The Truth About the U.S. War in Afghanistan
from foreign policy. I'm Sarah Waldman and this is first person this week. The truth about the war in Afghanistan earlier this month. The Washington Post published a trove of official documents that suggests successive. US administrations misled the public about the war Afghanistan. There hasn't been a lot of progress since two thousand one after all girls are back in school in pursuit of our Corrigo. We we are seeing significant. Progress made tremendous progress. The papers were part of an internal review conducted by the US government. They included candid interviews news with both officials and generals who helped prosecute the war one of the first quotes at leaped out at me was from army. Lieutenant General Doug Lute he was the Afghan wars are in the White House for both Bush and Obama and he said we didn't have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking in Afghanistan. We didn't know what we were doing you. He said twenty four hundred lives lost where they lost in vain. The United States invaded Afghanistan in late. Two thousand one after the attacks of September eleventh understand the genesis if that war I spoke with Hussein Connie who served as Pakistan's ambassador to the United States from two thousand eight to twenty eleven our interviews first aired in February of this here. Okay so we're going to try and get the whole picture of Coniston. What do you think I can I can do it? In thirty seconds. Americans know nothing about Afghanistan. They've been trying to understand it and they haven't succeeded so it's time time for them to come home good less than thirty seconds really good all right so first of all. Thank you for coming in pleasure being Kim. I'm actually curious before we even start. Where did you grow up? Could argue bucket son Tommy and tiny bit about your childhood. Well I mean. I wasn't born to a very rich or prosperous family My family were immigrants from India Pakistan partition of the subcontinent. They were housed in these British military barracks which had been transformed into temporary housing for families a fresh veggies. Today's speaker partition growing up. Oh yeah everybody's book about partition partition. Was it a trauma carried or yeah I mean my father was somebody who never wanted partition and didn't want to move to Buxton. My mother was somebody who believed in Bahrain and Shen and wanted to move to Pakistan so therefore we had a lot of kitchen table Debate about whether the party should have been something. I think that has stayed with me. A- An intellectual level. Even to this day how right now people in Buxton don't want to think of what might have been if there had been no oh partition and people in India always sort of think about the people who created Pakistan. Are the ones responsible for partition from my own childhood childhood debates. I understand that there was a far more complex situation at that time and that they could have been ways in which it could have been avoided. I'm curious how that affects affects how you perceive the relationship between Pakistan Afghanistan on the Taliban and one of the things that's remarkable but the Taliban is that over the last eighteen years the the Taliban is hung on and if anything they've gone stronger. Where does the relationship begins between Pakistan and tally first of all one has to understand what the issue is is on the part of Pakistan that makes interested in Afghanistan Pakistan as people don't always understand is a new country There was no Pakistan in history. The the name Pakistan is an acronym that was contrived by students Muslim students from the subcontinent Cambridge University in the late thirties. So the very idea Pakistan is no more than eight years old and the country is no more than seventy seventy one years old that said because Pakistan choose to be a western ally in the Cold War it got got a lot of benefit from American and European support of Aniston on the other hand because it was a neighbor of the Soviet Union from inception. Older country just didn't get involved in the Cold War and then of course. American awareness of Ghanistan goes only as far back as the Soviet invasion of nineteen. Seventy nine for of guns and what is today. Pakistan comprises a large tract of territory. That was historic Stan. And that was sticking by the British and eighteen ninety-three resentment and more important than resentment is a feeling that The Durand Line the border between Pakistan Afghanistan today divided ethnicity that Bush dunes do I did tribes. Do I cleanse so pucks constantly have always had a relatively open the border The hundreds of points of crossing etcetera. That was taken advantage off by the United States and everybody else who supported them which I then against the Soviets at the Mujahideen were of guns who were essentially people who resented communistic of Ghanistan came to Buxton got recruited trained etc Pakistan. Had A different goal than America did and other countries did in the war against the Soviets everybody else was interested in Soviet. I leaving Afghanistan Bucks was interested in ensuring that whatever succeeded the Soviet occupation was so behold into Pakistan that they would never question the Durand Line and the 1893 loss of territory until Pakistan ended up supporting some of the most hardline fundamentalist groups because they were closer to Pakistan's military and intelligence services then the more secular or pro-soviet all for that matter Less religiously stringent groups. When the Soviets left civil war broke out of Ghanistan Pakistan supported? The hardliners has situation went out of control the US Raju from the region took no interest in the civil war Pakistan decided to support this group called the the Taliban which was basically those hidden who were not willing to listen to their leaders and so punks John was present at the creation of the Taliban. The Taliban have almost always had a very strong relationship with Pakistan security services who has ever supported the Taliban accept them and for on Pakistan's point of view who else has supported Pakistan's would we want Afganistan that have gone should actually consider Pakistan in religious terms as Islamic country rather than as the country that deprives traditional of of their historic homeland part of their historic dot com. Land that is where the differences comes to the Taliban have consistently been supported from Pakistan. The the reason why. The Taliban are strong is because President Bush's comment made a big mistake. The Bush administration defined their job in Afghanistan. Very Natalie. The thought that their job was just getting rid of either before you get to President Bush and we're talking about George W W motion take us. I in nine eleven. How did Pakistan view the attacks on nine eleven but first of all we must understand that? There's a difference between how Pakistan Gaston security services view something and how the people of Pakistan something The people of Pakistan have one hundred views but the specs in security services have only one objective suggest to try and be equal in part to India. That's the historic goal. So the way this nine eleven was that it disrupted their little plan. They had installed the Taliban in par of Ghanistan the Mujahideen groups at all fallen by the wayside. The Taliban were so beholden to Pakistan. That now there was no question that any tune in Afghanistan will ever question the border or even Pakistan's right to dictate to Afghanistan. That was disrupted by nine eleven because now the Americans got involved until another superpower as well not only that not only that it's Pakistan's ambitions have been taught it the the Pakistani ambition of having a Afghanistan that is beholden completely to Pakistan because I've gone assigned his landlocked Pakistan. Is the the only access to the sea. Box is bigger much stronger. Military much more connected with the rest of the world suboxone could dictate to Afghanistan. And now if America's GonNa to come and install a new regime in Afghanistan that regime will not be beholden to Pakistan has has been the case so therefore all the Taliban leaders evacuated and we found out many years later in two thousand eleven And been other than was founded buck Sunday draws on just the Taliban leaders even some other leaders ended up in Pakistan. Where were you on nine eleven? I was in Pakistan. I was ironically. I was about to leave his llamas for Karachi on a flight in which on both sides I had to former Pakistan intelligence chief sitting in coach class on a light throws Lama but to Karachi the flight got cancelled in the nine eleven news game and so I had to stay the night in Islamabad before going on to Karachi. What was the reaction like in the airport that day mode important than the reaction of the general public? I'll tell you what the to no intelligence chiefs and they thought that the Americans had been taught a lesson and so it was interesting Because I was of course one one of those who taught that no this is going to become a lesson for global terrorism America will retaliate and will react bucks. Any public. Opinion has often been very anti-american American. So half of Foxton population was probably anti-american but there are also a lot of people like myself who resented the Jihadi extremists and terrorists. In fact within a couple of days of nine eleven I wrote an op Ed that appeared in the New York Times and which I made this argument that Pakistan me now have to choose friendship with the United States or continued support of the jihadis unfortunately eighteen years. I have the feeling that they really never ever had. Because the Americans allowed them the opportunity to carry on support for the jihadis wiping America's allies. Let's go into that a little further because Pakistan nominally was US ally as a US enters into this conflict but at the same time they have their own interests in Afghanistan. John can you explain that difference so for one thing. Pakistan had a military dictatorship at the time General Pervez Musharraf was in charge and the American sort of the old habit of trying to find you. You know what FDR used to say about Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua that he's my he's sob but he's my sob. So all of a sudden Americans thought. Okay Sheriff who was by the way at that time. Pariah and the Americans had thought that he he had toppled the civilian elected democratic government. Be He had been responsible for the war with India just a few months before his takeover and see hypoxia. John was not conforming to American expectations in relation to its nuclear program so Pakistan within the sanctions before nine eleven and after nine eleven eleven which turns around and says okay. What you need what you need help you and the Americans if we found out SOB so we should have helped the US in finding several alka figures? A lot of people who ended up in Guantanamo were found by Pakistan's intelligence service but he never dealt a final blow to the Jihadi groups that Pakistan itself had created for influence in Afghanistan that just Afghan Taliban Taliban and then these various jihadi groups that were waging war in a indian-controlled parts of Kashmir and even in India so soon after nine eleven when there was an attack on India's parliament which caused a lot of friction between India and Pakistan and the US decided to tilt in favor of Pakistan to try and tell India not to react act and the Americans would somehow bring stability. The Pakistani game continued well until two thousand and six before the US reacted between Immediately after nine eleven and two thousand six the American policy seemed to be to say the Taliban are not enemy enemy. Al Qaeda and Pakistan is helping us with al Qaeda but by two thousand six al Qaeda number twos threes They won't any left oft for Buxton tourist and handle to the Americans and lots of intelligent started coming of how the Taliban had regrouped in Pakistan and had had now started attacking American troops in honest son so Pakistan was now seen as both being American ally helping America in certain ways but also helping America's enemies the Taliban attack Americans in Afghanistan. How is that support provided to the Taliban don well the Taliban were equipped trained and host in Pakistan? And I think there's plenty of evidence of that I mean right now. The president off the United States is kind of set his goals as drawing from Afghanistan. So he doesn't want to be attention to any of that but if you remember he himself pointed out out that All evidence was that the Taliban would not have been the first became if they did not have a safe haven across the border in Pakistan. Go ahead to two thousand eight e become the ambassador to Washington and at that point what were the most challenging aspects of your job. What was the tension between Pakistan and the US so let me back up a little in two thousand and two? I came to the United States and I came here to Krista the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and then to be a professor of international relations in Boston University and the reason was that I had been a fervent critic off gentleman sheriff and his dictatorship so it became difficult for me to stay in Pakistan. John and I came into a life exactly Musharraf as you know had massive public uprising against him in two thousand seven hundred thousand. Nate new elections were held the civilian government that was elected asked me to become ambassador. Were already based here. I was already in the United States. I literally moved from Boston to Washington. DC to become ambassador rather than moving from Islamabad to Washington at that shifts. Your Life. I mean had you liked being civilian and just teaching young. Actually with hindsight site probably would be better off remaining a civilian because I found myself in the vortex of a lot of controversies after became investor. Of course those who criticise me would argue that you know the fact that I had lived in exile for a few years and made me predisposed to seeing things from an American I who wear as I saw it as being being a little bit more objective I understood what the weaknesses in the Pakistani position. If we were going to build a democracy in Pakistan Pakistan could not be a democracy see and be home to Jihadi terrorist both at the same time. How did they entice you back? Then I mean it seems like you'd have a nice live in Boston but The civilian civilian leadership. I was very close to them in the Bhutto as our our leader and she used to meet regularly. I met regularly. We talked about it so we were the way I saw it. We had an opportunity with Musharraf. Gone the military being prepared to seat bar to the civilians. We could actually build a viable modern democracy in Pakistan and then Benazir Bhutto had been killed as you know and when she was skilled husband husband who became president had kind of an emotional advantage in asking me. You know what I know that you're going to give up a comfortable life as is a professor in the US but this is some very you would be effective and useful environment to become ambassador. And then on the American side. They were a lot of people who said to me. Hey you it would be a good interlocutor to have a life for you. Input killed though. I mean we learn French was extremely traumatic and I felt immense sense of responsibility not Because she had young Children Home v knew very well ask family and because she didn't also have to go back. Doc I mean she could have said. I've been prime minister twice. I'm going to live comfortably abroad. She also went from a sense of duty. Where were you when she was killed built in Boston? And how did you hear about it. Somebody called me actually. I was sleeping early in the morning. Eastern time the phone rang. I answered the phone. Oh my wife had gone to bacchus the Sun She ran for parliament and became a member of parliament. So somebody called me and said done on CNN and done on CNN and the news was so I called my wife who was crying and willink she was at the hospital. been had been brought after that fateful attack one up and so that was partly dri back in that drew me back in and secondly look if it wanted to do something important and something historic then you have to give up some comfort and then in twenty eleven year involved in something that came to be called memo gate. Memo Gate was a label that was invented in Pakistan for something that will not a total fabrication After the whole bin Laden raid a a lot of questions raised about Paxton's conduct as to why Pakistan had bin Laden and the Pakistani military and intelligence services that didn't like my guts anyway because I had already written a book that was published a few years earlier titled Pakistan Between Mosque and military in which I had pointed out that the reason why Pakistan has religious extremists because is the military actually cultivates them for regional political influence so the militant and the intelligence services didn't like me but after the bin Laden raid taught our. We need a scapegoat. We need somebody to blame for why the Americans were able to find bin Laden without us being able to find find him. I didn't want to answer the question. Why was Bin Laden there in the first place there? People doubt that Pakistan didn't know absolutely. I'm one of them so they decided they needed a distraction and in this environment apex American businessmen who lived in Monaco. If I'm not mistaken came up with this allegation that I had asked him to deliver a memo on behalf of the civilian government to Admiral Mullen. Who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and add had the MEMEL promised certain concessions to the US if the US helped the Pakistani civilians got the military down to site now the catch all of this is that while there's nothing wrong with the civilian government asserting authority over the military suggesting that a foreign country's military put pressure on the military of your own country. Cut them down to size was rock. I had nothing to with that. Memo the editor of Pakistan's as was quoted in the Guardian is calling it a slow moving coop. Yes exactly so. It was essentially an attempt to weaken can the civilian government by accusing it of seeking American military support against Pakistan's military nine bucks in the military is respected and admired. It's ruled the country for more than half its life. If and even those who don't admire it gone bad mouth even though it's a very politicized institution so it was an attempt to cut civilians downsize. This and eventually I went back to try and answer. The questions of Cassandra went to Pakistan to do that. I was told not to leave the country so I was stuck there for about three months but eventually they had to let me go because they hadn't charged with anything they have no criminal proceedings that participate in. So how long Jonquet just sit there waiting for. Where were you during so during that time I was protected by the civilian leadership of the country? I I was in the president's residents and when he became ill and had to travel abroad. The prime minister kept me in the Prime Minister's House. I was virtually ended attention in the sense that I couldn't leave. Ah premises but I was physically protected against the military to unique situation and the civilian government supported me in my position and my right to actually have all the legal protections that I was entitled to and the military and the intelligence services joining with the hardest line elements of Pakistan's media saying some treason has has been committed. This man you know. Let's just hang him and have a try litter but to actually. I was allowed to leave the country and I haven't done. Since but in January there was an arrest warrant issued Free Cassini coats issue what are known as political arrest warrants pretty frequently and the international community has now figured that out so these are centered around and they tried to get entry turnball turns them down and foreign countries. Turn them down routinely because it's now become such a sad practice it was done against Benazir Bhutto been done against which really every Pakistani political figure of any consequence. Do you live in fear I don't think so I am not easily terrified. So that's one part. The other part is that When has to say what one has to say? I mean what what's going to happen open I don't think that any international court is ever going to on a any of these allegations. These are primarily designed. Do keep the box tiny population from taking some of my writings. And my criticisms cicely lost your country as a result earliest temporarily emperor. Yeah but I'm not the only one I think the people who live there also lost family in Pakistan. I have extended family. That your wife is here. Oh now my wife and children. I want to circle US backed Afghanistan president. Trump's made it clear he wants out of Afghanistan sent will what's the endgame well. I don't think president trump has an endgame. I think he wants out and he wants out and There are people who measure military intervention mentioned by years. And those who do that say. Hey you've been there seventeen years time to come out. My point is that military intervention should always be measured against goose. Bruce what did you go for and to accomplish it or not and if you did not why not. It shouldn't be measured in time in terms of what you ended there. Therefore you went there. Because the United States was attacked on nine eleven of Coniston had become a safe haven for al Qaeda and other Islamist extremists. Jihadi the groups the idea after that was to try and make sure that of Ghanistan image it environment doesn't become a safe haven for global terrorism. They're the US went wrong. Was the Bush administration's mistake of completely trust in General Musharraf in ensuring that the Aja the groups are eliminated on the puck sunny site. So while of Vannes Stan was rebuilding. You ended up having the Taliban reorganized and become a nuisance and sort of CONISTON. Then President Obama made a huge mistake off the so-called surgeon of Ghanistan to fight the Taliban but at the same time announced the data for the vitriol as what that did was it hit the Taliban and Pakistan's supported them game. How Long America will be there the Taliban had a maxim that Milomar who was the founder of the Taliban used to say that the Americans Have Watches v half the time and basically when President Obama announced that there will be a scheduled withdrawal tied to the surge all all they did was told the Taliban to sit in their sort of funeral safe havens envied for the American withdrawal when that withdrawal didn't come the Taliban undecided to increase the heat which has now deserted and president trump. I sing who will stay as long as we need to. But now saying we are in a hurry to withdraw so in every way you look at it basically the US has not really put up the fight that should have been put up to succeed has US lost. I don't think the US has lost. I think the US has allowed the others to be able to proclaim victory by not putting up a fight Nothing has ever been done to deal with the constant back and forth of Taliban and their supplies applies from the Pakistani side of Weinstein's own government has been allowed to go in every which direction the US spent too much money on Afghanistan. We twelve necessary. I'll give you an example When I was invested I learned that there were several studies that were taking taking place here about these standards at which of public schools and I said to somebody in the the US gunman how many do these studies cost? And there's a couple of hundred thousand dollars for somebody doing a study and I said what are these studies about. You're trying trying to figure out whether schools in Ghana Stan should be more like New Jersey. Schools are Maryland schools. Something why don't you understand. You know Ghanistan. Based on before the Soviets game a decent school was a roof. A blackboard some chock a teacher and some books. Why can't we do that so when people here complain that Oh God the US visted and spent too much money in done around to them and say you didn't didn't have to you did that because that's where you make your decisions? It's not the port of this for. You could have done it all at much less cost. And so what has happened now is that. Nobody's thinking about the ordinal reason for going into Afghanistan. What if he come out? The government in Afghanistan is unable to fight the Taliban the Taliban regained control of most. If not all of his son and end the various global jihadi terrorist groups three congregate not because of any other reason but because it logically they and the the Taliban have much more in common and will be welcomed much more easily than they would be in a country where the government really runs and extremists. He misses from another country are really not allowed to set up right now. The US has created a framework agreement with the Taliban but Afghan government has said. It won't participate participate. But I what is the framework agreement. The framework agreement is essentially That the US would draw injured done for a week. Taleban Bon promise that they will not support international jihadi terrorist groups but the Taliban themselves that an international terrorist group. They've attacked Americans have attacked attack. The American embassy more than once attacked Germans French British Canadians. Australians I can't understand how dare I promise that they will not allow or Isis to come back into Havana. Stan and be considered worth the paper. It's written aunts. I really really don't see. There's a framework agreement. All I see is a promise for those who just really want out so that they can use it as a fig-leaf Gli forgetting out. What is the legacy of the? US's seventeen eighteen years in Afghanistan. Oh there's a lot of positive legacy I mean a lot more would've gone. Young women are going to school. The Taliban didn't allow that the Taliban played football with human heads. If you remember. The Taliban were one of the most atrocious atrocious regimes in human history and all of that is gone and now the Taliban are themselves saying all of that was wrong so that is definitely a positive. The legacy that Americans can be proud of a government has been created in Afghanistan that with all its weaknesses and flaws and by the government doesn't have flaws at the same time there was always a concern that the US cannot afford to antagonize Buxton. Buxton is a nuclear armed country. Buxton has been an American ally for several several decades. It would complicate the situation if Pakistan was put under too much pressure so in a way basically the failure of the US in relation relation to Afghanistan has not been failure of its actions in Afghanistan but off its inaction in relation to a Taliban based in Pakistan Kazakhstan. I'm curious if there's anything else that you went off our listeners that I haven't asked you will. I would just say that your listeners need to think about what is common cullman. Between Vietnam Iraq Afghanistan countries America went in guns blazing and kind of came out route without a visible success. And I would say that. The real reason is a failure to understand the regional dynamics except politics and an inadequate understanding of the culture of the politics of the country. You're going when you intervene in another country entry You should know who Elisa You should have a minimalist agenda of what you're going to change to not going to change and you should have a time line in your own mind. In each of these cases those requirements were not fulfilled People that you supported like Hamid Karzai ended up running on you in being critical of you and yet you don't feel that you have somebody in Afghanistan and that you can trust as your ally so those are the errors that I think are the big lesson of Afghanistan and even now I would say that instead of announcing scheduled withdrawal America should be clear of what it wants in Afghanistan. Not when it wants it enough Afganistan thank you Mr Hussein. Connie is a former Pakistani ambassador to the United Nited States. We should mention. He was one of foreign policy. Top Global Thinkers back in twenty thirteen first person is produced by Daffron and edited by Rob. Sachs I'm Welton Welton and I'm your host.