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tv   Book-- Warlords Strongman Governors and the State in Afghanistan  CSPAN  July 6, 2014 1:06am-2:40am EDT

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country. during this event held at columbia university commentary is provided by former state department senior adviser of afghanistan and pakistan barnett rubin. this is just over an hour and a half. >> it's a pleasure to be back at columbia and particularly in this room where i might mention 17 years ago in january of 1997 i chaired a meeting by then been lisa anderson who is today the president of the american university in cairo, a meeting where we have a dialogue with the first delegation of the taliban that came to the united states. this was a delegation that came to new york about three or four months after they had taken control of kabul to ask the united nations to give them a --
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not realizing that was under the power of the u.n. secretary-general. i might mention the people who are there the delegation was led by foreign minister who i saw in kabul. i don't know if you have met him. he was interned in bob graham for some time. lucia he who is currently a member of the afghan high priest counsel in kabul and also reconciled bola of dual who was one of the few from top car who was minister of refugees and assassinated in patch our a few weeks ago after returning from a
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confidential meeting in dubai trying to start a peace process. their interpreter at that meeting was later the chairman of the central bank and minister of commerce and a presidential candidate in afghanistan and is going to be in the next cabinet so this is a historic room. it's really a pleasure to welcome dipali mukhopadhyay who i met first at isi in san diego many years ago through a mutual friend someone who used to work in the council forum relations. let me start by referring to something that was mentioned which i was on the u.n. delegation which launched the process that led to the current government of afghanistan after
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9/11 and the u.s. decision to overthrow the taliban regime. one of the issues that we faced at bonn was how to cope with the fact that there were men on the ground leading armed groups such as the main figures in your book who later became governors baxam it ought to do some people called warlords. there was a question, whether they should be incorporated, whether they should be held accountable. there were issues about whether they should get amnesty for war crimes or not. i might mention one person is not here today ahead of the sponsor organization was at that time the undersecretary general
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of the u.n. for peacekeeping operations and therefore bond after a meeting that i attended at the state department december 24 is an outside expert along with someone you will hear a lot more about my conclusion is the u.n. might be asked to send a peacekeeping force to afghanistan or at least to kabul to maintain the capital free of the influence of these armed men on the ground these warlords so a nonmilitary political process which was one of the classic problems of the soul war and he pledged of course and as it turned out
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there was not a peacekeeping force but a multinational force. you have had an extraordinary degree of access to and have done a really remarkable piece of research about the development of some of those people called warlords. i wonder if he could reflect a bit on the dilemma of accountability, demilitarization and how to cope with such people as the country is transitioning from a civil war transnational war two i don't know what to call it. to a greater stability and political legitimacy. >> yeah let me just start by saying what a huge privilege it is to share these two comfy armchairs with you. because of your work on afghanistan and for all of us who have studied it has been a central sort of tax we start with set to be here and get to
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talk about my book is really a thrill. i think the conundrum or the central dilemma that you present about the presence of these actors and the fact that they were partners of the u.s. military and then the question of quote what to do with them after the taliban fell that were sort of a trend -- central question that animated the writing of this book. for me i guess it comes down to a question of definition first. so i think if you defined warlords as predatory spoilers who are seeking gains at the expense of the state-building process and the creation of peace and it's very difficult to make an argument that they should not be marginalized. if on the other hand you define how i define them in the book as
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leaders of the national and subnational level of particular actions and constituencies that have military might of certain amount that have access to money and economic power and social and political ties with the maryland communities then it's possible to understand them both as potential competitors in the state-building project but also possible to look at them as participants. >> before you go on with that discussion i would like to see if we could make this a little bit more concrete for people by giving us a portrait of the two main characters in your book mohamad auto and -. >> and the chapter is about these two men one who is currently a governor in afghanistan and one that comes
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from kandahar. you open with interesting pictures of you in their company. you stand out in that group even more. >> that's true. i have had a very interesting experience of meeting oath of these men on two different occasions each cell yeah the first that i write about this mohamad auto -- mohammed atta. he grew up and join the mujahideen when he was a teenager to fight the soviets and went on to fight the taliban and that along with his longtime nemesis joined the americans to take the central northern state back from the taliban in the fall of 2001.
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shares i do is just finished his run for the presidency and looked like from the numbers he doesn't quite have a shot which isn't really a surprise that he comes from the southern province of kandahar the same as president karzai and comes from a long legacy of oral and involvement in afghanistan. shares i helped the americans take kandahar the center of gravity for the taliban. >> of might be said that the americans helped him. >> that's right. it's fair to say they take the governorship of kandahar and was taken out of kandahar by president karzai and eventually
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in 2007 which was when my story began, sorry 2005 moved to kandahar and began his tenure there which came to an end when he decided to run for the presidency. his presidential aspirations did not begin in 2014. he was interested in running in 2009 that described to me a process which he was convinced that it would be better for the pashtuns as a whole for him to support president karzai so he did that. >> before we get to the conceptual argument what it's like being in their presence. what happens in their offices and what they viewed not just to tell interesting stories but
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understanding their style of governance and how they integrate their informal ties which are linked to things that people might call corruption but their formal position. >> the offices of which they have multiple i would describe the palaces that they have and when you meet with them they have to two quite different styles. superficially they have these very ornate palaces one in jalalabad on the border of pakistan and it's really an experience as if you are going back in time. you are essentially entering a kind of port. >> which is depicted on the cover of your book. >> because it's a courtly scene from local times in india it's
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quite amazing how similar my experience was a meeting with them to this kind of scene. so you get an audience in which you are waiting with a number of people so there are people who are in kandahar, tribal owners that come from the districts. they might be business people, they might be journalists and these are basically people who have calmed to get there at vice and to ask for something for their communities or have asked directly for themselves. it's a portly style of politics in which you realize the informal it is as much or in many cases much more important than the formal. but they are quite different from each other should say. governor atta has a more what i think of as a more corporate style. a lot of people, everybody who meets him -- so he soon after
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the taliban failed shaved his beard. he wears very nice suits. >> he did not shave a 100%. >> he has got a really nice watch and he's got really nice shoes. he's got a staff that operates and it feels much more like a firm. governor sherzai is a more relaxed style. it feels a little bit more futile to be honest and he is actually interested in the aesthetic of courtly life so he spent a lot of time and money renovating the kings winter palace which is where he stays on the second time we sat in the gardens and there are tribal
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elders waiting and it feels like you are a of a different time. >> not to put you on the spot but of course you know these men and they know you but to lay out one side of the argument, there are people who strongly criticized the incorporation of men like this into the political system. can you start by giving us a brief outline of the type of arguments that those people would make and what this man has done and why it wasn't appropriate for them to have such high high office and we'll look at the other side. >> share and i think they dominant narrative especially after 2001 was these were the individuals who were responsible for dragging the country into a civil war. they demonstrated their inability to set aside petty
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factional differences to come together. they made clear that they were interested in profiting from illicit economic activity which did not serve the country and then after the rain of the taliban which many people argue the taliban was popular as an upcoming movement and every shame because it was a replacement for warlordism to then bring these people after 2001 was to take the country back to a really dark time and was to ignore i think what was a kind of popular enthusiasm about a different kind of politics which of the democratic and it would be accountable when representative and kind of a new chapter so why would you want these old characters with these legacies? why would you want those to be the main players in this new and
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promising time in afghan politics? >> of course after the bottom agreement when these men were appointed to various positions i think atta was initially the head of the garrison military before becoming a civilian in becoming governor. sherzai did not care particularly about what is former employment was. both of them of course exercised authority informally bestow her several provinces. and nonetheless they did not behave entirely as people fear feared. that is he did not have her renewal of civil war. of course there was plenty of illicit economic activity accompanied by illicit economic
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activity and the lines be those are often difficult to discern especially in view that the main economic activity in these areas was the u.s.-led war effort. maybe not always thought of his economic activity but distributed more money than anything else including the drug trade. so why is it that they did not produce exactly what they had done before and although they maintain their capacity to exercise power through having command and using violence and having control of money some of which was official state money and some of which was something else. how did they change from protagonist in the civil war to powerful figures in the government?
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>> while i think one of the things from the beginning this was about trying to understand this intuition that i had from the beginning that required a lot of investigation to figure out if it was true. the intuition was that not all warlords were the same and so for me i was interested in trying to figure out precisely this question. by the time i started the research in 2007 people were already talking about atta and sherzai not as warlords but at a minimum they were understood as warlord governors not just as warlords and i think the reason they made that transition for me is partly about understanding them and their circumstances and partly understanding the way the
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state is organized in afghanistan so because many people don't realize how highly centralized the afghan state is and what that afforded president karzai who otherwise didn't have a whole lot institutionally, i mean there wasn't that much there in the beginning but it afforded this very important tool which was the tool of appointments. every appointment that was made outside of kabul would be at least informally, there was a, there is a ministry of interior and later a director for local governance but informally it was his decision who would go where. so i think that allowed him to play these warlords off of each other in ways that actually brought them into the system. so the kind of central argument that i make is the reason why all warlords are not equal lives because we can understand them not only as different from one
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another in terms of how strong they are but also different in terms of what their local competitive environment looks like. so for example atta was the head of the seventh army court in the north of afghanistan. he was a commander. he was a powerful commander. he was from the province in the admin there were loyal to him and access to relationships but most importantly he had a major competitor. he also had another competitor in mohammed who was another major figure. but both of these men are now vice presidents and candidates. >> they are all from three major pashto groups. >> that's correct. so because atta i think recognize that this is my interpretation but i think he recognized and it was clear that
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he could not dominate the space on his own. he actually, there was an incentive for him to engage with the central government and this is a think where the use of the word warlord becomes unhelpful because the assumption is that these are actors inclined to wage war against mujahideen. i think the reason that i took on the word strongman is because these are individuals with great strength in their own right outside of the state that under certain circumstances is archly valuable for them. the central reason i signed her state it was in order to beat their competition. so atta began a really interesting relationship with karzai in which sometimes he misbehaved, sometimes he demonstrated loyalty as part of a bargaining relationship and it took a couple of years before he was actually appointed governor. but this -- but by the time he
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was appointed governor everybody knew including him and mohammed karzai that he was going to be in charge in part because president karzai had decided he was going to be in charge. and knowing that general dustin and mohammed and a another patch in commander that they were all these other players that weren't really happy about that that would have like to either themselves or their own guy to be there that motivated him to serve as an effective governor will to continue to have the support of big government. >> another question talking about the relationship of the government but as i mentioned them major source of money and the major source of coercion was united states and its coalition partners. both of them had developed different kinds of relationships with the international military presence there as well as
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international civilian presence which is important for us as americans to understand. while people in this country often see warlordism or corruption is an afghan phenomenon and as you know in afghanistan many people say you americans brought this here. you put these people in power. it's your money that created corruption and so on. gul agha sherzai was governor in kandahar which is the home of the taliban which meant that there was a large military force there and also not just a military force but there were counterterrorism operations. that is cia pair locked to the state plus special forces operating separately from the main military operation. there were special funding some of which was used by governor sherzai used in kandahar for his own projects. again it was a little bit less kinetic most of the time but
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still it was close to the border where there was taliban enculturation. atta in the north of course initially came to power through that process but the north became relatively stable and international military presence there was a provincial reconstruction team which was led first by the british and then by the germans after atta became the head, became the organizer of international the international military mission there. can you describe how we took them related to the international military, how they used it politically because in dealing with the arrivals of the central government that relationship with us was important. >> for sherzai the american relationship is central to understanding his story. a lot of people said to me over the years, sherzai was really
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not a major player until the americans saw something in him and connected with him and first afforded him an opportunity to take power in kandahar or enable that but then allowed him to make an extraordinary amount of money. i think ahmed rashid have estimated just in kandahar before he even moved to kandahar he had made several million dollars bid contracts. >> when you say contracts contracts with whom? >> contracts for example grappling. contracts for the u.s. military. contracts for the military that centered around construction and allowed him an opportunity. >> vehicles and fuel. >> that's right so he built an
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expertise in particular doing construction work that he brought with him to kandahar but the relationship with the americans continued to be very deep and i should say actually that my first trip to kandahar in 2007 was not on my own. it was actually with the u.s. military commander. he suggested to me over to you are interested in warlords and interested in governors. you should come back with us so i got on the helicopter and flew to jalalabad. >> you were in kabul. >> i was in kabul at the time and i've never been to the pakistan border and i certainly never fun in the u.s. military copter. >> just the normal civilian helicopter that you used to get around new york. [laughter] >> that's right. >> what i didn't realize is that they would keep beat me on that the base. they brought all kinds of people in and when i realized was the
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first of all this is not a good way to do fieldwork. what became very clear was how intimate the relationship was between the americans and sherzai and it's been interesting for him as a governor because i'm the one hand the benefits are very obvious. basically first of all it affords him an independent source of influence and income outside of his relationship with president karzai. the other thing it does of course is gives him a leg up from a course of perspective from all the other actors inside kandahar. >> not only the taliban but primarily his competitors. >> that's right, other local competitors. one of the most prominent families in afghan politics and with a long legacy of coercive power.
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they have a legacy of having great influence inside the providence. >> and are meant natives of the province. >> and are natives of the province and one of the major figures have been the governor before sherzai came and people talk to me about how mohammed in the americans who didn't really work, that relationship. they didn't think he was serious about reconstruction. they thought he was a quieter more pious religion -- religious man. when sherzai came the money started flowing in the province. road started to become paved. consistently one of the strongest achievements that people talked about with sherzai was the paving of the roads from jalalabad to the district capitals and less interesting when you talked a bit further about that was who actually came and paid for the roads to be paved?
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the americans but a lot of people don't know the americans and sherzai what the difference? if sherzai's construction companies that got the contracts and of course the government takes credit. what's interesting in this is where the donor experiences so fascinating to study is that started the point of provincial reconstruction team wants the governor to take credit for the work that's being done. they are trying to enable his authority and his presence in the province. it started to become unclear to people whose power is his. >> just two, the dilemma there is are they building institutional power of the state of the government or are they empowering this individual? >> that's right -- you know and as one of the biggest findings of this research for me was it was really in a post-conflict
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stayed in weak states in general it's not a clear distinction between the government as an institution and the people that are occupying that institution. the institution can rise or fall in positive or negative ways based on who's there. so i think the tricky part for governor sherzai was the americans were doing kinetic work and buy kinetically mean military operations in which they might detain people or property might be damaged and there might be civilian cashill tees. in those cases the blowback might come right back to governor sherzai. part of a think what was valuable to the americans was that sherzai was really on their side and was willing to absorb that political unrest and manage it. >> there was much more of that in nongotthard. >> much more as time went on and
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he became increasingly incapable of managing that backlash. we should say man to higher is a wealthy province because it's on the border of pakistan and the central cross point for cross-border trade but it's also on the border with pakistan. the vulnerability to insurgency was very real and was a huge challenge to the government. there's one story i will tell about the relationship between the americans and sherzai which i think is emblematic. after i returned, so i first went in 07 and then i went in the summer of 08 and spent some time and then i went back in the fall of 09. by this time president obama had been elected. people still in 2012 when i went for still talking about this story. when barack obama was a presidential candidate he made a
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visit to afghanistan. >> i recall very well. i was an adviser to his campaign. >> maybe you were even on this trip. >> know i was not on the trip. >> he made the decision rather than to make president karzai to stop and jalalabad and say hi to governor sherzai. i don't know if you remember this. >> that was not the decision he thought he made. >> what was the decision he thought he made? >> he had no idea where shares i was -- sherzai was. he want to be photographed meeting american troops in the field and he didn't want to go to bob graham for everybody went so they had to find a place that was reasonably secure and had an air filled big enough for his plane to land.
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that was the picture that afghans saw of barack obama meeting the governor of nangarhar. >> the governor took credit for that joke. he took credit for that joke. that story had tremendous legs because people interpreted that story in a number of ways. >> and by people you mean mohamed karzai. >> i'm sure but also people and nangarhar and kandahar and a number of other places too as people said to me if barack
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obama first comes to see governor sherzai before he goes to see mohamed karzai what does that mean? it means he wants governor sherzai to be president instead of mohamed karzai and he thinks everything governor sherzai is doing here is fantastic and it means if he is president governor sherzai is going to be in a good spot. there were rumors was he invited to the not gration and was he not? >> he was invited by the came anyway. [laughter] he claimed he was invited. >> writes so you can imagine. >> to this day happily president obama does not now. >> i believe that's probably very true. to this day it's absurd to how many people and in nangarhar know about the story. then there was the story that many years later i think in "the wall street journal" the story that came out maybe in 2013 or
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2012 about how corrupt governor sherzai is and how he is collecting attacks in getting all these contracts. of course the tables can turn on somebody quickly. >> that was when barack obama ordered the western journal to go after him. i want to clarify that is very much the perception. >> yes so i think for him to relationship had some ups and downs but mostly ups. >> his relationship with barack obama. >> correct a one-way relationship. for governor atta it was different because the british were there and the swedish came and took over the prt. the swedish had a different approach to development. their approach as was described to me was to channel the
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majority of their funding which of course would be much less than the amount of a american money to the central government or through couple to support the creation of a governing system in which direct aid was not coming into the provincial. >> who described it to you? >> it was described to me not just by opal people but by swedes. >> i was wondering how government -- governor atta. >> their relationship with the swedes was extremely colorful let's say, very turbulent. on most occasions he asked them to leave appeared on multiple occasions he asked them to rename their team because the team provincial reconstruction team and flied reconstruction and that was not accurate. and he said maybe they should change their name to provincial stability team but then he said actually read the afghan security forces are providing
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the swedes with security so that's not really inaccurate mainly there. so what was a very contentious relationship. to me what was interesting about it was i think he used it to actually consolidate power and kind of in an counterintuitive way. he could take credit for everything that happened in that province. nobody was thinking the swedes did this are the germans did that. even though the truth is the germans for example created a base. there was an airport and there were all these things for which i think donors and usaid had a presence in the north of course could take credit but because he could make an argument that unlike the americans the europeans were really doing much. all of that credit went to him. all of their relationships with the business community he could kind of monopolize. he could control who is getting what contracts in a much more direct way and of course all of the fallout that would come from conference urgent or
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counterterror military activity really didn't have to deal with that. it's a double-edged sword having a really powerful donor working with you because you know their relationship could become problematic sometimes. >> let me ask you about another issue. you mentioned the word corruption and let me add to that. drugs, narcotics. kandahar and nangarhar the two provinces have been among the major poppy producing areas of the country. the production has gone up and down and they are also important and are on the border with pakistan. kandahar is closer to iraq and both are major trafficking routes going out of both of them. it became a very important poppy
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producing area although i believe now much of the poppy has been replaced with marijua marijuana. it's also a major trafficking area with a different route because you mentioned of course nangarhar and bagram are on the border and the traffic leads to russia and western europe but different route as well. can you describe bearing in mind that you may want to go back to afghanistan sometime, can you describe that bit the relationship of the government of those two governors both to the narcotics economy and to the counternarcotic effort spearheaded especially by the united states? >> i'm happy to say because i don't have any concrete evidence
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of involvement on the part of these two governments and there are rumors about profiting from different aspects of the narcotic economy as there are rumors about that for a number of other government officials. having said that both nangarhar and bulk when they assume their governorships for increasing in poppy. >> after almanzar. >> that's right, after helme on so one of the central performance possibilities for them, one of the things that they could deliver both to president karzai and more importantly to the donor community was to get rid of cultivation of poppy. so there are a number of
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researchers who have done extraordinary work on this. the incredible complexity of what it means to think about narcotics and counternarcotics. >> of course poppies are the flower point which the opium gum is extracted to become heroin and another fact about poppies as they are highly visible and photogenic unlike narcotics traffic. >> i have a photograph of myse myself. that time in 2004 was number two poppy producing just in a glorious field of purple. >> it's not the highest quality. >> it was demonstrated to me they're how one would go about cutting the blood and taking the paste and drying it and of course the more refined it is the higher along the value chain you are in ability to profit. so both of these provinces saw
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dramatic productions in poppy production six or seven years ago and it was touted as an extraordinary thing to come down to poppy free or near poppy free as they label the provinces and what was very interesting was to understand how that happened. so when i talked for example to people inside the government about how it happened they told me a story about powerful on enforcement and policies and explaining to the afghan people that this was not legal and there was an enforcement of that policy, really a language of government. when i talked to other people who were observers outside of government it was a slightly different story.
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it was more a kind of racketeering story. there were certain set of people who were really involved in different kinds of illegal or illicit activities. those people were now in positions of influence either inside the administration the police or they were connected to the power and it was in fact a decision once the decision was made at the top by the governor that this activity is over. there was an incredibly powerful in formal apparatus that could turn the whole thing around. >> what is it an apparatus? >> that informal apparatuses armed men inside the police and outside the police to have the ability to enforce the wish of the governor. one of the things that became really clear to me and it's one of the reasons why i think
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strongmen have a role to play in government is that when you look at an institution like the police in the province like belk and you look at it on paper especially at the beginning at the beginning of this term in 2004, this is the first time this force is really being stood up. there hasn't been enormous opportunities for training and capacity building and all the things we associate with building the police. >> in the history of afghanistan there was a police force. >> sure but now we are talking about a time in which a new chapter of governance and the people who have policing is part of the taliban are no longer policing and so what i saw in belk even though the formal appointments the way in which people were chosen to be leaders in the police in the rank-and-file that was decided
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from the ministry of interior in kabul. in fact the governor because of who he was in our province and the kind of armed men with whom he had had relationships for a long time he had a norma's influence over who was put into the police and the results of that was a lot of men who had fought with the governor for a very long time and it known him for a long time some of them as long as having been teenagers together joining the mujahideen who now vote an entirely new likelihood to him and an opportunity and when i saw this was not formally in the police that people at new business opportunities in their relationship with him. people at opportunities to get involved in politics in an informal way or to run for a seat in the provincial council, all kinds of ways for these men who had been fighters were reinventing themselves and mail
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that to the governor. so when he made decisions like nomar poppy cultivation he actually had the ability to enforce that policy. so it's interesting as there has been, you know there was an uptick in poppy cultivation around the time of the second presidential election in 2009 but what i'm hearing from people who are doing research on this is that in fact now we are not seeing poppy there again. we are seeing the coach control of the governor being asserted. the interesting thing about that is that on the one hand is a real success story because the policy was get rid of the poppy. the challenges that the farmers who are no longer cultivating poppy in many cases are suffering economically as a result of that and the promises of all kinds of other economic opportunities have not manifest
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in a way that people thought they would. so there's a lot of unrest about it and there are questions about once the donors leave or withdraw their intense presence from the country will the governor's enforce the ban in the same why? will it be worth it to them because governor sherzai has not had as successful and experience in terms of enforcing the ban in part because of the dynamics of the province. it's much more difficult to control power and not autocratic way in a tribal province on the pakistani border. >> that's something we haven't had a chance to get into but before we turn to question such as wanted to ask you to comment on two things. one is we have really talked about which is the subject of your book the process of state-building, governance and so on in afghanistan but we haven't talked about at all what gets covered in the media mostly here which is the war with the taliban.
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i wonder if you could comment on how that affected those two governors very briefly and second i think i would not be surprised if some people are looking at you and trying to imagine in these circumstances of which there are photographs in your book. i'm rather curious about your personal experience as an american woman graduate student of indian origin or descent dealing with these afghan strongman raid it's an unusual form of fieldwork and perhaps other graduate students and others would be interested in your personal experiences. >> sure. of course what we hear the most often around here is the insurgency, the taliban insurgency and questions around how it would end and as american troops are leaving wealthy taliban move into kabul and etc..
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i think my experience of studying these two governors in particular but also the two other governors that i talk about in the book who were not as successful because they didn't, they didn't sort of have the same profile as these two governors is that they are are a whole of powerful actors that are not the taliban, that are not at all interested in the taliban coming back to power in a kind of stereotypical sense that we take in kabul and that it gained enormously, politically, economically, from the changing of that regime. i think though what's really interesting about these characters who are fundamentally the reason they came to power was they fought the taliban with the americans is they are is an extraordinary kind of pragmatism
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to afghan politics and i've wanted to talk about this in the context of the election that no animosity that i have been able to detect is this totally permanent and totally to the core of who any particular afghan strongman is. the most extraordinary and nonstrongmen. i'm sure we can talk about his presidential candidate for example. if someone had told me that what happened last year i would have laughed hard and for a long time. so you know i think. >> ashraf ghani who by the way is a ph.d. in colombia. >> she is an alum of colombia and he was one of the most -- critics especially gentle doe
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some who is now his running mate so what that tells us to me is about the agility and flexibility and dynamic quality of afghan politics. so looking at these characters was really looking at a different story than the story of the taliban. of course they were fighting on behalf of the government through policies and their influence over security forces to defeat the insurgency but i don't think that includes down the line some interesting different kind of positions on their part about the possibility of the role of the taliban and afghan politics going forward. in terms of my personal experience, it was very very difficult for me to convince anyone to let me come to afghanistan in 2004. i was really lucky that i met
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ambassador robert vin who was her first american ambassador after 9/11 to kabul and he said to me you should look up the developer network. they do interesting work and they let me buy my own ticket and pay my own way and work for free as many of our students here know what that's like. but they let me come with them. >> in the far northeast, highly mountainous. >> the border of tajikistan and china and the most remote, i mean it's the most remote place i have ever been in and many people say it's the most mountainous in the country. i fill them up at the place and because we were in a small village i started to see two things. one, how complex the politics was and how these individuals
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who had a particular kind of strength as commanders as they were known at the local level what kind of influence they had been the complexity of their role but the other thing that i realized was that it's really hard to find and afghan. at least i have yet to encounter one who is not interested in talking about politics and able to articulate a very sophisticated analysis of whatever particular political question is the opposed to them. i realized it would not be difficult to do fieldwork in afghanistan from that perspective. i don't think if i decided to look at the politics of governor chris christie in new jersey and we can talk about some interesting parallels there. [laughter] but if i decided to look at that i'm not sure if i showed up in new jersey and try to talk to different people and showed up in their offices are journalists or people in their homes, but
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you talk to me? >> are members of the ethnic group in new jersey. >> that's sure i would have an advantage but i'm not sure that i would have had the kind of access and the kind of interest in new jersey as i found in nangarhar and the other thing that i realized pretty quickly was you can leave kabul, you'll find first of all very interesting things happening often more interesting than what's happening, low but also a lot of people who haven't been asked about their opinion about things. and so it was very, very rare that someone said no to an interview, which was really interesting experience. i think it was actually very helpful that i was female, that i i was short actually because i think i just don't have a terribly intimidating persona, so i think when i approached people who might otherwise find
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the kinds of questions that i was asking her the kind of subject matter potentially threatening, i don't really think i was protecting a threatening five.
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