Afghanistan, United States, Taliban discussed on Morning Edition

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

I'm Steve Inskeep. And I'm Rachel Martin. When Zalmay Khalilzad was named ambassador to Afghanistan back in two thousand three in that country was a much different place. The US had just invaded in two thousand one in an effort to root out Al Qaeda terrorists by overthrowing the Taliban Afghanistan's economy. Well, there wasn't really an economy at all. There was little infrastructure. Few reliable institutions Halil mission at the time was to rebuild the country. Now Afghans are on average better off economically socially than they were dead. But in terms of security, the situation is more difficult. Taliban stronger, and therefore the mission now for me is to facilitate on behalf of the United States. Peace settlement reconciliation agreement between the government, and the Taliban that can be a challenge house on has a new role. He's been appointed US special advisor to Afghanistan. Some fifteen thousand US troops are still there. And the US has started talking directly with the Taliban for the first time. I asked a little sod if the US should have engaged more directly with the Taliban a long time ago. He spoke to us from his hotel in New York. Well, there are complications on both sides. We had some preconditions at that time. In terms of engaging the Taliban that they should accept the Afghan constitution, they should renounce violence that they should break ties with terrorist groups that would threaten the United States and others. Those preconditions have become more in conditions that at the end of the talk we would like them to commit themselves in a way that we can be certain, but doesn't excuse me for interrupting does that not a diminish the leverage that you have over the Taliban. Well, no, we believe that what we are saying signals seriousness in terms of wanting negotiated settlement. And I think they also perhaps recognized the militarily. They cannot prevail. That they cannot gain legitimacy by violence. They need to make the decisions that must be made for a negotiated settlement to work. And that means they left to sit with the other Afghans about a roadmap political roadmap for the future of the country and also have to deal with legitimate US and international concerns that Afghanistan does not become a base for terrorists again that will the United States. But let me ask you you outline what the Taliban needs to do in order to secure a long-term peace deal. But these are the same conditions that were laid out and have been laid out for a decade. What makes you believe that they are at a position now that they would be ready to accept them. As I said before radio we had those as preconditions at the beginning. But now we are talking with them without those insisting on those preconditions. So that's that's significant. But America's vital critical important interests is the terrorism issue. Yes, we have our values. Everyone knows what we stand for. And we want to see a fellow man worthy of the seventeen years of blood and treasure the US and others sacrificed. Yes. But a lot of those issues are really afghan- Afghanistan. So if that means that the priority is to quell the threat of terrorism. Does that mean that the US you could see a future in which the US removes all of its troops? Because the terrorism threat has been quelled, even if the civil war between the Taliban and the Afghan government persists. Well as President Trump. American presence militarily in Afghanistan is conditioned base. Having troops in Afghanistan is not an end in itself for the United States. But not having a terrorist threat is the end if you like the most important objective, but how can you ever be sure that the terrorism threat is over? Can you ever imagine US troops being completely gone? From Afghanistan is the responsibility of the Taliban and other Afghans. To bring about conditions that do not necessitate the US military presence. You know, Pakistan is going to be crucial though to any long-term sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Do you trust the Pakistani government at this point? And do they trust you? Well, I mean, it's not about trust. I mean, we we're talking about international politics. I used to work for Ronald Reagan. Trust is good. But we have to verify that would apply to a lot of states that a no. But Pakistan says now that it wants a new page that it wants to help the US with this objective outlined, and we will have to see President Trump talks very little about Afghanistan. Peter singer at the new America foundation did a count, and according to his tally President Trump has tweeted six times more about the NFL anthem controversy. Then he has about Afghanistan, which is remarkable considering there are still thousands of US troops in the line of fire there. And if the president says anything at all it's that he wants US troops to get out. Do you think there is a risk that this administration because of its appetite to end this war could leave too early? Well, i'm. A positive about what the president sat with regard to condition based presidents. I know that the president pays a lot of attention to Afghanistan. I know that every time there is a report of a U. S casualty is very attentive to dad and moved by it. So I'm comfortable on that. The president is outlined. The policy will be helpful just briefly have you gotten a chance to be in a room and talk directly with President Trump. Well, of course, I know the president I introduce them when he gave his major foreign policy address your new post special on minute was not yet. But I'm told. Ambassador Zalmay hallows out the US special envoy to Afghanistan ambassador. Thank you so much for taking the time. Well, thank you. Rachel is good to be with you. This is NPR news. And this is WNYC. 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