Listen: United States, Taliban, Afghanistan discussed on Morning Edition
"A chance of rain today. Showers possibly, and maybe even a thunderstorm later on in the morning highs today will be in the fifties and expect a breezy after ten. This is morning edition from NPR news. I'm David green. And I'm Noel king. Good morning. President Trump announced on Twitter yesterday that Defense Secretary. Jim Mattis will be out as of January first it's two months earlier than originally planned deputy secretary of defense Patrick Shanahan will take over. He'll lead the Pentagon as acting secretary earlier this year Shanahan talked to our co host Steve Inskeep. And in that conversation, he pointed to China as a challenge to the US, we think of China as we see their growth in the military, there theft of intellectual property. We see all of those things as as disruptive and threatening to the to the American way, but Shanahan will also have to focus. Elsewhere. The White House says it will withdraw all troops from Syria and several thousand from Afghanistan Vikram Singh is with me. Now, he served in the State Department is the deputy special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from two thousand nine to two thousand and eleven good morning mister saying good morning Noel, how are you? Good. Thanks. So Patrick Shanahan is a former Boeing executive he joined the Pentagon in two thousand seventeen what do you make of his promotion? Well, I think in the wake of what would be the most chaotic departure of a secretary of defense in in recent years in in memory, really, Mr. Shanahan's appointment will probably calm some nerves. He's been serving as deputy secretary for over a year. Now when deputy secretaries really the chief operating officer of the Pentagon gets to know all the ins and outs. So I think that people will feel that Mr. Shanahan who has a good reputation as a thoughtful guy is sort of a steadying hand at a really uncertain times. That's interesting. Does it matter at all? Do you think that he hasn't served in the military given that the Pentagon is making these big shifts to two priorities in Afghanistan and Syria. I don't think actually I don't think it matters at all having a former soldier as the secretary of defense is an exception rather than rather than a rule. We we have civilian control of the military in the United States for good reason. So I think I think that's just fine. I think they'll be questions about him having been a a Boeing executive for one thing. I would say in that clip, he talked about China and intellectual property theft. He'll know a lot about that firsthand is Boeing has had plenty of aircraft designs and other things stolen by the Chinese over the years. Let me ask you about Afghanistan and the president's decision to draw down thousands of troops there. What have US troops been doing Afghanistan? And what do you think about this decision is now the time? Well, I mean, I think it's time to think about how to end the war in Afghanistan and part of that should be an objective of having the United States not have to have troops there anymore. So in that sense. I think I think thinking about Trump's leaving is good. I think how it's happened is a little bit worrying. And I'm hearing now that it's a sort of planning target rather than a firm decision. The troops have mainly been training advising assisting Afghan forces in holding off the Taliban security situation has been bad. But it's been bad for years. And that's the Taliban have been able to mount attacks sort of all over the country, but they have not been able to take and hold any urban centers any any sort of major cities in the country. You know, one irony, of course, is that this kind of a stalemate is exactly what you need for there to be a chance that negotiations, and that is something that's also been happening. So it's a very complicated. Picture right now. Let's talk about the negotiations at US. Diplomats have been working to revive peace talks with the Taliban hours before the announcement of this US troop withdrawal, the most senior American diplomat involved in these negotiations. I'll make Khalilzad made it clear to the Taliban. That the American commitment is firm. What does this mean for his efforts? Does this throw a wrench in the works at all or can he just keep proceeding? Well, I mean, the fact is if it's uncoordinated, and they don't and they're not really they don't have a policy that's that sort of focused than it could it could potentially undermine him. But actually think he has a lot of room from a new ver the talks that he just held inaugu Dhabi included, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. With really only three countries to recognize the pre-taliban pre-nine eleven Taliban government that is really significant. I mean, it it suggests that we have the most significant moves on a peace process that we've seen in at least a decade, and I think the core of the Taliban, of course, is the removal of foreign forces and the core demand of the United States is that there'd be no terrorist safe haven there. So we're moving seven thousand forces, you know. Chill the Taliban that the United States serious about essentially leaving. It doesn't completely undermine his ability to say, but we're still around in large numbers. Let's not forget just fifteen hundred troops have been making a major difference in Syria. And so there's still there's still a lot of rule there. But it's really important for this to be coordinated. This is this is a big push for peace. It's something that has been pretty under the radar, and it should get more attention. And I hope the administration will focus on tying its military and its diplomatic efforts closely together a last question for you how well trained and resource and managed our Afghan forces at this point will they do. Okay without US troops, Afghan forces will not do. Okay. Without US support. They need logistic support. They need they need intelligence and surveillance support. And so there has to be if the war is to continue the Afghan forces would really do badly without the United States. And the civil war that could ensue would be far bloodier than anything that we've seen if there's sort of an abrupt departure and no diplomatic solution fixing served in the State Department as deputy special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan is now a senior fellow for national security at the center for American progress. Thank you, sir. Thank you. Ten years ago this country was reeling from the worst financial crisis in decades. And in the middle of it all came shocking news, Bernie Madoff a pillar of Wall Street was arrested for orchestrating a multibillion dollar Ponzi scheme didn't use spread fast and quickly agenda panic amongst investors who gathered at the offices of their alleged swindler, hundreds of people were told the money they'd invested with made us firm was probably gone. They included rich and famous people. But also, those of more modest means now, many of those investors have recovered most of the money they lost. But as NPR's Jim zarroli reports, they're still living with the consequences of made offs fraud to his investors, Bernie Madoff was a Wall Street genius. A man who racked up big returns year after year? No matter how the economy was doing but made off lived with a terrible secret. And in two thousand eight with the economy crashing he was forced to admit that his investments were fiction in tapes published by New York magazine later made off. Talked about breaking the news to his family. I just. As news of made offs Ponzi scheme broke, thousands of investors, including many charities learned. They didn't have the money. They thought they had they included Steve Heim off a writer and critic whose retirement fund was wiped out. I had an Email from a cousin of mine, and I read through the body on for Email. She explained that it was all done every penny before then Heim off had never heard of made off. But an investment fund used by him and his family had been feeding money to mate offs firm now that money had vanished. And at age sixty two Heim off was forced to refinance his condo and severely cut back on spending. I just stopped going to restaurants. I stopped buying clothing. I stopped going on vacations. I stopped going to movies. The toll has losses would take on Heim off was considerable with came very close to suicide. For at least a year, it's been very emotionally exhausting. There's an element of post traumatic stress syndrome in the years since then made off who's now eighty pleaded guilty and was sent to federal prison. So we're six of the people who worked at the firm, including medoff's, brother. Peter one of made off sons hung himself in his New York apartment. Meanwhile, the court appointed a trustee to try to recover what he could from the wreckage of made offs finances that trustee Irving Picard he spoke to NPR's weekend addition on Sunday about how he worked a lot of hard work. Some good lawyers working with us and forensic accountants and investigators and we developed the case from the ground up. The fund has so far recovered about thirteen billion dollars partly by selling off made offs houses. Aunties fifty five foot. Yacht named bull. The money will go. Automate off victims, surprisingly, many of them will get back most of the funds they invested with made off, but they're only receiving money. They actually put into the fund those great returns, they thought they were getting the money in those monthly statements made off sent out virtually all of that is gone, Michael vita estimates. He'll get back about sixty percent of what he put intimate offs fund. I retired in August of two thousand eighteen eight years later that I expected on less than a third of what I expected to retire on nor will investors get back much of the taxes. They paid over the years on those returns davita has become something of an investor advocate since then and teaches a college course on made off. He says a lot of people weren't very sympathetic to made off victims. There was a lot of. Feelings back at that time that people who were invested with Nate off quote goch with eight deserved that the returns were too good to be true. And therefore you took advantage of the system. And you know what? Ha ha, we Gotcha. But the vita says a lot of made off victims weren't sophisticated or rich. They were just average people like himself people who naively trusted made off with their retirement money and have paid a terrible price. Jim zarroli, NPR news, New York. This."