tv Dateline London BBC News August 29, 2021 2:30am-3:01am BST
the ministry of defence says the last british plane carrying armed forces personnel and diplomats has taken off from kabul airport, ending britain's 20 year military involvement in afghanistan. 400 and fifty—seven british service personnel lost their lives during the conflict. - -457 president biden has warned that another attack on kabul airport is "highly likely" this weekend. as many as 170 people including 13 us service personnel were killed in the islamic state attack on thursday. two is members died in a retaliatory drone strike by the us. the president has also said that hurricane ida which is heading towards the gulf coast of the united states is turning into a "very dangerous storm". winds of around 130 miles per hour are expected when it reaches land in lousiana on sunday. the mayor of baton rouge urged residents to protect themselves. now on bbc news — dateline london.
hello and welcome to dateline london. i'm martine croxall. this week, we discuss the unfolding tragedy in afghanistan and we ask do extinction rebellion�*s two weeks of disruptive demonstrations here in london help or hinder the response to the climate crisis? our guests, the french journalist and commentator marc roche, the north american broadcaster and writer jeffrey kofman and with me in the studio, still suitably distance, is the bbc�*s chief environment correspondentjustin rowlatt. now, justin covered afghanistan for almost four years of course as the bbc�*s south asia correspondent. he was in a mortar attack by the taliban, so he is well placed to talk to us
about the events of this week. welcome to all of you. and so let's start with that then, shall we? on thursday, a suicide bomb attack at kabul airport targeted people desperate to flee the country after the taliban takeover. 90 people were killed, mostly afghan civilians, and 13 us military personnel. a local branch of islamic state called is—k or isis k said they carried out that attack. throughout the week, about 100,000 people were evacuated but thousands more have been left behind. there is a huge refugee crisis in the making and a possible humanitarian disaster in afghanistan as money runs out and food disappears. it couldn't be much worse, or could it? justin, let's start with you. you know afghanistan well. you used to be in contact regular with the taliban. they are a highly organised group of people but to what extent was it inevitable that afghanistan would fall to them and fall so quickly?
well, when i was covering afghanistan, the government held most of the urban centres and the taliban held most of the countryside. so if you just looked at the area of the country controlled by the taliban, it controlled more than the government. and this was in the period when the allies were there in force, so this was up until i left in 2018. so, you know, the taliban have been a significant presence on the ground in afghanistan, you know, for the last two decades, during the whole period of the occupation. so in that sense they were very significant force, controlled a large area and were in a position, if you imagine, you know, logistically in a position to shut off key roads and therefore exercise, be in a position to challenge the authority of the afghan government in the cities. i think when the allied troops announced their withdrawal, it broke confidence in the afghan army in a way that probably hadn't been predicted. but i think the calculus that the taliban would ultimately take control of most areas, probably not kabul, i think people thought
was pretty obvious to most people who knew afghanistan well. jeffrey, did it have to be this messy though? i mean, the biden administration is not looking great as you can... the international community has been very critical. the allies in afghanistan have said, look, we needed more time but he was not to be dissuaded. i think the first question, martine, is did it have to be at all? you know, the idea that biden had the notion that america has to get out, 20 years long war, time to leave. you know, there hadn't been an american killed in afghanistan in i think about 18 months until yesterday. there was a relative amount of stability but there was certainly an element of violence and chaos as well. i think, you know, if you look at korea, the us has been in korea for 69 years. the us has been in western europe for much longer.
so it is incorrect to say, i think, biden will be challenged fairly in his assumption and his declaration that the us had to get out. in the question did it have to be this messy? probably a bit of yes and a bit of no. i mean, the idea that anyone could leave afghanistan, if you are going to leave, and have a clean exit is naive. it was simply not going to happen. and i think that on the inside of the us government they knew that the afghan army was feeble at best. they didn't obviously see that it was going to just simply put down its weapons and run, which happened with astonishing speed. so some serious miscalculations. i think in biden's defence there was no good time to do this and it is true. he could have muddled on, he could have just let this continue. but i think he also calculated
that america's appetite for supporting this mission had diminished. so something had to be done. he is in the first year of his term, it was a political risk but he is still a long way from election midterms, he will take a lot of heat for this. we don't know how this will play out but he clearly calculated that if there was a time to do it it should be early in his term. mark, we saw this extraordinary meeting of the g7. what other choice did the members of the g7, besides the united states, have but to get out as well when it was clear that joe biden was not going to change his mind? well, for the europeans it is a disaster becausel america will recover. they recovered after vietnam, they won the cold war. - but europe has shown itself because it has no defence l policy, it is completely dependent on the us l whimsical decision.
and the allies were not even told about it in order to - arrange their own evacuation. it is a terrible crisis - in transatlantic relations. not on the european union of course, britain too. - now europe is facing i its own backyard crisis without american help, which is sahel, libya, l syria and at a time _ when the europeans are quite weakened by two big issues. one is the presidential- election in france next year and a new chancellor in germany in the autumn _ and without franco—german cooperation it is _ completely paralysed. so the only way we could see a little hope is of course -
that britain and france, which are the only two i military powers in europe, - the nuclear— power permanent seat on the european council, i come together to try to occupy the bit of the vacuum left by the americans. - but for that you will need i a new british prime minister because borisjohnson's credit with the european union - is zero. zero points. jeffrey, at some point the taliban are going to insist that they are not just a de facto government, they are the legitimate government. how ready do you think the international community, not least the white house, would be to recognise them? two points here, one is let's understand this attack was not the taliban, it was isis k, as you noted. this fringe group of isis in afghanistan who has declared its enemy notjust the americans but also the taliban because,
believe it or not, they don't think the taliban is extreme enough. so, you know, ithink it is important to understand that while the taliban may be de facto taking over afghanistan, that doesn't mean they control that huge country from border to border. and they have by no means established authority. they may ultimately or in the short—term control kabul and the levers of power. in terms of where this goes, i think we just have to see. obviously, this horrific tale is changing day to day. i think that what is really going to determine it is is the taliban the same group that it was 20 years ago? are they the hardline extremists who imposed just obscenely medieval punishments on people and forced women out of schools and into burqas? is that going to be reinstated or have they learnt? they need foreign money, they need foreign support and they want foreign recognition.
are they, one, able to moderate themselves enough to send out signals that they are worthy of that? and, two, are they able to hold their own supporters so that they can actually show they can deliver on that? and i suppose a third point is, can they hold the country together because with isis k now raining chaos on the country and murdering, you said 90 but i think the number is now up to 170 people dead in the attack on thursday, with that kind of threat looming further, can they actually control the country? justin, you were nodding there with some of the points that jeffrey was making. to what extent have the taliban changed in the last 20 years? they have obviously come into power, if we can call it that, saying that they will make sure that girls can be educated. it doesn't seem that that is sticking even now in some parts of the country. we haven't even begun talking about other groups
who feel vulnerable, like the lgbtq+ community in afghanistan. 0r indeed the shia muslims. yeah, there was that extraordinary press conference where they presented this sort of taliban 2.0 kind of new taliban face and there is a real question about whether that is true. look, you know, they are a very serious political force. they have been waging a war against the allies for the last 20 years and as part of that they have certainly got a vision for how they want to rule the country and they will have taken on board the fact that afghanistan has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. you know, it is a very young country, the average age is very low. many afghans would have grown up without any knowledge of taliban rule. and they will be used to access to the internet and things like that. they understand how the world works, they have seen how other countries operate. and the taliban know that they have to work with people who understand
those sort of things. so i think it is plausible that they do have a vision for a kind of more liberal regime. whether, you know, whether they actually have the authority across the country. you have got to remember, afghanistan is a tribal nation and the remit, you know, the sources of power are quite localised. and so local tribal elders and chiefs will affiliate with the taliban. so it isn't a centralised authority, so they need to work with all these different power centres. whether they can keep a lid on all of that is a completely open question i think at this stage. particularly when, as we have seen, is—k were quite capable of carrying out that attack also, they have said, at the airport. isis k is only, there is reckoned only to be about 3000 fighters in is—k and it is quite localised, the support of isis within afghanistan. and, as you say, they have fought, the taliban have fought a war with isis. they have been fighting
isis since isis first emerged in afghanistan. they are formally enemies, as we said. marc, we know that these flights to get people out are coming to an end. borisjohnson, for his part, has said he will do everything he can to keep trying to get people out of the country but we know that there have been queues of people trying to get across the land borders into pakistan. how does the international community then help people to get to safety if these flights have stopped? and bearing in mind of course greece was telling the eu not to take too many afghans in. well, it is a huge problem because, as we have seen in syria, europe didn't- get its act together to share all the refugees and the asylum seekers and at the moment - with the pandemic still| going on there is really still anti—immigration feeling all over europe and - including in britain.
so it is very important i think this time to - get our act together. it is to have a conference to share the burden- of the refugees among all the countries that l are ready to take them. i think we have a duty to help the afghans . who helped us in this war. and we can't let them down. now, there is another way of pressurising the taliban to let people go, it is money, money, money of course. - the country is bankrupt, . the taliban will have to run a country no longer military where they could rely - on opium and on taxes, . illegal taxes on transport, that sort of thing. they need really the moneyl and the money is completely
blocked in washington either by the imf or the american l administration or in europe. so there i think there is the real leverage l of the west to force i the taliban to be more inclusive in their governmentj and to respect human rights, hopefully. jeffrey, what is the appetite amongst the american public for taking in afghans who helped them and the allies? we know thatjoe biden has said they are going to have to be screened, they are going to have to be vetted. they won't necessarily, these refugees, be allowed straight into the us if that's where they want to end up. i think it is a pretty spotty record in the past in these kind of circumstances. in principle, support for people, particularly interpreters, and let's be clear, interpreters don'tjust interpret into english, they help people understand cultural, culture. they help people find contacts. i mean, i have worked with these kind of people as a journalist, as a war correspondent. your lives very much depend
on these people and you become incredibly loyal to them, as they are to you. and so the people who are connected to them will work and are working very hard to bring those people in and the people who have supported the us administration and the us efforts there. it is not going to be easy and it is particularly difficult now because the airport is erratic at best, if it is open at all. you know, i think this is not whatjoe biden had in mind when he said we're going to leave quickly. he thought it was going to be, i think in retrospect it seems incredibly naive on his part. he has really undermined his own authority as a stable force, a stable leader, which was let's face it what brought him to power in the first place against donald trump. he really has damaged his own brand, so to speak. but he has, more importantly to the people of afghanistan, he has left them in real chaos.
and it is not clear what the impact is going to be for afghanistan, for biden. but i think it is also too early to write that chapter of history yet. you know, a year is a long time these days and memories are very short. so let's see how this plays out. but right now, as history is unfolding hour by hour it is not a good story. it is a terrible, terrible tragedy that is unfolding. justin, marc mentioned the fact that the country is broke. they are going to need some money. that is the leverage potentially for the west to deal with the taliban. but as people are trying to get out, we need to get humanitarian aid in for the people left behind. how inclined, in your experience, were the taliban to accept that sort of help? i mean, not necessarily inclined at all. but you have got to remember there are other players here. i mean, afghanistan was obviously the centre of the so—called great game back in the victorian era and there is a great game still playing out in afghanistan. the chinese and the russians have indicated that they may be
interested in supporting afghanistan. and the chinese for instance were advertising their ability to build new infrastructure in afghanistan. and have already been talking about this. so i don't think that the west has a unique franchise in afghanistan. there are other nations who wish to exert their influence there and are willing to use their resources to do so. so that is going to be very interesting to see how that plays out. and the extent to which the support of these nations will allow the taliban to keep control of the country. you wonder, marc, whether the eu, the united states misstepped here. maybe do you think they recognised sufficiently how much of an opportunity china and russia would see this moment as being asjustin hasjust explained? well, as we heard, - the americans of course misinterpreted completely. the europeans were really i
depending on the americans, so they were not particularly i interested about what is going on with russia and china. i think the ball is - in the american camp. they are the only superpower now. europe is no longer- a superpower because it doesn't have, as i said, a defence policy. - so definitely the ball- is in the us camp and i think the us has to show again . leadership, which has been missing now for a long time. just briefly then, jeffrey, who does the united states partner with in the region to try to exert some influence when they have shipped out? you know, the us has traditionally tried to use pakistan as leverage with afghanistan but pakistan has said, famously, we have to live next to afghanistan. if you leave, we are still here. so they have always played both sides of this, the pakistanis. both talking to the taliban and providing intelligence against them.
so i think pakistan still plays a pivotal role here. i'm curious though about this talk of russia and china moving in. let's face it, russia, formerly the soviet union, has a pretty searing history of its own in afghanistan and its own failure, failed invasion in the 19805 thatjust led to catastrophic consequences. afghanistan is not a nation that wants to be occupied. history has shown that. the british much earlier failed. this is a very complex region and it simply does not, it is not a country that can be conquered and restructured, re—engineered in western paradigms. thank you all. let's move on. this week has seen the centre of london full of demonstrators from the extinction rebellion movement protesting and calling for the end of the use of fossil fuels. some question whether the demonstrations will achieve anything and many suggest
the gap between government rhetoric and actual actions though is even wider than ever. activists, for their part, have been accused of vandalism after pouring fake blood into the fountain outside buckingham palace. justin, you are our chief environment correspondent. you are absolutely the perfect correspondent! what effect do you think, if any, extinction rebellion�*s actions are really having in moving the dial on climate change? well, i mean, they do get attention, they do get the issues discussed, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. but i'm not sure that is the prism through which you should see what is happening in the sense that, you know, they have a legitimate right to express their views. you know, they feel passionately that the government isn't doing enough to tackle what they call the climate emergency. and they believe, they feel powerless to change the government's views without going onto the streets and sort of making their protest clear. and i think in democracies it is legitimate for people to express their opinions in this way. yes, some of it is theatrical and dramatic and they were pouring blood outside
the london stock exchange this afternoon! but you know... you've been with them. i was with them. i've probably got bits of fake blood on my shoes still. i was with them today, yeah. 0k. marc, extinction rebellion began in the uk but they have staged international events. how much traction have they got in france? or is it other groups that are having more success in convincing politicians that they need to act faster? well, in france, _ extinction rebellion wouldn't have the leeway they have l in the uk because the police is much harsher, law and order, lthe government is really tryingl to keep that sort of- movement out of the road. i think the issue is - huge because the cop26, which is taking place i in glasgow, so the un climate change conference, is not going very well. -
it is the big scheme of boris- johnson with the g7 presidency. but he has not given it any attention. - now, if you see cop21, . which happened in france in 2015, everything - was centralised and it was a great success because there was the political will. - and all that borisjohnson has given us at the moment - is prince charles. so prince charles has fantastic credentials in ecology- but the problem he himself is no sort of regent and he i doesn't have the political- weight that you need for such a success of the cop26. because if this fails. then you can be sure extinction rebellion will have many days in front of them. i what extinction rebellion are saying, jeffrey, isn't exactly controversial, is it?
we know we have to give up fossil fuels. the assumption was that joe biden would be more environmentally—minded than donald trump. what evidence are you seeing of that ahead of cop26 in november? oh, you know, ithink this massive infrastructure bill that you have no doubt been reporting on — you know, i think it's a trillion dollars in infrastructure — a good chunk of it is going towards the environment, towards environmental clean—up, towards making the environment... addressing the issues of climate change, the electrification of cars, creating networks of charge points across the us. so i think that there is a significant effort. people have every right to feel impatient and feel a sense of panic about climate change, the climate emergency and i agree with justin about that. i think that we don't disagree with the fundamentals of what extinction rebellion
is saying but to go back to your question earlier, i think that what i wonder as a journalist is whether they are actually helping or hurting their cause. in one sense they are raising awareness but in another sense people who genuinely support what they are saying are being turned off by their tactics. i remember in october 2019 they stopped tubes here in london, whichjust mystified commuters who were on this energy—efficient electrified railway getting to work. and they glued themselves to the tube trains in the name of extinction rebellion. and people just couldn't connect the dots. and even extinction rebellion had to acknowledge that maybe it wasn't the best tactic, which suggest that this is a group of well—meaning people on the one hand and some anarchists and people who have attached themselves to it on the other. and this is always the problem with these kind of protest groups. what is the message and how much impact is it having? just briefly then, justin, are they going to annoy people
more than they are going to achieve their aims? yeah, you know, there have been actions that other extinction rebellion activists thought weren't appropriate. they have calibrated this very carefully, they occupy road junctions but they are not very busy road junctions. they have got these great dramatic sculptures, they're actually quite careful not to cause too much disruption. a little bit but not too much. that's what they're hoping. yeah, it is a balancing act, isn't it? thank you very much. thank you to marc and to jeffrey and to justin. that is all we have time for this week. do join us again next week, same time, same place. thanks for watching. bye— bye. hello. the weather hasn't been changing in a hurry over recent days because we've got a big
area of slow—moving high pressure in control at the moment. this was the scene as the sun set on saturday evening in norfolk. some clear skies around, bit of patchy cloud here and there, and as we head through the next 2a hours or so, it is remaining largely dry for much of the uk. more sunny spells on sunday, but we will have a little bit more cloud drifting in, and that's because although we've got the high pressure in charge, the winds are rotating around that high pressure. they'll start to come in from more of a northerly direction, dragging a bit more cloud across parts of scotland, north east england, into northern ireland at times, too. still a bit of brightness breaking through here, particularly anywhere west of higher ground. further south across england and wales, you're more likely to see longer spells of sunshine on sunday. still quite a breeze across east anglia and the southeast, just taking the edge off the temperatures here. generally around 15—18 around that east coast, but further west, we're likely to see highs of about 22 degrees or so towards the cardiff region, for instance. into the evening hours, most of us end the day on a dry note. just one or two showers not far away from the southeast. there could be a bit more cloud
pushing in here as well. most places dry once again as we head through into monday. not quite as cold as recent nights because of more cloud acting as a blanket, so just about staying in double figures as we head through into monday, which is a bank holiday across much of the uk. so, high pressure still with us as we head into monday. spot the difference here — we've got the winds coming in again from the north sea, so dragging in more cloud on monday, particularly for eastern areas. the cloud thick enough for the odd spot of drizzle and a bit of low cloud bringing some fog around the coast as well. best of any sunshine on monday probably for the southwest of england, towards wales as well, but almost everywhere saying largely dry. you will notice that wind, particularly around east coasts of scotland, eastern england as well, but lighter winds further west and temperatures probably a degree or so down on sunday. we're looking at highs of about 15—21 degrees on monday. now, the rest of the week, not much change once again. into tuesday, very similar to what we'll see on monday — some sunshine in the west again, especially for parts of northern ireland, perhaps into wales as well. cloudier and cooler with that breeze coming in off the north sea towards the east.
hello and welcome to bbc news. i'm lucy grey. the last british plane carrying troops and diplomats has now left kabul airport. it brings to an end nearly 20 years of operations in afghanistan, culminating in the evacuation of more than 15— thousand people from the country in the past two weeks. an estimated 11—hundred eligible afghans and 150 uk nationals could not get out. here's our diplomatic correspondent, caroline hawley. heading home. 1,000 british troops were sent into kabul to get people out.