responsibility when it comes to our collective security. Steve’s quite right. I think somehow that hasn’t translated in terms of COVID. But it really did post-9/11. To your point, we’re now willing to, you know, take our shoes off and reduce the number of liquids that we carry on through a plane.

I can remember we had a disruption—it was 2007, I want to say—2006 or ’(0)7. We had a threat emanating from Pakistan. And literally overnight we decided you were taking nothing on the plane—into the actual cabin of the plane, nothing. You weren’t taking a book. You weren’t taking anything. And we and the Brits overnight, when you showed up we handed you a plastic bag to put everything in. And Americans willingness complied with that.

And we—it was interesting, because the difference in the U.S. and the U.K. We had a couple hours of a delay and Americans got right with the program. We handed them plastic bags and we were moving along. That was not the case in Great Britain. It took them days and days and hours of delays. And I really think that’s a testament to the American people. Yes, we were better organized, and we were prepared for that quick change. That was the liquid bomb plot. But I will say that it really is—Americans came to understand that when we suddenly would put physical restrictions around buildings without much warning, when we would suddenly change the requirements for screening in airports, that there was a collective responsibility to say: This is an inconvenience to me, but it’s a responsibility of the whole to sort of endure this inconvenience to ensure our security.

SANGER: Would we get that again if there was another attack?

TOWNSEND: To Steve’s point, I think it depends who’s the enemy, right? I think the fact if it’s a foreign enemy you’re more inclined to get that sort of collective cooperation. What’s been so divisive in the United States when we look at the January 6th attack is this is a domestic disagreement. As abhorrent as it is, there is not a foreign enemy that binds us together as Americans. And I think that’s really the difference. Who the enemy is matters when you’re looking at whether or not you’re going to have a coming together to cooperate.

SANGER: And when the enemy is an unseen biological agent that, you know, is most likely naturally occurring but who knows, again, same thing. It does not create the kind of reaction we had at the time.

TOWNSEND: That’s right. I agree with that.

SANGER: Jami, you said to us that you knew what to do beforehand and you knew what to do after, but you didn’t know what to do in between. But you got to the after pretty quickly. And the CIA was credited with really heroic, incredibly fast, early action. And I wonder, when you think back at that time, should it have remained a CIA action just against al-Qaida? Was the mistake in the end then following that up with a full military action? Because if it had been a CIA action, it would have been easier to sort of go in, deal with al-Qaida, and get out without the issues that have plagued us for the past twenty years. But of course, you wouldn’t have remade the society in any way. And the Taliban may well have remained in control over the past twenty years.

MISCIK: It’s an interesting question. I think, you know, the agency was one of the only organizations—the intelligence community, writ large—but that maintained relationships in Afghanistan even through all the years running up to 2001. So we did have a network of sources there. We did have an ability to quickly get on the ground. If I recall, it was, like, September 17th when they started landing back in the country. We had cleaned out every REI and L.L. Bean store of every parka, sleeping bag that they would need for cold weather in the Panjshir Valley. But I do think you would have gotten, you know, nearly the kinds of transformation in terms of driving the Taliban from power if it had stayed exclusively an intelligence covert action operation.

You might have gotten al-Qaida. You might have gotten some key individuals. But I think the relationship between intelligence and military that was working so well at the beginning, up through, I would say, Tora Bora, when it seemed that some of the military assets—big military, not special ops, not intelligence—were being diverted in preparations for Iraq. And I’m sure Steve will disagree with me on that. But I think that was a break point.

And if I could just go back on one point you were making earlier about why is COVID different. You know, it could have been seen as an external threat. Even those unseen, biological, all of those things that you mentioned. But I think it was really important that we didn’t have a president rallying us to unity on that issue. In the early months of President Trump and the COVID virus he was saying it wasn’t a problem, that it would go away, that it was not the crisis that the media and others, like CDC, were making it out to be. And I think that’s a critically important variable in terms of unifying the country or not, whether the president is sending that message of unity. And so I think instead of unity we kind of chose sides, so to speak.

SANGER: It’s interesting, because I remember a discussion with him more than a year ago. You know, at that time where he said to a small group of us, you know, he didn’t want to scare the country, you know, and deliberately—you know, he knew he was doing basically a sales spin on this. And I think you’re right, in the way he approached it.

Richard, you wrote a book many books ago called War of Necessity, War of Choice. And I wanted to tee up our next topic, which was: If you think that we did pretty well in those eighteen months after the attack and through the war in Afghanistan, the suggestion of that book was while Afghanistan was a war of necessity, Iraq was a war of choice. And I know we wrote in the Times, and we’ll ask Steve about this because it wasn’t necessarily his favorite line of coverage that I’ve ever worked on, that the war in—that the war in Iraq took resources and attention and mindshare away from the war in Afghanistan, and perhaps set us up for failure there. Lay out the case as you see it. And then we’re going to ask Steve to come back and lay out the counter-case.

HAASS: I only think that’s half the story, David. You know, after 9/11, the U.S. essentially gave the Taliban an ultimatum. And I think one of the important things the administration did was work to establish the new norm in international relations that there was no distinction between terrorists and those who supported them. And I think that was an important principle to be set. The Taliban, obviously, would not hand over al-Qaida. And the United States, working with the northern tribes, the Northern Alliance, essentially ousted them.

Just a ten second detour, had we not done that we’d have a subsequent example of what happens—or, rather, had we just done that and not gotten at all involved, it’s called Libya. If you oust an authority and don’t act to follow it up, you basically create conditions of chaos which can be as bad or worse as what you were initially intervening for. So to me, the debate was not whether to go in. I think that was right. I think that was a war of necessity. We then helped the Afghans stand up a government.

To me, the big—the first major mistake came at that point, a few months into things. Not eighteen months, but probably three or four months, when the United States didn’t do more. And it wasn’t, at this point, I think, that Iraq was drawing off attention. But I can still remember the NSC meeting. And there was simply very little enthusiasm about Afghanistan. And I think it reflected two things. Not so much Iraq. Maybe that was later.

One was a sense that Afghanistan was a terrible prospect for any American investment. To use a business metaphor, there was no confidence that there would be any return on investment no matter what we did. It was seen by a lot of the participants as hopeless. I do not think they were particularly well-informed in these judgements. A lot of, I felt, loose historical analogy about graveyards of empires and the rest. But I think that’s where—a lot of people’s mindsets.

And second of all, they saw Afghanistan as a one-off. And by that I mean, even if we were to succeed there in building up a stronger government, even a democracy, the feeling was nothing else would come of it. Whereas Iraq, and this was a fundamental difference, Iraq was seen as, one, a much better prospect. And, two, it was seen as a positive domino. People believed, I believe incorrectly, that if Iraq were to become democratic—and I did not hold out high hopes at the time—that others in the Middle East would not be able to resist the precedent, and they would—they would follow suit. And so the difference between—for which there was no enthusiasm in Afghanistan, great enthusiasm later in Iraq.

But in late 2001/early 2002, whereas Iraq may have been in the back of certain people’s minds it wasn’t yet in the front of their minds. And I would simply say there was a moment to do more in Afghanistan. The rate at which we built up the Afghan armed forces of the next five years was glacial. We were probably building up at a few thousand—training a few thousand soldiers a month. Meanwhile, we took our eye off the ball in Pakistan. And after an initial strong showing, the Pakistani government essentially resumed providing sanctuary. So you had a terrible set of two timelines. Whereas Afghan capabilities were building up very slowly, and over the next five-plus years Taliban and al-Qaida capabilities were being revived at a greater rate.

And by the time the United States woke up to it, the balance within Afghanistan, I think, had turned terribly, and the choices we made were—the options at that point were far worse than the options we faced in late 2001/2002. So I can’t guarantee—I can’t sit here today and say: Had we done more early on, I think it would have turned out a lot better and we could have avoided literally much of what ultimately became U.S. policy because we would have stood up in Afghanistan and I think could have contended successfully enough with the challenge. But we missed that opportunity to the extent that it did exist. And the rest, as they say, is history.

SANGER: So, Steve, you and I have been debating this point since I walked into your office in 2007 as we were getting ready to publish a very long investigative piece whose headline was “How the Good War Went Bad.” And you were making the case then, and I think you’ve made it since, that you don’t believe Iraq was a distraction. Tell us a little bit about how you think history might have been different with Afghanistan and why Iraq might not have made the difference.

HADLEY: Well, this could be a conversation that could use up all the rest of the time. I’ll just summarize briefly. I don’t disagree with what Richard said. There was, though, another strain which I think was shared by the president and a number of the senior advisers, which was, we had helped get the Russians, the Soviets kicked out of Afghanistan twenty years earlier and then had walked away. And Afghanistan descended first into civil war, then into the Taliban; Taliban gave safe haven to al-Qaida and, presto change-o, you had 9/11. And we were not going to just walk away again. We thought we had to leave something in place that would allow the Afghan people to make sure that Afghanistan would never be a safe haven for terror again.

There was a reluctance to do too much too fast. You know, we had, again, the lesson of the Soviets and the Brits who were viewed as occupiers and were opposed and finally expelled by the Afghans. We went in with a very light footprint because we wanted to be enablers of the Afghans to rid themselves of the Taliban regime and expel al-Qaida themselves, rather than coming in as occupiers. So we were concerned about too rapid a buildup of our forces. We were also, in the early days about our economic assistance, concerned that we would overwhelm this very primitive economy with too many dollars coming in, which would give rise to inflation and corruption. And when we decided beginning in 2004/2005 that it did require more resources, what did we get? Inflation and corruption.

Now, I think Richard is right; I think we were too slow in building an Afghan security force. I think that is right. I remember for a long time it looked quite calm in Afghanistan and the political process seemed to be going well, but I remember Zal Khalilzad coming in, 2002-2003 time frame, and saying we’ve got this great program to demilitarize all the warlords and their forces, and at that point we were beginning to see the reemergence of Taliban. And I remember saying to Zal, Zal, why do we—(laughs)—want to dismantle all of these fighters? We may need them in a year or two if the Taliban keep doing what they’re doing. But I think the one thing I would say is I think we were too slow building up the Taliban (sic).

I have a—just to give you a sketch to finish—

HAASS: Not the Taliban. You mean the government, not the Taliban.

HADLEY: I’m sorry. Yeah.

I always thought Iraq was a war of last result—resort. We had exhausted every other nonmilitary option over a period of twelve years with sixteen, then seventeen U.N. Security Council resolutions telling Saddam to show that he’d gotten rid of his WMD, stop oppressing his people, stop invading his neighbors, and stop supporting terror. We had inspection regimes. We had smart—dumb sanctions, smart sanctions, smarter sanctions, three or four kinds of inspection regimes. We had a no-fly zone over the north, then a no-fly zone over the south. We had military strikes by the Clinton administration to try to get Saddam to open up to inspectors. We had a congressional resolution in 1998 that declared regime change was American policy. The president tried to use coercive diplomacy to get Saddam to either comply or leave the country, and in the end, that diplomacy failed when the French and the Germans and the Russians essentially broke with us.

So my view is, always, Iraq was a war of last resort.

Last point you raised: diversion of resources. I didn’t really see it. There were some things that Jami can talk about where intelligence tracks and some things were moved to Iraq. There’s no doubt about that. But Ryan Crocker answered this question in a very interesting way, and I’m going to paraphrase it. The notion that somehow we diverted resources from Afghanistan to Iraq and that’s why it all went bad assumes that additional resources, in fact, would have finished off the Taliban and we would have had peace. And I think the lesson of the last twenty years is: not necessarily so. Ryan has a view, of saying there wasn’t going to be a military victory in Afghanistan; what we could have done was hold down and hold off the Afghans for a period of twenty, thirty or so years until we had built an Afghan security force and an Afghan government that would be able to handle it themselves. If you think that was the nature of the conflict, and that was really the—what was required, then the problem isn’t that we didn’t throw a few more resources in it in 2002; the problem is we didn’t prepare the American people for that kind of undertaking.

And the last point—I’m sorry to run on. President Bush used to say to me, you know, when we talk to—about Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to tell the American people we may be there for decades. We need to use the example of Korea. And if you’ve noticed, Condi Rice in some of her comments on 9/11 has talked about the Korea example. Ryan Crocker talks about we ran out of patience. When the president used to talk that way, I would say, Mr. President, you can’t tell that to the American people, that we might be there for forty, fifty, sixty, seventy years; they won’t tolerate it. I think, actually, as is so often the case, the president was probably right and I was probably wrong. We didn’t frame it right for the American people so that they understood what we were signing onto. And then we can debate that, whether they were willing to do it.

Anyway, sorry for such a long answer.

SANGER: That’s OK. That was all fascinating. And, you know, of course, what’s made Korea and Japan work as longtime things is that American troops haven’t really been under active threat there for some time. Of course, there were no—they weren’t under active threat in Afghanistan for the past five or six years, maybe longer.

HADLEY: That’s the point.

SANGER: But nonetheless, patience ran out.

We only have a few minutes and I do want to wind up with sort of the more recent events, but, Fran, tell us a little bit about Pakistan here, because we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about Afghanistan. The reason the Taliban lived on so long was that they had a sanctuary there. Obviously bin Laden was living there. And there’s no reason to think right now that Pakistan isn’t key to, and maybe celebrating a little bit, the return of the Taliban today.

TOWNSEND: David, Richard mentioned the Pakistanis providing sanctuary, as you just did, and if that had been all they did, it would have been—right?—an impediment to our success in Afghanistan. But they went further than that. I mean, they said that they were with us, the famous Richard Armitage conversation with Musharraf—you’re either with us or you’re with them. And Pakistan said they were with us. Then there was the sanctuary problem. Our military encountered this—people squirting across the border into the Federally Administrated (sic; Administered) Tribal Areas, and the Pakistanis permitting that, or certainly not giving us any support. But then what we found was intelligence sharing—and Jami can speak to this as well as I can—intelligence sharing or joint operations; anything we shared with them all of a sudden evaporated when we hit a house or we’d hit a target. There was nothing there once we had shared it with the Pakistanis. And we understood, from a variety of means, that they really were actively supporting cross-border activity, whether it was with—for the Taliban, al-Qaida, the Haqqani Network. We understood that there was direct support from ISI to these groups. And with that sort of enabling factor, it was almost impossible to imagine a situation in which, even if we had put additional military resources, where we could have been successful.

Look, I think that there were a number of opportunities where we could have gone back and put additional pressure on the Pakistanis that were lost, including after bin Laden had been caught in Abbottabad. We, time and again, allowed Pakistan—for a whole bunch of policy reasons, we’ve made choices to allow Pakistan to operate in the way it has. We ought to be clear-eyed now. The Taliban could not have enjoyed the sanctuary, rebuilt, and then retaken the territory they’ve taken now without Pakistani support, without the Pakistanis funneling Chinese, Russian, and Iranian resources, money, and support. The Pakistanis bear a tremendous amount of the responsibility here for the re-rise of the Taliban, and they’ve made, the Pakistanis have made a policy choice. But we have to be honest about that and we have to be honest about that not only in how we deal with our allies but in how we deal with Pakistan. And frankly, I think it’s past time for us to take it up quite directly with Pakistan.

SANGER: Jami, I’m going to ask you and Richard to take us into the current moment. I don’t think anybody anticipated going into the twentieth anniversary with the Taliban back in control in Kabul.

First, I’d like you to take on the president’s argument that we really needed to move to end this war, even if it was going to be messy at the end, in order to focus on the threats of the—of 2021 instead of 2001, to use his words. And he’s been very clear about what his priorities are: China, containment of Russian disruption, cyber, preventing future biothreats, both natural and man-made, improving American competitiveness generally. And he’s basically made the argument that it was unsustainable to think that you could keep twenty-five hundred troops in Afghanistan. Is he right on that? And does pulling out actually make the difference for us being able to go focus on these other issues, or could we have done both?

MISCIK: I’ll try and give the short answer, David, which is I think we have no choice but to do all of the above. You know, it’s very hard to say that twenty-five hundred people in one country would have made a difference against the threats you just outlined, that he has outlined: China, Russia, bio, cyber. We have to be able to do it all and we have to prioritize it, obviously. So, you know, I think his true focus when he came into office was domestic; it was COVID; it was “build back better;” it was, you know, make our country strong competitively, et cetera. But he did have a few things that he said internationally, or at least implied internationally: one, I think, was, you know, to reassure allies that we were back, that we were trustworthy, that we were a reliable partner. The second was that our American word mattered and stood for something. And the third was that we would not—we would reaffirm that we’ll be on the international stage, that we won’t just retreat to our borders. And I think a lot of people in other countries around the world feel that we have done that now with the decision we made on Afghanistan. So I think we have to be able to deal with all of the threats that face our country. We have a massive amount of dollars that go towards military, national security, intelligence, homeland security that should be able to grapple with those threats. Those are different pockets of people working on different issues, and we have to, if anything, I guess I would say, increase this pace with which we address those problems and not view them sequentially, or, you know, we’ll take care of this one, then we’ll move onto these. We have to do all of it.

SANGER: Well, thanks.

Richard, you’ve made the argument that the twenty-five hundred that we kept there were not only sustainable but were critical to keeping the confidence of the Afghan forces, which, as we saw, didn’t stay around for the fight, melted away in city after city. Biden fundamentally disagrees with that. I mean, his argument is this was not sustainable; sooner or later you would have had to send in forces to protect those forces; the Taliban were coming into Kabul whether it was, you know, in a few months or eighteen months or two years.

HAASS: I disagree profoundly with the president on that. He and I had that conversation.

A couple of things I’d say, David; one is to build on what Jami said: It simply doesn’t bear scrutiny that the level of the American investment in Afghanistan in 2021 precluded us from doing anything else serious in the world. We were talking about an incremental cost of maybe $5 billion a year, twenty-five hundred, three thousand troops, out of a defense budget of, what, 750 (billion dollars), $800 billion, out of a military of over a million people? The idea that we could not do anything else we wanted to do because of Afghanistan, that somehow held us back, to me, quite honestly, doesn’t bear serious or sustained scrutiny.

As you pointed out earlier, it’s a fact that’s lost—I don’t understand quite why—constantly in this debate. The major falling off of U.S. casualty levels in Afghanistan was not the February 2020 agreement but was the decision taken, executed as of December 2014, to end American participation and combat operations. After that point, the average American casualties was approximately twelve a year. I don’t mean to diminish that, but I’m saying it was fundamentally different. So the idea that somehow if we had pushed back against the February 2020 agreement all hell would have broken loose, why didn’t all hell break loose for the five years before that when the Taliban were doing operations?

I do think this agreement had a real impact on the Afghans in two ways: one was psychologically; two, the way we had gone about our Afghan policy, the Afghans were never made to be independent. They were dependent upon U.S. air support, contractors, and the like. So when this president came into office and removed—essentially removed all those, it left the Afghans, I think, extraordinarily vulnerable. And, you know, he’s disagreed with other policies of his predecessor on things like climate, on the American presence in the WHO, most clearly on the Iran 2015 nuclear agreement. It wasn’t clear to me that he, quote-unquote, had to do what he did.

Unless I missed it, David, people being politically active in the streets of this country over the last year and a half were not protesting our presence in Afghanistan. Unless I missed it in the exit polls, nobody voted in November 2020 on the basis of getting us out of Afghanistan. Yes, the polls show people are overwhelmingly supportive of leaving, but that’s probably true of a lot of other things. There was no intensity to that view. It wasn’t driving or animating political activity. So I think this president had a lot of discretion.

And I’d just say one other thing and then I’ll stop this long-winded answer. One of the things the Bush administration that we were all part of learned the hard way was that assumptions are dangerous things and there were assumptions, say, made about weapons of mass destruction that had a truly destructive effect on U.S. policy in the runup to Iraq. Well, here I think there were two assumptions, both of which are questionable: one is that if we had stayed it would have been untenable, and the other was if we left it would go pretty smoothly. And I would just say both—this latter has clearly been demonstrated to be problematic; the former, it’s not obvious to me it was true. That said, we are where we are where we are. And very quickly, I think the conversation for the administration has to be if you don’t want Afghanistan to become a lens through which America is viewed in large parts of the world, what sorts of initiatives should we be taking now in order to demonstrate that Afghanistan is not to be understood as American foreign policy writ large?

SANGER: Well, I hope we’ll come back to some of that in the Q&A. The five of us could go on at this for some number of hours and has been known—we’ve been known to do that at various moments. But you guys have let me have all the fun, which is asking the questions here and we want to bring in a good number of our participants.

So, Carrie, let me go back to you and ask if you’ve got the first question.

OPERATOR: We’ll take our first question from Lawrence Wright.

Q: Hi, this is Lawrence Wright with the New Yorker.

The FBI just recently declassified more information about 9/11, especially concerning the Saudi involvement in the hijackers in America, and Jami mentioned that when the CIA looked at the flight manifests they recognized two names; those would be Khalid al-Mihdhar and

Nawaf al-Hazmi. The CIA knew about these two men. The Saudis had identified them as al-Qaida operatives. And when Mihdhar was flying to Malaysia, the CIA broke into his hotel room in Dubai and copied his passport and found the American visas in there. Then, in March of

2000, nineteen months before 9/11, the CIA finds out that they’re in America. And so the CIA has no brief to work on terrorism in the United States; that’s the FBI’s job. And according to the inspector general of the CIA, many people in the CIA, dozens, read memos to the effect that al-Qaida was in America. Director Tenet never told anybody in the White House, that I know of, including Dick Clarke, who was briefed every day by him, that al-Qaida was present in America. So the question that still lingers from 9/11 for me is, why didn’t the CIA tell the FBI, and to what extent was it involved perhaps overseeing what might have been a Saudi operation to handle these guys?

SANGER: Well, I think that question’s got Jami and Steve written all over it.

Jami, we’ll start with you.

Thank you, Larry.

MISCIK: Thanks. So I think it was Jamie—Steve, you’ll correct me if I’m wrong. I think it was Jamie Gorelick at the time who was part of what was called the different gang of eight, not the Capitol Hill Gang of Eight but senior leaders of the intelligence community and FBI who were supposed to be working together to fill some of those holes that could happen between the agency’s charter, which was to look exclusively overseas and the FBI’s charter to look domestically in the United States. And that process had begun under the Clinton administration; it was continuing on.

And, you know, Lawrence, I cannot speak to who Director Tenet might have told, might have spoken to. What I do know is there was concern about these individuals. We had followed them to a meeting in Malaysia; we had, as I recall, video but no audio of what was going on at that. And then there was reporting that they were holding U.S. visas. If I’m not mistaken, the FBI also had a source who had identified these individuals. The memo that came out in the—late on—was it Saturday night?—the one that the FBI declassified—basically laid out a fact pattern that had been pretty well known throughout the intelligence community, law enforcement community. I don’t know that it added new information of—my sense was it was about, you know, the summary of what we had known years ago. And I think the 9/11 commission that came in to look at those gaps in information sharing broke down a lot of those barriers that existed prior to 9/11.

SANGER: Steve? You were at the time deputy national security adviser so you were overseeing this process.

HADLEY: I’m not sure I was overseeing it or not. But my point—I don’t have anything to add to what Jami said. I would give Fran a chance to comment. Fran was the—honchoed the 9/11 commission report and its implementations in the Bush administration and I think is probably closer to this than I, also given her intelligence background.

Fran, do you want to add anything to what Jami said?

TOWNSEND: No, I—look, Jami has it exactly right. The only thing that I would add: I think that there is a tendency to presume malice where, you know, sometimes it’s just the bureaucracy. Right? And I have never presumed that it was intentional. You know, what we found post-9/11 was a lack of information sharing. That wasn’t people intentionally hiding it from one another. Right? There was no incentive to do that. There was no incentive for the agency to, you know, maliciously or intentionally withhold it. It was a matter of putting—you know, I hate this, the dots—but putting the pieces together and understanding how important one particular piece was. And so, look, I think the lesson there was to have the information sharing, to have things like the National Counterterrorism Center, where there was a repository to put all of the information together to understand the importance and relevance of each of the pieces, and that’s what we did. Regrettably, pre-9/11 that was not the case.

HADLEY: And, of course, remember: Part of that was considerations of privacy, which drove the initial separation between the FBI and the CIA. And what we didn’t realize is what would be the consequence if you had this kind of homeland threat emerge. And we paid for it on 9/11. No question.

SANGER: What’s our next question?

OPERATOR: Our next question from Razi Hashmi.

Q: Hi, everyone. Can you hear me OK?


Q: Hi, my name is Razi Hashmi. I am a term member with the Council on Foreign Relations and I currently work at the State Department covering religious freedom in South Asia.

You know, CFR prides itself on being a nonpartisan, bipartisan forum, but I find that we’re having a missed opportunity this evening on the domestic and global impact from our foreign policy by all the voices that are not here this evening. While we tragically lost thousands of Americans on 9/11, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of others were impacted since then from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, wars on terror, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, warrantless wiretapping, and hate crimes and discriminations of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, South Asians, and Arabs. I believe giving individuals like these a platform to share their reflections is deeply important. Looking back, could things have been done differently, in your opinion, with regards to these specific issues, or are there moments that you could have made a difference on, similar to when Colin Powell called out Islamophobia when Barack Obama ran for president? Thank you.

SANGER: Really interesting question and I’m glad you’ve raised it.

And Steve, maybe I’ll start with you on it because in those days right after the attack, you’ll remember the president went to the mosque here in Washington, gave his speech in which he said this is not a war against Muslims but against, instead, a particular terror group. And yet, over time, it morphed into something that I think in the public mind did become more about all Muslims, up to the point that by the time we got to the Trump presidency, there was an effort to have a travel ban on Muslims. I mean, it was like straight up.

So I think the core of the question was, was there more that you think could have been done in those first seven and a half years to keep it from spinning in that direction?

HADLEY: Well, I think it’s a very good question and I think the point that is being made about potentially the Council providing some forum where people who have strong views on this subject and maybe be able to inform us about what more we could have done under the Bush administration and subsequent should get a hearing. I think that makes sense.

Our perception was that the president very early did not want to make this about Muslims, did not want to turn Americans against one another. He went to the mosque, made the point that Islam was a religion of peace that brought comfort to millions of people around the world. The FBI wanted to start getting more active within Muslim communities. We directed them so their contacts with Muslim communities were to reassure Muslims and ask them whether they felt threatened and to try to reassure them that we were going to protect them against intimidation. So I think on this one, early on, Bush got it right. But Bush also saw something else and I haven’t been able to find the speech and maybe it never actually got delivered, but I remember late in the presidency, probably 2008—I think, Fran, you were gone by then. I walked in the Oval Office and Bush said, I want to give a speech about nativism, protectionism, anti-immigration, and one other; I’ve forgotten—the four “isms”—because I see them on the rise in America and I need to warn Americans and speak out against it. And protectionism, isolationism, nativism—and those are the things that we saw grow in this country from 2008 until—into 2020. So he saw it coming and I think there is a good question that could be asked about what we as a people and what several administrations could have done to try to head that off before it became as toxic as it has become in our society. It’s a very good question.

HAASS: David, can I answer the question in a slightly different way?

I would have thought the historical lesson was not that we necessarily did too little, which we might have done in certain ways, but also we did too much. And to me, history’s judgment—and I don’t expect Steve to agree but—is that we did way too much in Iraq and we did way too much ultimately in Afghanistan. What we did in Afghanistan, a war of necessity, became a war of choice. I think the great historical parallel is to Korea; what began as a war of necessity became a war of choice when we tried to unite the entire peninsula by force; we went north to the 38th parallel. And I think Iraq—I disagree with Steve. I think Iraq was a misguided war of choice from the get-go, from the beginning. I do think we had other acceptable options that looked better than acceptable compared to the cost of what the war was. So I think history will be properly critical of what this did to American foreign policy. A lot of the isolationism we now see I believe is a direct result of what we chose to do. I think some of the populism we see in this country is because, quote-unquote, elites and the foreign policy establishment led us down this path. So I think the bigger historical lessons to me are more about overreach than they are about acts of omission.

MISCIK: David, can I also come in on this for a quick response? Razi’s, I think, raising a really important point, and one of the things that I was thinking about getting ready for this session was a question of, you know, what would I suggest had been done differently if we could go back in time and do it all again? And two of the things I think that we should not have done were enhanced interrogation techniques and the scandal at Abu Ghraib. I think those two things have hurt American foreign policy in the eyes of the rest of the world in ways that will be very difficult to overcome. When we talk to people now about China’s record on human rights, the first thing they’ll say back to us is, what about your relationship over Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia? And I think those issues—the enhanced interrogation techniques and Abu Ghraib—cost us a large portion of our standing in the world when it comes to values. And I think that’s had a direct impact on foreign policy.

HADLEY: I would—you’d be surprised; I agree with Jami. I would say it a little differently and without—and this is well-trod ground and you could, again, have lots of sessions on it, but the enhanced interrogation technique program was very limited, a hundred people or so, of whom only a couple dozen got applied enhanced interrogation techniques. The problem was those techniques migrated into our military forces people who were not trained to use them and, of course, it was on steroids, which was Abu Ghraib, which was not really interrogation techniques; it was simply abusing of other human beings. And it was an example, I think, of a military that had not for a long time had to deal with detaining and holding people picked up on the battlefield. It was not a core competence. It was not something we trained for. And I do think that when—I remember talking to Scooter Libby when those images of Abu Ghraib became public. You know, it was game over in terms of our standing in the Muslim world, and I think Jami’s absolutely right.

I think one caution I would put down: You know, we’re all foreign policy people. That’s the lens through which we view the world. And there are books now being written that says basically, you know, what was done after 9/11 gave rise to Trump. And I think that’s a much-too-narrow lens. It ignores a whole series of things in our domestic environment: the impact of the financial crisis; the collapse of industrial cities as jobs migrate overseas, whether it’s because of trade or globalization or automation; the opioid crisis. There were all kinds of things going on in our body politic domestically that sum up, so I think we have to—you know, we see things through the foreign policy filter; I think it’s much too narrow to describe what is a complex phenomenon and one that is going to be a lot harder to solve than just making some adjustments in our foreign policy.

SANGER: You know, what one might add to Steve’s list would be that the wars went on so long and we ended up with this group of veterans; we currently have millions of Americans who at some point circulated through the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq and came back wondering what that had been worth and seeing grievous injury. And you know, it is interesting that by the time we entered into the 2020 election, both candidates were arguing for immediate pullout. In fact, President Trump tweeted out, we’d all be out by Christmas, you know, of last year. You know, it was—

HADLEY: Remember, David, when people do the polls—you’ve had now three presidents over twelve years-plus that have been telling the American people that Afghanistan—and Richard would say rightly—(laughs)—have been telling the American people that Iraq and Afghanistan were, you know, the worse foreign policy blunders since, you know, you name it. The American people, I think—that has an impact. My sense is Americans actually are a little bit isolationist. They have a priority of things at home, and they are willing to take on burdens overseas only, really, when a president explains to them why it’s in their interests and why it matters to things they care about at home.

Just one last vignette: President Bush used to give speeches about the war on terror—Fran knows—over and over again. At one point I went to him and I said, Mr. President, let’s give a speech on something other than the war on terror; let’s have a speech about what you’re doing in Africa and HIV/AIDS and all of that. He says, OK, but make sure there’s a little tale in there on the war on terror. (Laughs.) So we get—after the speech he says, well, we need to explain a little bit more on the war on terror: Why are we there? What’s our strategy? At the end of the day, it was a speech on the war on terror with a tale on what we were doing in Africa, and I went to him and I said, Mr. President, why can’t we give a speech on something other than the war on terror, and he said, Hadley, you don’t get it, do you? I said, no, Mr. President, I clearly don’t. He said, when you have American troops engaged abroad in a conflict, you need to be explaining over and over again why it’s important, what is our strategy, and how we’re doing it. Our men and women in uniform need it; their families need it; our allies need it, and our enemies need it to know we’re committed. That’s what you need to do and sustain if you’re going to have some kind of major commitment overseas. And you know, we’ve had twelve years now where people have had a very different message to the American people.

SANGER: Yeah. Let’s get our next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question—Nancy Bekavac.

Q: Hello, I’m Nancy Bekavac, president emeritus, Scripps College here in D.C.

My question is: None of you have actually, I think, directly addressed the effect of President Trump’s ignoring the Afghan government in the talks and directly dealing with the Taliban and announcing a presumptive withdrawal date shortly after the next president, whether it was Trump or someone else, was inaugurated. That certainly is something that had enormous effect on conditions both in Afghanistan and here. You have dealt with it somewhat but I don’t believe you’ve given the former president his full due. Thank you.

SANGER: It’s an excellent question because, obviously, in that agreement President Trump set a specific date, May 1st of 2021, obviously a date that came after his presidency had ended, and did exclude the Afghans, and created a presumption that there would be an Afghan government discussion with the Taliban that never happened but we were leaving anyway, no matter what. Fran, do you want to start us off on that?

TOWNSEND: Look, I think Richard really addressed this, to me, best earlier. There was no reason not to keep the presence that we had there that enabled—I think we lose sight of the fact that this was not just about the twenty-five hundred U.S. troops. Right? It was about the hundreds of contractors. It was about all of our allies that were there with us. It was about the international support for the fledgling Afghan security force that clearly didn’t have the ability to be sustained without us. And I don’t think it mattered whether the decision was going to be made by President Trump or President Biden. If—I suppose, one, I clearly disagree with the decision, but if you were going to make that decision, I think there was a more responsible way to execute the decision—right?—to be sure that you had planned for this and done it in a way that allowed the military to be sure that we had the civilians who had worked with us out of there safely. There were a number of things that we could have done—right?—if this was the decision that wouldn’t have allowed the exit to happen in a way that didn’t result in what we saw.

HAASS: David, can I speak to the agreement itself?


HAASS: Thirty seconds.

I mean, to paraphrase Woodrow Wilson, I thought it was a disastrous agreement, disastrously arrived at, the fact that the Afghan government was cut out. We asked less of the Taliban than we asked of the provisional IRA in Northern Ireland. They never had to agree to give up their arms; they never had to agree to a cease-fire. They simply had to promise essentially not to get back with terrorists. There was a side agreement not to directly attack American forces. It wasn’t a peace agreement; it was an American withdrawal agreement. And we shouldn’t dignify it otherwise. And I think it deserves real criticism in the annals of American diplomacy.

SANGER: Well, Richard, when Secretary of State Blinken testified today, he said we inherited a deadline but not a plan. And then he went on to say there’s no evidence that staying longer would have made the Afghan security forces or the Afghan government any more resilient or self-sustaining. You clearly agree with the first. It sounds like you don’t agree with the second.

HAASS: I’m not saying at this point we could have made them self-sustaining. Look, sometimes in foreign policy you try to achieve things and you say, could we have brought about peace by staying? Answer: no. Could we have brought about a military victory by staying? Answer: no. Could we have averted a Taliban takeover and some of what we’ve now seen as associated with it at what I believe was a very modest course? I think the answer is yes. I can’t prove it but I think the answer to that question is yes. That to me is the way to think about it. If you make it two choices—staying at enormous cost or leaving at no cost—obviously the president’s going to check box B. But if you basically say—if you have a third option, staying at a modest force, and you amend the leaving option “at a significant cost,” suddenly it gets a lot more complicated. And so I think how you frame this, how you define success in foreign policy or public policy more broadly, turns out to be rather critical.

SANGER: We’re getting into our last minutes so I’m going to try to have one more question come in. But anybody else on the panel want to weigh in on that interesting point?

OK. Let’s take our last question.

OPERATOR: We’ll take our last question from John Jumper. Mr. Jumper, please accept the unmute now button.

HAASS: General Jumper.

Q: Yes. This is John Jumper, former chief of staff of the Air Force and former servant of Stephen Hadley—(laughs)—at some point during my career, as well as Richard by the way, so.

I’d like to narrow back down again a little bit, if you don’t mind, on the subject of corruption at higher levels, senior levels in the Afghan military and the Afghan political leadership. I think among a lot of us in uniform, we had the feeling at the end that the Afghan military was loyal to our presence and loyal to the relationships they had made with the U.S. military in particular; what they were not loyal to was their own leadership and their own government. And I think this gets actually, David, to a point you made earlier. I’d just like a brief comment on what—to what extent do you think that this creeping corruption, I’ll call it, played a part in our ability to keep things together at the end?


HADLEY: David, can I say a word about that?

SANGER: Go to Steve. OK.

HADLEY: Last time I was in Afghanistan, which was, I think, a couple years ago, I met with some senior U.S. officials and I asked them, will this Afghan security force that we’re training fight for the Afghan government? And the answer I got was, as long as Scotty Miller is here, who was the commander of our forces, they will fight and they will fight well. But if Scotty Miller leaves, that’s over.

And I think everybody says, well, we should have done something more about corruption. (Laughs.) It wasn’t that we weren’t aware there was a problem with corruption. The problem was the U.S. government has not figured out how to deal with corruption problem in these fragile states. You know, we don’t know how to do it. We also know that the big problem, in terms of these fragile states and the thing that really motivates terrorists, is breakdown in governance, governance that is irresponsible, rapacious, and oppresses the people. We don’t really know how to build that governance. And if you look at the history of our involvement in these states, there are two things that come to mind: one, if there is a safe haven nearby, as there was in the Vietnam case in terms of Laos and Cambodia, and there was in Afghanistan in terms of Pakistan, you are in trouble. You are in trouble and you probably cannot win.

And the second lesson is, if you don’t have a robust partner that is committed with you to fight corruption and provide good governance that will provide and gain a legitimacy among the people, you’re in trouble. We had that in spades in Colombia, on Plan Colombia that you all know about, in terms of Álvaro Uribe, who shared our view, who mobilized his society into—to go against the FARC and really defeated the FARC on the battlefield. Iraq is uncertain. We may have found that local partner now in the current government of Al-Rahmani (ph). David Ignatius has written about that. We never clearly had that partner in Afghanistan. And if you’re in one of these situations and you do not have a strong local partner committed to you with good governance that delivers for its people, and if there’s a safe haven next door, you’re in trouble. And the only thing you can do, I think, is the kind of presence that Richard Haass was talking about. It’s a coping problem. You’re not going to win.

SANGER: Thank you, Steve.

Any last thoughts on this from Fran, Jami, Richard?

We have hit that magic—obviously this is a conversation that could go on forever, and I think we’re going to invite General Jumper back for a comparative lesson on working for Steve and working for Richard—(laughter)—which is one that I hereby volunteer to go preside over. (Laughs.) But I want to thank you all. I want to thank each one of our panelists for covering, really, a remarkable range of both time period and deep thought about America’s role. And I want to thank our questioners and apologize to those to whom we did not get to these, and look forward to the moment when Richard welcomes us all back into the building.

So thank you all. Thank you all for participating, and this concludes the meeting.

HAASS: Thank you, David.


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