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tv   Brookings Discussion on Afghanistan  CSPAN  December 20, 2019 10:56am-12:33pm EST

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president freeman roe boughsky on his book. he's interviewed by author and antipoverty firm ceo wes moore. >> we are through our work in the humanities to the sciences looking at ways of helping students to learn to ask the hard questions, to read critically, but to appreciate the value of evidence in a society that is bombarding us with information and different points of view, with things being confused about what is truth and what is not. educated people should have the skills to ask the questions that will lead to the evidence that can therefore determine what is truth. >> watch book tv this weekend. and every weekend on c-span 2. join us monday for more from campaign 2020 with democratic presidential candidate tom steyer. he's scheduled to speak at a
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breakfast at st. anthem chej in manchester, new hampshire, live over on c-span 2. you can watch online at or listen live on the free c-span radio app. next, a discussion on the political situation in afghanistan, and the role that taliban and other power brokers like the u.s., china, russia and pakistan may play in future peace arrangements. from the brookings institution earlier this week, this is just over an hour and a half. >> welcome. i'm mike owe han lon briefly playing the role of mc to say hello and welcome you before i hand it over to tom bowman. tom is a very distinguished and accomplished npr reporter. thrilled that he would join us. he spent time in the field in afghanistan, embedded with u.s. combat units and other parts of
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the broader effort there that no of course is approaching the end of its second decade. before i hand the baton to him i'll introduce laura miller, who was the acting special representative for afghanistan and pakistan at the state department, had numerous other jobs in that capacity. has been at the rand corporation where she recently completed a co-authored 200 page study on a proposed afghanistan peace agreement written as a simulated or model agreement that parties themselves could perhaps consider, because even though we all are aware that an american is not going to write the ultimate peace deal, the parties themselves may benefit from a little bit of provocation. as we know that we've been talking about having a peace negotiation for a long time, but it's not clear how specific people have gotten in their overall concepts of what that would mean.
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thrilled to have her. she's now ott the international crisis group, that does field research around the world. vonda brawn, my intrepid researcher who has written a book on afghanistan but also staudied transmashl krill nam networks working on a book on mexico, but also has recently studied in nigeria where she's back from field research and indonesia and other parts of the world. i am a huge fan of her bravery and brilliance. without further adieu, tom, thanks for join us. >> thanks to everyone for coming out. afghanistan is back in the news thanks partly to "the washington post" in a series, afghan papers. i hope you have many questions because we're going to be -- start calling on you very quickly. i want to start by asking michael how he sees things right
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now with the peace talks, and also talk a little bit about your proposal to have 5,000 troops in afghanistan for the next five years. as some of you may know, there is talk about reducing the forces in afghanistan now currently about 13,000 down to about 8600. that could happen this week. your plan says to go lower, 5,000 for fine years. why that number. >> i'll say that laurel and vonda know more. i'll tee up and whet your appetite. i'm struck again that laurel, writing this paper and some of the thinking that vonda and her claes colleagues have done, that's sort of the essence of what we've seen so far in discussions about how to reach power sharing compromisesing wi wi wi with, deal with the taliban and afghan forces that have no want to deal together.
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i think peace is a long ways off. i hope i'm wrong. in the meantime i think we need a concept that americans can discuss, debate and hopefully settle on to some extent for the new presidency. and at a time, i first decided to write this 5,000 troops for five years concept when president trump was talking about pulling out of syria completely and maybe turning his gaze next to afghanistan. and when democrats were criticizing trump for his fecklessness and reckless necessary in talking about these foreign commitments and yet i sensed the democrats didn't want to commit to a long-lasting afghanistan presence either, everyone sort of hopes we pull something out of a hat and get a peace deal that allows us to go home without defeat. the concept is a way to take the drama out of policy and say let's take some out and gradually go down to that number. i'm not suggesting we should do
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it the first week of the new presidential term, whether it's a democratic or re-elected president trump. but that could be a conceptual framework that would allow us to take two or three bases, bag rammir, a base in the south around canned har, and one or two in the east, maybe jalalabad and host. that would create the footprint that allows us to do intelligence gathering. this year has been the most since 2012 or so, and so this would allow us to sustain the afghan forces in the help they need most but continue to leave most of the fighting to them. as we've already been doing, frankly, now for the better part of half a decade. that's the basic logic of a concept, zbifb a floor beneath we're not going to go, suggest that we glide down to that over the next couple of years and stop having these annual reviews in washington that takes so much time and energy from senior
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policymakers and dramatize it almost too much in our talks. >> you've come out with a report on a peace plan. talk a little bit about that. and also, do you think peace is a long way off? maybe the peace deal could come soon but actual peace is a long way off, do you agree? >> i think our genuine peace process that grapples with all the very difficult issues of how to govern afghanistan, how to secure afghanistan, is a ways off. but that doesn't mean that a peace process has to be a long way off. and having a process underway that brings the sides together into genuine negotiations can have a positive effect on reducing violence in and of itself. and is worth doing. and in my view, worth staying for, militarily and diplomatically, engaged in afghanistan for some period of time, to give it a real shot.
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where my analysis differs from michael's is that i don't think that, given that we've all seemed to digest the idea that the united states is not going to win the war twhab a second best and satisfactory option is to keep it going for some indefinite period of time or some -- specify a number of years, period of time. i don't think that's truly sustainable politically in the united states. i don't think it's sustainable even operationally for an indefinite period of time. and it certainly doesn't do anything for the afghan people, who are greatly desirous of peace. what i've demon one in my repor try to paint a picture of what the substance of the outcome might look like. it's a set of ideas and options and alternatives that's intended to help fill in some of the gaps
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and thinking and analysis of what the substance of peace could look like. and i think when you look at it you see a peace process will take a while and why it will be difficult to do. these are issues that are going to be very con ten shus. afghanistan isn't so much more complicated than a lot of other places around the world that have had peace processes, some of which have produced a result. the diends of issues and possible solutions are ones that have been explored in other peace processes and occasionally succeeded in bringing down levels of violence. >> now the taliban have repeated lee said they want all troops out of afghanistan. your plan calls for some sort of eye residual force that would be going after terrorists, isis and so forth. talk a little bit about how you envision that kind of a force. >> yeah.
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so i've included the idea of potentially having some kind of residual international military element that would continue counterterrorism efforts working with afghans. whether that could actually be led by americans, i think, is somewhat questionable, and i'm by no means certain that you could get taliban agreement to such a residual force, certainly not at the outset of a negotiation. i don't think you could enter into a negotiation assuming you could get that as an outcome. but i think it's something that you could try to get as an outcome of a peace negotiation. but i do think there's a hard question for u.s. policymakers as to whether that's a must-have element of a peace process or a great if we can get it element. because i don't think it's certain that you could get that through a peace -- >> the pentagon has repeatedly said they would like some sort
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of residual force to remain if the country. vonda, what about that? you've been recently in afghanistan talking to the taliban. would they accept that, do you think? >> i need to say that out of many members of the taliban and to the extent i was able to speak with individuals, it's not at all clear how close they are to the bash war. it's also very important to understand that the taliban is talking to tremendous amount of people, almost all the power brokers except members of the president and the government. and they think to people what they want to hear. so same individuals, same factions, will tailor messages on the basis much what they expect the audience to hear. that said, with this preface and the need to understand that we are very much, we the international community, is operating in an opaque
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environment where preferences are not clear and not stated, there have been some consistencies. one of the most significant, striking dimensions from the conversations i had was that the taliban members were systematically expressing the disastrous outcome would be for the u.s. to withdraw without a deal with them. so they still very much want the u.s. strikes deal and they very much like the deal that ambassador cali zblad achieved by the end of august and then president trump canceled. for them that's still the starting point of any further talk and more of what they envisioned the talk. they are however very unhappy about the possibility of u.s. withdrawing its forces without deal, fearing this greatly augmented force in afghanistan that they want to avoid. >> some of the military people i talk to in afghanistan say that
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the u.s. leverage is the money to keep the country going. that if all u.s. troops leave, the money leaves with them. talk about the taliban. do they talk about that? >> absolutely. >> about usa leaving? >> absolutely. that's an issue that they are focused on with quite consistent messaging across large numbers of interloketers. that it would be disastrous for the u.s. to liquidate in afghanistan and eliminate once they are in power. and they definitely believe they will be in power, although they will make the argument that they will share power with someone. and the in some form is really the crux of all the difficult is in the negotiations that will be the really the hardest part. but nonetheless, they assume they will be in power, to some extent in some form they will share power. and they're also rather clear they do not want to repeat the
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1990s including the socioeconomic collapse in the country. they message very clearly by pointing examples to saudi arabia and say, look, united states, you have such a great relationship with saudi arabia. we want a regime like sautd raib, would be happy like this. we and you could be friends after you made the deal with us and your forces leave. and you should keep the money flowing. and indeed, in my view, really the long-term or not even long-term, the grappling that the united states needs to and the international community needs to deal with is not just, how do we get to a peace deal? how do we get to significant red reduxtion of conflict but how do we shape the behavior of our brokers, one of which will be the taliban quite likely, what
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kind of leverage will we have so we don't see catastrophic laws of human rights and freedom so that there is some accountability in the country and some respect for human rights? and i very specifically say some because under the current situation it's problematic and it's likely to see significant -- after peace deal. i wish the peace deal could be the way the afghan government envisioned it, essentially a replica of the colombian deal in which the taliban gets minimal penalties and just agrees to demobilize and have five seats in the afghan parliament. the afghan government still puts that forth as the model they want. they bring in colombian advisers constantly to explain the colombian process. i think it's completely unrealistic. this is just not the way the deal will look like. >> talk a little bit about the taliban. if all u.s. troops leave or even if there's a residual course do
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you think the taliban would have enough power to take over the country? >> i would say they don't and are well aware of it. that's why they are so leary of us leaving without having a deal with them, a deal that positions them well to have significant power in transitional government and more than transitional government. so they are well aware that they -- the security is the worst it's been for many dimensions, the level of taliban influence is very significant. you can go to liberated districts in 20 miles out -- 30 kilometers out of the district, the taliban is there and government officials will not go there. government officials might be hunkered down to just the office and have 40 bodyguards and not there to step out of the office because of the level of taliban presence. but that said, the taliban is well aware they cannot just take
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the country. and that they will face a civil war that will be very fragmented civil war that could erupt in the south, that are importance of power brokers who can become significant military obstacle and they will have capacities in the north. it's not going to be the line more and more north past the shamali plain, so they want to avoid that. the war is stalled but it's stalled in the way that gives gradual small ekrooegs of power to the tal zan sad. i largely agree with that. there's no question that if the united states left tomorrow, that the taliban would seek to take advantage of that. but there would be very strong opposition to the taliban as well. >> likely a civil war. >> likely an intensified and more multi-sided civil war than you see now. it's also why i find it quite worrisome that some of the
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afghan government side seem to think they'd be better off with an american departure and no peace deal with the taliban if that's the choice they had to make, than going ahead and compromising with the taliban. >> i agree 100%. to build on that, we all know that the united states has used more ordnance in afghanistan this last year than all through the 2010 decade except the beginning. that's extraordinary and it shows that the afghan army needs help. even though they're doing most of the fighting and dying and we only have 15% the number of people we had at peak, they are not ready to hold on. on the other hand they do have all the major cities, 60-plus percent of the population lives under protection, however imperfect. the u.s. government stopped providing these statistics. but at present the taliban is so far away from winning this war that i'm really glad that laurel
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and vonda emphasized the point they would not be the automatic vicktors if we pulled out. the most likely thing is either a hodgepodge of different smaller cities gradually falling into taliban control in different parts of the south and the north and the west, but the government holding on to other parts, or ultimately you could imagine more of a ethnically-based breakdown, pash tune versus taj eek, with a lot of ethnic cleansing to each side help consolidate their own territories. i hope it never comes to that. you could imagine that as well. those are the kinds of outcomes as opposed to a complete taliban takeover. >> i would like you to each address this question i've been asking for several years, civilian people, military people, how would you do it differently? let's say the tours come down, the 9/11 attacks happen, military goes to afghanistan, overthrows the taliban. each of you is in charge of this
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effort. tell me what your plan is. >> i go first? >> yes. >> i'll start with the early chronology. i think that -- and i'm not really being too harsh on the bush administration when i say that because everybody says they were distracted by iraq and didn't care about afghanistan. nobody did. once we got rid of the taliban there was not a human cry from the united states or europe that we should do a medium footprint and try to build up institutions in a golden window of '02 to '06 when the taliban wasn't fighting. that was missed. if you had built reasonably competent police and army and tried to reach out to more taliban elements around be more inclusionive and inclined towards amnesty to some of them, i think you could have built a society that sort of functioned and didn't create an opportunity for a taliban resurgence.
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that's the fundamental opportunity i think we missed. again, i'm not trying to be overly harsh on the bush administration, because i wasn't ad kaifting it myself at that time. i was distracted by iraq and homeland security. it's not accusatory. but as i look back that was the number one missed opportunity. >> laurel, you're in charge. >> you know, i don't think that it would have been realistic to build up the afghan security forces or gourchnance capacity more quickly than effectively than was done. i think there are natural abilities to do those things in societies that are as poor and as institutionally undeveloped as afghanistan. the key thing is that period from 2002 to around 2005, preventing the insurgency from taking hold, from developing, would have required political
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outreach to taliban individuals. i don't say the taliban as an organization as such, because it had lost some organizationam integrity. >> was that a mistake not reaching out to the taliban? >> it was absolutely a mistake. it was not a mistake that was -- it was not, i don't believe from people i've talked to and explicitly considered and rejected policy choice by the bush administration. because the viewpoint at that time was, what taliban? we've spent them away. there are no more taliban. but there were people who understood afghanistan better than that, who knew that you were risking the rise of an insurgency if you didn't deal with that. >> rumsfeld said we will bring the taliban to justice or justice to the taliban. >> yeah. >> in early '02. >> there was really the idea that the bush administration given that orientation would have reached out, is somewhat implausible.
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let's seen set that aside. there were many opportunities over the last decade to be more serious about trying to negotiate with the taliban. and to have done that at the height of american power in afghanistan, set of the surge, would have made a lot more sense than doing it at this low point of american power in afghanistan that we're at now. >> i would add to the issue of reaching out early and reaching out at the peak of power before the surge and before the limitations of what the surge brought out, became visible. also really being far more serious about governance. and at the beginning the lightfoot approach significantly limited what kinds of governments the united states and the international community could ask for. putting into power not necessarily empowering government but putting de facto in power through relying on them
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for military gains. egregious war lords that generate entrenchment that the taliban still has today. it is vastly unpopular. but the issue is what kind of governance do the people face at the local level? and oftentimes the government is more predatory, more ka prooeshus, less predictable, than brutal and retrained governance by the taliban. those were the key problems. later on when consistently the issue of immediate military exigensies, the more killed the better, compromised is what asking for. i would reinforce what laurel said, namely said there are limits to how fast this can be built and we see those problems across the world. in insurgency after insurgency,
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the early clearing seems easy and then the morass undermines the gains and brings in res ur ex enforcement of the defeated entity that morphs in one way or another. there are a few places when that hasn't happened. but even in the most optimistic cases, the cases with the greatest grains, greatest institutional strength, like the columbia government, we see resurrection of the far, we see dissident groups, new actors, and real, real struggles to bring the state in in an effective, noncap rooeshs ways. that's really the crux of our problems in afghanistan. >> let's go to questions now. do we have a mic out there? there we go. gentleman here i think was first.
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>> so the report shows sort of a mess in the sense that they were providing i guess overly pessimistic outlooks by d.o.d. personnel as to the conduct of the war but the analytics are fairly accurate. and the -- only has about 70 medium helicopters to cover the entire country. is there a reason to risk invoking the vietnam model that we are giving them the helicopters that they need and just to conduct normal operations? is there like a static army? >> i think -- is your question why we haven't helped the afghan government build up its air force capacity more quickly? was that the -- >> speaking of -- >> i mean, i would just -- there's a long sort of sordid history of u.s. efforts to try to build up any kind of air
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capacity on the part of the afghan government. that's complicated by the way u.s. security assistance works, but is also perhaps even more importantly complicated by the difficulty of trying to build up these sort of high-end capabilities in a -- in a military that has the kind of limitations of human resource capacity that the afghan -- that afghanistan has. and so it's been a -- it's been a very slow process. it's not a matter of just giving them helicopters or not giving them helicopters. there's the training. there's the maintenance. there's all that goes along with it. if i understood your question correctly. >> also the difficulty of a country with 70% ilitraty. it's difficult to train pilots if they can't read. as far as the maintenance of a
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helicopter, they will likely have contractors for manyp years into the future. >> couple of additional points to back this up. we decided as we got more serious about building an afghan army and police in the years, we should focus first on the infantry. those were the people we most wanted to be out in the field partly so we wouldn't have to do as much fighting ourselves. second the afghan air force were at large. but air power at large, there were a lot of problems with the leadership in the afghan air force even more so than the other military. we wanted to weed that out. a third issue, do you buy them russian clops or not? those are the helicopters they're used to flying. those maybe alleviate some of the challenges of taking care of a blackhawk, and yet first of all, do you really want to rely on that equipment at a time when the russian intindustrial base
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wasn't strong? and work around sanctions on russia presenting those things. >> i would add one larger issue, and that is the one that you mentioned, the static army. and a static army, afghan, not simply as a result of the physical capacity limb takes it has but also very much a result of choice. the reality is that with the exception of the afghan special operations forces that are vastly over strechd and overused, the majority of the afghan army continues to be static. you never win a war by being hunkered down, any kind let alone a counterinsurgency war. >> the gentleman right in the middle. >> vanda, i was intrigued by something you said. >> marvin. >> marvin vin.
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you mentioned there are discussions going on between the power brokers and the taliban. i've heard similar stories, particularly what happened in moscow. that raises the possibility, does it not, that we could see a very different kind of peace process? a peace process in which these power brokers seek to strike their own, their own deal with the taliban, something which bipasses a government which struggles for legitimacy anyway. is this realistic? and if it does happen, what would that process look like? >> well, it's certainly something that's on the minds of many, many important power brokers in afghanistan. there is a lot of activity to just about anyone who is not in
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the government and even some officials who are still in the government, under the current national unity government, that have that on the mind. and frankly the taliban is rather happy with the process. they very much engage in those talks, and both sides believe that they can strike a deal and divide the spoils in a way that will outsmart the other groups. so the power brokers will outsmart the taliban, the taliban will outsmart the power brokers. this is taking place in the south as well as in the north. i don't see how that process could be successful in the sense of even accomplishing that short-term power division arrangement, not saying anything about its desirability or sustainability, but how you could even get to having that arrangement done without some significant weakening,
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significant hollowing out or outright collapse of the afghan government because it's actively trying to prevent those processes and stop those processes from going on. the significant issue of course here is the huge paralysis after the elections that is still not resolved and the paralysis that is increasingly taking on crisis elements, i don't think we are in a full-blown crisis, but there is more and more crisis markers to it. and to the extent that it happens, that both sapz the energy of the afghan government from thinking what it needs to focus on, which is real substance of the talks, as well as enables and empowers and fuels those side conversations and fantasies and perhaps destructive scenarios. because some of those involve powerful forces. >> i would add to that, one
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hears from both sides engaged in these kinds of conversations and dialogs, the line, i've literally heard it from people on both sides, when afghans sit with other afghans, we can sort these things out. you know, to which i then think, if you could just sort these things out, i think there wouldn't be some of the problems that there are in afghanistan. so there is the sort of overoptimistic idea. and of course both sides can't be right that they're going to succeed in outsmarting the other side. i don't think this is realistic as a near term proposition so long as the united states is still engaged in afghanistan and still engaged in trying to get a peace process going. because i don't think the u.s. would tolerate that kind of informal format for a peace process. even apart from the afghan government's views. moreover, part of what the taliban wants out of a peace process is legitimacy.
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and international legit miization in their role in governance partly in a route to having the money continue to flow. and it would be pretty hard for them to achieve that objective through these more informal means. but if the u.s. washes its hands of afghanistan sand a peace process, i could imagine in that scenario, these kinds of, you know, virried power centers trying to come together to cut some sort of deal. hard to imagine it would be any more sustainable than the kinds of dealings that are cut and then immediately failed in the 1990s. >> thank you very much. i am president of the global policy institute here in washington. i remember distinctly right after our victory, a senior afghan official said in a
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private meeting, please don't leave, because if you go in three weeks the taliban will be back. i was shocked. i said i thought we won. i thought that went as you alluded to as administrations, where is it? it's gone. finished. that was pretty eprescient in some sense. my question really is, can we believe on the basis of what we know and what ambassador holin sad is saying, that the taliban is negotiating in good faith? he's trying to arrange a deal of power sharing. is that realistic? because essentially we're surrendering, we're leafing, want to put a nice window dressing and say we've done our best. which leads me to my conclusion. i would like to hear yours. this reminds me of the paris agreements with vote numb. when they realized we were bogged down with watergate,
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nixon and what have you the attacked south vietnam. when they saw we were not coming to the rescue folded in two weeks. >> you want to address that? can the taliban be trusted if there is a peace deal? >> i think you need to write a deal that doesn't depend on trust which is part of why i'm thinking it's so hard. just one, this is not really -- i'm not going to betrait any confidences. i spend time with president gahni. he'd made it amn'tly observe in other statements, that any kind of a peace deal he was interested in, if you were going to have taliban join a security force, they would have to be individually vetted and recruited into an existing afghan army and police. that was my sense of what he and other leaders had been envisioning. but that's not realistic. that's basically victory for the afghan government and defeat for
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the taliban who then get fairly gracious for giving terms for their individual fighters. laurel get got into things like, could you rewrite the constitution so there's some direct power for local leaders more than today, maybe even direct elections at local levels? even though the taliban would like to control the whole country, they can have some share but maybe dominance in some of the south and east. even that they're not going to like. but that is the sort of thing we have to let them think through, both sides. but otherwise you're asking one side or the other to acknowledge the other side as won. i don't think either side is near that. ghani wasn't when i spoke to him. and the taliban think that they're winning and they'll certainly win in and when we depart. both sides think they have the upper hand. the mechanisms for sharing power in a way that doesn't depend on trust, very hard to envision.
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>> but if there's a peace deal between the u.s. and taliban and the taliban goes to talk with the afghan government, won't the taliban legitimately believe they have the upperhand? we just dealt with the u.s., now we're going to see you folks? >> i'm afraid that's possible. >> the trust issue you both want to -- >> yeah, i think that depends on trust in what? our mule approximately dimensions, one of which is can the taliban be trusted to prevent the emergence of anti-u.s., antiterrorist groups and particularly al kaida but arguably a wider set, that's where the taliban has apparently promised, apparently part of the deal that ambassador cali zblad agreed to. there is great deal of variation of whether people believe that the taliban will hold up to that. i think there is great deal of variation within the taliban in how they react to it. for long time some taliban
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members believed, al kaida was a playing and they believe it was a huge mistake. others were very much closer to it. it's a very different leadership with different constraints. it's a leadership much more intergrated into global jihadi networks and significant liabilities and commitments to them. it's not an easy thing for them to truly agree to it. will they hold up a -- but i also want to say that the taliban is to the extent that my interloketers add the, very focused in using international -- not using international money. will the taliban live up the the deal? depends on how much power they get. they believe they will have power and they will kindly share some power with other nontaliban power brokers. if that's the outcome of the deal they're quite liable to hold up to it.
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>> look, i mean, if there was a preori trust between parties you wouldn't need a peace negotiation. the point is to test the possibility that you can find a sufficient overlap of interests and an accommodations and compromises between the sides, that they're willing to abide by the terms that they agreed to. but you're only going to know that if you actually engage in the negotiation and then you try to mitigate the risks of failed implementation through the structures that you set up. but you can never know in advance whether you can have absolute trust in the other side's willingness to abide. >> okay. back there. >> jeff stacy, i've been doing some consulting in recent years
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with the foreign ministry and finance ministry primely in economic duration issues. and there's a lot that is basically looked at in the near future as being possible to achieve, assuming a government is formed and a peace deal is reached. my question really is about the power brokers outside of afghanistan, the stakes that the big for lack of a better term, the great game players, so china, russia, iran, primarily pakistan. what are your thoughts about how helpful they're being in these peace talks, and what role a are -- are they pushing the taliban? are they giving any sort of assurances or backstops? or are they playing the role of sort of a spoiler role or a
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hindrance role? or how do you assess things at this point? >> do you want to jump in? i heard that china was leaning on the pakistani's to come up with a deal to not have any more safe havens because they want a nice level playing field for their one belt, one road. >> possibly. i think the short answer to your question is yes and no and everything in between. i mean, there are ways in which there are at times some pressure in, you know, the right direction, i mean, towards stabilizing the situation in afghanistan, towards coming together in a peace process with respect to china, specifically i believe, yes, china would prefer stability to instability in afghanistan. but it's bottom-line is really, what's best for pakistan and in pakistan's interest given the close relationship between china and pakistan. for india i don't know if you mentioned india, india is just
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opposed to a peace agreement but is not going to play much of a role in spoiling it. for iran and for russia, they're in the somewhat comfortable position of having it either in both ways. if there is a peace agreement, that brings greater stability to afghanistan, they benefit from it. if there isn't, they get to blame the united states. so they can more or less sit on the sidelines and pick and choose when they want to be helpful or not. pakistan is the most complicated of these. my sense is in the last year as the united states as shown more seriousness of intent to negotiate a peace agreement with the taliban, that the pakistanis have been relatively more helpful in pushing the taliban along. but the pakistanis have at the same time always been perfectly clear that they are not going to, as they would put it, fight
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the afghan war on pakistani soil. and that means they're not going to make the taliban the afghan taliban their enemy. and so they will use their leverage. they will pull their strings. but they're not going to cut the strings altogether. >> okay. over here. >> i'm an afghan scholar here. i'm always thinking athat we are in '89 where the russians are thinking how we get out of afghanistan, and now we are thinking how we going to leave? and that's really the question. really do we want to leave? yes or not? and it's for us it's good to leave afghanistan, yes or not? i think the russians had a very clear answer for themselves, we want to get out. this question i think also good to her first.
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the second question, we are talking about the afghan government and the taliban, like two body institutions that cannot talk with each other. but it's also not true, and the afghan government is start with -- and finish with -- today we are talking here is the vice president is fighting with -- who both of them the same election. and abdula is fighting with dmani adman dmani. so there is no afghan government. even if it exists, for the afghan people not exists, and maybe some cases prefer taliban above unfortunately above the afghan government in local issues. my last question, are we talking about the taliban? the gentlemen who are in the dya enjoying the hotels and talking conversation with us, are they the same fighting on the ground?
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are they going to accept this issue? because same is if like someone like a -- he comes back and he joined the government. but where is the people of -- joined the isis? joined the taliban? joined the pack stani taliban? what will happen with all those forces? and we have unfortunately today more taliban fighters than in 2002. >> you know, it's an interesting point. is the taliban a cohooesive unit? fragmented? the folks in doha speaking for the entire movement? or are military people on the ground saying we don't want a peace deal or are they going to start bombing outside of bagra or in the east? >> the perpetual dream of u.s. policy and also currently a dream of at least some members of the afghan government is that the taliban can be fragmented
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and peeled off. and strategyists have attempted to do that. i think it's remarkable how cohesive they've been. i would say that's two sources of their endurance. the overall cohesiveness has maintained for three decades now. and the capacity after 2001 to push back from most egroegsus pushback, it's the capacity to -- the brutality by being somewhat responsive to local kpunts, that gives it the endurance it has. does that mean that every single unit, every single commander would obey by the decisions? probably not. that's rarely almost nowhere, but very rarely i can think of the maui's in the power for awhile but almost never the case
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where you have 100% compliance. the question is, can you have 80% compliance? 90% compliance? in a way that substantially changes the security picture. i would just add one more thing, laurel, before you talk been but the taliban is the taliban leadership is clearly very uncertainty as to the preferences of its own military and middle-level commanders. and that's why the taliban punts all the difficult questions, all the core questions, about what kind of arrangement it wants, down the future. the response to, what kind of representation? how many ministries? what kind of role for women? everything is answered through, after we have a deal, after we are in transitional government, we are going to create a commission that will study that. one of the reasons they say that is because they understand that committing itself clearly on human rights, women's rights, pash tune, nonpash tune issues
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will be very konlt versial and highly contestable among its own ranks. >> i fully agree and was going to add a point similar to your last one. the taliban themselves are going to be cautious about what they do in a peace process because of concerns about maintaining their cohesion and being too -- being able to implemente plement any commitments that they make in a peace process. so this is why you, as vonda indicated, don't see them moving forward with developing policy positions, with developing negotiating positions with articulating them, because those will be very divisive vishz. why take the risk before you absolutely must make those decisions and have those internal conversations? but, you know, it doesn't mean that they can't get to that point. it just -- it's yet another reason why a peace process is going to take a long time,
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because they haven't done that hard work yet. >> richard coleman, retired from cbp. by looking at the afghan papers, and i didn't read every word, it's such a sad commentary and indictment on the cabal, to continue to lie to the american people, how successful everything was, the afghans are doing their part, we're really pushing the ball forward, and statements from top military people saying, what the hell is our mission? what are we doing here? and so i mean, looking back after 20 years, treasure and blood, what is our mission other than avoiding embarrassment, political embarrassment and some one party being able to point to the other and say, you cut and run? it was yours. you lost afghanistan.
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when it was lost from the beginning. do you think any of those lessons will ever sink in? we had vietnam and the russians had afghanistan before us. is there a possibility that we will ever have a military when you can trust when their assessment of how things are going, or is it just fog of war? >> i'll start on that. we all have thoughts on this. first you asked about what is the goal, what is the purpose? and i think preventing another 9/11 that originates from or near afghan soil has to be the purpose. we've achieved that so far at a high cost. secondly there have been a million mistakes. i think the mission has not gone great. having said that, knowing most of the commanders and ambassadors and s-raps and other people who have spoken to this,
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some of them have tried to look on the cheerier side. i don't know anybody who tried to deceive the american people publicly. there may have been an air force officer who was told to only show the good news. i'm sure that happened at a number of levels. but consistently we know the presidents of the united states who were behind this mission wanted to put it in perspective. none of them stayed bullish on this mission investigate even in their pronouncements. none of them set high goals they stuck very long. people tended to have their debates in public eye about, do we go for a peace process first? how much air power? do we allow attacks against the taliban? we know the afghan police aren't doing well. that came through loud and clear. i don't know anybody who said the army and police are doing great. there was some hopeful
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strategies and sometimes people even listened to experts briefly about how to build strategies. they didn't work. it doesn't mean that people were being completely bup listous. don't worry, the opium is gone. i never heard anyone say that. i admire a lot of the reporting in "the washington post," in the subsequent series, the first day was fundamentally incorrect. the first day that construed this deceit, i don't think that existed and i'm pretty emphatic in diszblooeg you raised the issue of vietnam. i'm wondering how much of this issue over the past 18 years you can lay at congress, congress really never had serious hearings on the halfgan situation going back 18 years. there was no jay william full brooit that had serious, long-term hearings on afghanistan. could you each address that? >> well, there are multiple
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hearings, so to say there were none, i don't think it's a quite fair statement. i think the -- >> i'm talking about serious, long-term hearings fulbright hearings. >> right -- >> i've been going to afghanistan for years now, and i would watch almost all the hearings on the hill. a general would come in, sir, what's going on in afghanistan? well, i haven't arrived there yet. come back, and let us know, just keep in touch. that was repeatedly going on -- >> what congress does is a reflection of the american public. i mean, in vietnam, there was a domestic political opposition that rose up to the vietnam war, and, therefore, you had that kind of -- you had that kind of move in congress to look for how to get out, how to hold the leaders to account. i mean, there is no widespread domestic opposition to the war in afghanistan. if you look at opinion polling,
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it's increasingly unfavorable, but it's, by no means, comparable to what we saw in the vietnam era. >> true -- >> so it's not particularly surprising -- >> because there was a draft clearly. >> obviously a big factor. and 50,000 americans died. >> still congress had an oversight role. and i'm just wondering, did that handle that oversight role? >> you know, i think that really the most tragic and the most difficult issue is how can the system correct itself. i, too, do not believe that every portrayal of the war, however positive, however inappropriately positively was mot moderated by deception. but there clearly have been many structural difficulties in recognizing problems and then being able to afford risks. so the system makes it very difficult to experiment with policy and the excruciating difficult, unpredictable circumstances and constraint and
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to say this didn't work, let's try something else. policy is not like -- it is like toothpaste. but policy is like toothpaste. you can squeeze it out of the tube, but it's very difficult to ram it back into the tube. often it doesn't work. but also for individual officers both in the civilian side and the military side to say we did our best and it really didn't work, that honesty will often be punished. similarly to be an officer in charge of dispensing money and concluding we have too much money, we really don't need it, will result in punishment including by congress allocating much less money and that creates other sides. so, it was well known within the system that there were real problems, but it was very difficult for the system to tolerate the mistakes and correct them in ways that were useful. useful. and all along, and especially as
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the policy was unwinding, we listen to the surge, the question became, if we don't do this and we are willing to live with the consequence of catastrophic demise if we pull out under that circumstance, so the real hard reckoning needed to took place at policy levels and among it is public of saying, okay, the patient is on life support, but do we let the patient die? do we allow very dramatic collapse, dramatic civil war, by liquidating a policy that's not radically improving things but is keeping some level of hope, some prevention of utter meltdown. >> i would just add to that. i think of the sort of systemic problems that need to be addressed in the future, a big one is that the policy discussions and the so-called strategy discussions focus overwhelmingly on how much effort to put in.
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now you could talk to people who would deny that this is what the conversation was about. but it really is a lot of what the inside policymaking was about. how much do we turn up the dials, how much do we turn down the dials on the level of effort. there really isn't a means within the system for addressing the question of how do you end the war. it's just not part of the way that the policy discussion, that sort of concept of war termination is not part of the conversation and policymaking within the u.s. government. and so then what you see is just a modification of the aim. the initial aim was to eliminate the problem of al qaeda and to get rid of the taliban because they were part of the problem and replace them with something else. this it morphs into this preventive mission that is -- that is never ending.
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>> members of the -- i'm sorry. my name is derek boyd. members of the panel seem to agree that peace is a long way off. so, in the near term, it seems to me anyway, that we're in this period where we're discussing the u.s. withdrawal from afghanistan. and what i'm interested in are what are the constraints on that issue that the government, the pentagon, and so on, will face? >> well, i'll just put it this way that president trump, not entirely unlike president obama, two different guys, slightly different in their personalities and politics, but they are not totally different on afghanistan, as i read them. they both concluded that no ambitious strategy was going to work. they both essentially said so. most of their presidencies. and they both had to balance the desire to get the heck out with
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the desire to protect the homeland from another major terrorist strike, or regional dislocation on a scale that like we saw with isis taking over much of syria and iraq, could flood refugees into important allies of the united states. so, they both had to wrestle with these competing impulses that were almost contradictory. we saw almost annual policy reviews in the second obama term and now in the first three years of president trump's term. when we're always on the verge of saying, we've had enough, and presidents emotionally will almost always at the point, and most of their voters are at that point. but then you say, does going to zero really work? is that really responsible? so far no one has concluded that it would be. my prediction, part of why i wrote the "5,000 troops for five years" paper, i think we can settle into a presence that may concede more territory indirectly to the taliban but allow the afghan government to hold onto the big cities with a more modest and sustainable u.s. force. i hope like laurel -- i'm not wishing war for an indefinite
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period. i just think it's going to take a while. so in the meantime, let's sort of make the u.s. military presence there more sustainable, less dramatic, less in need of constant review. i think that's the way you sort of reconcile these otherwise contradictory pressures. >> you know, we've all agreed about what the consequences of a rapid withdrawal of the u.s. probably would be. and we've talked about a deterioration security and likely an intensified civil war. but in terms of what the impact would be on the united states, i personally think there are a lot of questions there, as to what the impact would be on u.s. security. and one of the issues that i -- as far as i've seen is actually not touched on in the afghanistan papers that have been published so far, but i think is much more important than a lot of the issues that are touched on is the failure of u.s. leaders to both internally have a clear analysis of what really is the remaining terrorist threat for afghanistan, and does it justify
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from that dimension alone the level of u.s. effort there. and to articulate in an honest way publicly what the remaining threat is. because of the sort of the shadow of 9/11, it looms in a way that i think has obscured clear-eyed analysis of what the quantum of thread really is from afghanistan. i personally think it's lower than many claim. >> if anything, the military is saying the terrorist threat has expanded. they say there are 21 terrorist groups operating now in and around afghanistan. >> that i challenge anyone to name me a group number ten on that list. that is a greatly exaggerated statistic. >> they always come up with a number but never the names. >> right. little, tiny splinters. >> all the way in the back there. >> thank you. james sebens. there have been a number of
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mentions of the necessity of keeping u.s. aid flowing into afghanistan following whatever piece daley might be reached. at the same time, there have been several mentions of corruption and, of course, the afghanistan papers have reminded us all -- of course, there was nothing revealed there that anyone who was paying attention didn't already know. but it has reminded us of how much u.s. aid has fed into the corruption that exists in afghanistan even among the afghan government. so i wanted to ask in this sort of political climate of america first and ending endless wars how the u.s. taxpayer dollars that are going to afghanistan can be used in a way that doesn't fuel corruption and illicit trade and trafficking. >> look, i don't think there is a way to -- in countries like afghanistan or nigeria or somalia or even colombia for
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that matter, the golden child of u.s. counterinsurgency efforts to get to a stage where you have zero diversion and zero corruption. you will only have that stage if you have zero diversion and zero corruption to start with in systems that are -- that have extremely weak institutions. and really based around patronage network and client -- corruption is the purpose of government. and the essence around which politics is organized. that said, we can be much more diligent, the united states and the international community can be much more diligent about preventing the most egregious and destructive forms of governance -- of corruption. and this is where i have been urging policy to go for a while. say what forms of corruption are more -- most destructive. when they systematically exclude particular ethnic groups,
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particular geographic groups, for example, or corruption that's systematically undermines the national security forces. then when we decide what corruption is most destructive to state building and peace building in the country, we we need to develop the wherewithal to follow up on what we say are our red lines. unfortunately, the policy in afghanistan and in other countries, somalia is another prime example, has forever been okay afghanistan, in order to qualify here are 21 conditions. if you fail these conditions in the review a year from now, you will be denied money. well, the year comes, and it's not just the u.s., it's our international partners. and it turns out afghanistan fails any of the 21 conditions. we say, okay, you tried, you met one. next time around, we mean it and
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we'll really cut off money. so as long as we set unrealistic guidelines and the tools that we for one reason or another because of military exigency is to violate anti-corruption tools will be limited. >> but there's an explanation for why that happens. and it's that in afghanistan, we had intertwined counterterrorism objectives, counter done insurgency objectives and nation-building objectives, really a subs is debt of the counter insurgency objectives. because of that we had a strategy, the united states had a strategy that depended for achievement of its counterterrorism objectives on the -- the continued existence and performance of the afghan government. because we decided that our counterterrorism objectives required the physical presence of the united states military in afghanistan, we, therefore, had to have a counterterrorism
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partner in afghanistan which was the afghan government. so we made our -- we created this co-dependent relationship where we were dependent on the survival and the performance of that afghan government. and therefore, you can just never impose genuine conditionality in that scenario. they have you over a barrel because they know that you need them as much as they need you. >> i'd like to use that as a transition to answer your questions, sir, but what is it that the united states wants in afghanistan. surprisingly or maybe not surprisingly, there is tremendous confusion in afghanistan among afghan people and including among the afghan government as to what the u.s. wants. i mean, i would posit what the u.s. wants most now is to get out and get out in a what that avoids meltdown, that avoids civil war, that leaves the best possible chance for peace.
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but to get out. and with good reason. the war may not be unpopular in the extent that it generates massive demonstrations on the mall, but there are very genuine, very important questions to ask with the resources being invested at this point to generate -- generate outcomes and generate benefits that justify those expenditure versus putting the expenditures into tackling the opioid crisis in ohio or versus putting those expenditures improving education in montana. those are very valid, very important questions to be asked. and they have to be asked with the question, okay, if we go out, are we prepared to live morally in terms of international relations, security counterterrorism objectives, the very real possibility that afghanistan will slide into civil war. nonetheless, the fact that we have set conditions and waived them, that we have set conditionality and ignored it,
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and the fact that we have had a set of presidents all wanting to get out and not getting out at the last minute, whether it was president obama in 2016 or president trump, has generated a situation in afghanistan where the afghan political elite believes they can get away with anything, including literally murder because we will not have the wherewithal to leave, and so the politics, all this remains about bargaining, bringing the ship of stage to the precipice but never becomes about serious governance. i wish we had the strength to say, afghanistan, you face a dire moment, you have a chance for peace, 40,000 of your people are dying per year. develop interest in yourself to fix it. and i think if -- that our
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messaging about our need to leave, about our desire to leave needs to be couched within that because unfortunately, many in afghanistan believe that we want to be there because of great power competition with china, russia, because of the promise of the trillion-dollar worth of minerals and the afghan dust for all kind of imaginary objectives and, hence, they believe that they don't have to negotiate because we'll stay and we'll continue fixing the problems. that they don't have to fix the afghan military and get it out of its mold because we will stay, and we will fix the problem. that they can continue having fights like over the past 24 hours because we will continue holding -- fixing the problem for them. >> leaving afghanistan and -- solving the afghanistan problem is not -- cannot be co-exist -- i'm wondering that if you reduce the number of troops in afghanistan and in using the income to solve the afghanistan problem, whether we choose
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another alternative which is to stop this overspill of the afghanistan problem by isolating them and cut down the transnational network which is faithful to the spread of the terrorism and also the insurgency. that is kind of the -- to isolate it. >> i'll just say that afghanistan was pretty isolated in the 1990s, and look what we got. so i'm not sure in the -- in principle your idea sounds good, i don't know how to make it work in a way that protects from the number-one concern i had which was a major terrorist strike. i'll add one more point and a tangent.
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mentioning that period, there's one thing i want to say about the afghan people. it's not reason enough to stay in our mission is bound for failure, but it is something to keep in mind, they helped us win the cold war in a more direct way than almost any other american ally. to be blunt, they bled the soviets through the 1980s. and they did the hard work, and they did the -- they accepted the risk. they did the dying for that mission to be successful. and that largely is what brought an end to the cold war. i'm not suggesting that 30 years later that should fundamentally guide our policy if we're not able to come up with a strategy that works. if we have a strategy that's sort of muddling along and the cost has become tolerable, i think it's something to keep in mind before we pull the plug. that kind of moral and historical debt to what they've done to help us. >> if i could add to that, some of the "they" in that sense are people who later became the taliban or members of the haqqani group, so it's complicated. it's complicated.
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>> thank you. bill goodfellow, afghanistan peace campaign. i find it hard to believe after 19 years, you've been a great cheerleader of the militarized approach. after 19 years, particularly after the devastating "washington post" series, how you could still advocate basically watered down version of more of the same with the idea that it might work. it just seems to me -- i mean, we are losing, our guys are losing, and your five years, 5,000 troops i don't think will change anything. and it just -- it seems we need a new plan. sort of regional diplomatic approach that laurel's talking about, but just continuing with the same militarized policy just seems to me to be madness. >> first of all, to be clear, i support laurel's concepts. and vonda's work in some of the ngo engagements she has on the peace process. i'm just not enthusiastic about the near-term prospects of success. but i commend very much the effort, point one. point two, i accept that this has been a frustrating mission.
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and i accept that it -- a lot of americans have paid a very high price, and the american taxpayer has paid a high price. but we are trying to protect from another 9/11, and now we're at a point where i think 5,000 troops can do it. and that's sort of the kind of level we've got in iraq, it's the level we've got in couple of other middle eastern countries. we've, as tom said, got a number of regional terrorists and extremist movements not all of them equally seriously threatening to us -- >> maybe not 21. >> maybe not 21. i think a posture that basically creates foreor five major strongholds for american collaboration with indigenous partners, intelligence gathering, and where necessary the application of air power or special forces is the right strategy because i can't think of a better one. and i wish i could. but i don't see leaving as the strategy, and i fully support the peace process. but again, you've got parties to this that barely are even willing to talk to each other, and each of which thinks it has
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the upper hand. you tell me how soon that's going to work. the realistic alternative we have to something like what i sketched out is to accept defeat and go home and run the experiment. and i hope laurel's right if we do, which is we can probably survive the resulting terrorist threat to the united states that it doesn't get a lot worse. those are the two choices, if you want to make a decision tomorrow either/or. i very much support what they're trying to accomplish with the peace process. i just think it's probably going to take two to five years. >> carter. >> carter, cnn. tom, can i ask you a question? >> yes. >> you've been observing this war for 18 years. you've gone there multiple times. you also pay attention to the political situation in the united states. from a political perspective, can the united states, can a u.s. leader go to zero in afghanistan? can a u.s. leader bear -- is there risk for a u.s. leader of not having a ct presence there?
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or is there not and we can just get out? >> i think it depends which president you're asking that question. i think this particular president would like to -- he said repeatedly he wants to get out of afghanistan completely. my guess is that those at the pentagon and elsewhere would say, well, sir, we should leave some number of troops there to fight that -- like michael was saying, maybe 5,000, maybe 2,000, 3,000. he also wanted to leave syria, and that did not happen. he said three times over the past year and a half "i want everyone out of syria," certain people talked him out of it. and we still have troops in syria. so my guess is, you know, listening to trump, he wants to get everyone out. my guess is he will be persuaded not to do that. >> i think it's 50/50 either way. you know, i -- who.
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a to say? but i find it hard to imagine that if president trump pulled troops out of afghanistan within the next year that it would have any impact on his election one way or another. i just find it hard to believe that that's going to be the consequential purely political issue barring a major terrorist attack that ensues in the immediate aftermath. but i don't find that particularly likely otherwise. i would just say to the question about just the persistence of an american military presence there at 5,000 or 2,000, a problem with that proposal from my point of view is that so long as your counterterrorism policy and strategy relies on your continued presence, you're going to have the insurgency perpetuated. you're, therefore, going to have a weak partner in the afghan government because it will be facing the existential questions
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of having to fight an insurgency which it's always going to prioritize over u.s. counterterrorism objectives. and you're going to continue to have the u.s. drawn in to the counterinsurgency because those military officers present are going to be under threat. and so the idea that there's some, you know, just small number of american troops that you can keep on the ground indefinitely just attending to u.s. counterterrorism objectives and setting aside the counter insurgency to me is implausible. and therefore, while i agree that, you know peace process is not high probability of success, you have to then face the question if the peace process fails, do you just leave anyway. >> tom, i would add to the counterterrorism question here. afghanistan is in some ways in the special place in counterterrorism because we are there. say that we faced a major attack
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out of nigeria, out of mozambique, out of somalia, out of pakistan. realistically, would there be president trump or a democratic president, president bloomberg who would say, okay, let's invade these countries with full force, topple the regime, take over governance? we couldn't do it even in somalia, and i would posit that we should not do it in any of these countries. in afghanistan, we are stuck in a place where we have said the threat happened once and, hence, we cannot imagine any other way or we cannot risk running the threat even though we have to live with that threat in other places. so to me, the -- the counterterrorism issue is clearly key vital u.s. national security objective. that's not implying necessarily, though, that this means of prosecuting it is the only way of prosecuting it. i think where we have to answer
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the reckoning is if we leave, if we leave without a peace deal or even with a peace deal, on we willing to then live with the consequences of civil war, including massive levels of afghans being slaughtered. are we living to live the humanitarian, moral, and other consequences, and the answer may well be yes. but that is the question to me that we have to face as a country, that our policymakers need to face, and the public needs to grapple with. and i would add to that that the question today we should be asking is what are the red lines under which we should leave. and i have articulated a set of developments in afghanistan where i did not believe it was justifiable anymore to stay. and on the upside, what are the minimal positive developments where we should leave. >> okay. we've got about ten minutes.
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let's try to keep the answers to a minimum. sir? >> my name's carl poser, and i have a project called the center on capital and social equity. i'm not an expert on this region. just as somebody who's been observing, in terms of defining what our national interest is, nobody's mentioned oil. the whole region, the reason -- why do we have so many footprints in that region and bases? because we protect the lifeblood of the capitalist economy, that we protect across the globe. much different non-than 20 years ago. 20 years ago we were really importing most of our oil. and now we don't, we really export it. we've been somewhat self-sufficient even for -- maybe for a few decades. i think geopolitically, i would be thinking about, can we -- you know, 10, 20 years from now, do
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we need to go back in there once we exhaust all the fracced oil. maybe i'm totally off, but that might be a part of the whole calculus. >> anybody? is oil part of this? >> not really. i mean, there is some natural gas in one part of afghanistan, but it's not -- its not a place -- >> all three places are -- syria -- >> yeah, but afghanistan is a different picture in terms of what its potential, exploitable resources are. and, frankly, it's -- you know, it's also a land-locked country. it's not a -- you know, if you're going to look at american policy objectives from that perspective, afghanistan is not one of your more useful places to be investing your resources. >> okay. way in the back there. >> stanley cober. how secure are our supply lines?
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>> the supply lines for the u.s. military? >> yeah. >> that's not been a major issue of late. i haven't -- you know, first of all, with the reduction in the number of u.s. forces, it makes the scale of the challenge there less. and things have been on a -- a more shall we say stable footing in the u.s.-pakistan relationship in the last years where i've not heard of any threats to the supply lines, threats to close that down -- >> really going back years, there haven't been many threats in the supply line. you're right, the level of troops now with 13,000, 14,000, you're not having nearly the supplies coming in that you had in past years. also the trucking mafia in pakistan i'm sure makes sure that those routes are secure. >> it's lucrative. >> dave louden.
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have any of our discussions detected any generational sea change that offers any kind of promise? and if so or if the issue is civil war or stay in, what kind of metrics might you apply to just monitoring such a thing? >> well, you know, indeed, much of the analysis that are optimistic about afghanistan centered on the very impressive young afghan generation. that the level of human capacity has expanded greatly. many young afghans my age or younger are very impressive. will they be able to change the system enough is one of the important questions. i could again draw analogies to other countries -- nigeria has enormous capacity,
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extraordinarily impressive oxbridge-educated individuals, young people, and has had for several generations. nonetheless, the country continues to grapple with egregious misgovernance and corruption. so will the young individuals in afghanistan be able to change the system toward better is one big question. the second is there is enormous urban rule divide. you also have very many young afghan people that are in rural spaces. it might be that most people are in cities, but you still have a good number of people in rural spaces and even in the cities, many of them like opportunities. they might be educated, they -- many will have been born after 9/11. and they do not want to go back to the 1990s. but nonetheless, they face no jobs, many graduates are without jobs. they face positive economic
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opportunities. many of them are not motivated to work in agriculture, subsistence agriculture, or opium poppy agriculture, what are the alternatives. one of the issues that really is a huge challenge for afghanistan with the taliban in power, with the power-sharing is whether the country's leadership will be able to develop prospects for those young people, or whether we will see in rather short amount of time the emergence of muslim brotherhood like mobilizations, a cooperation of other sources and new conflict emerging five years after the deal. >> there's another generational dimension on the taliban side. there are some close analysts of the taliban who say that the younger generations in the taliban are, in fact, more cad cal than some of the senior generations and that this is a
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phenomenon that's developed in part because during the war, more traditional structures, tribal structures, community structures have broken down. i don't myself know the scale and dimensions of that problem. but if it's real, then that's -- that's another reason why even if there is a peace deal its implementation could be difficult. >> the younger leadership or younger midlevel commanders are much more plugged in to the global jihadi networks than the older generation was. in the 1990s, to talk about palestine and afghanistan is like what, what's the issue? there is now much more because of internet communications, fund-raising strategies, much more knowledge of what's happening in the global jihadi spaces elsewhere. and we saw it significantly with isis and the afghan branch. >> okay, i think we have time for a couple more. anybody else who hasn't asked a question? way in the back.
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>> can't hear you. sorry. >> hi, is this better? perfect. all right. mary smith from dai. i'd like to address this to laurel first if i can both other members of the panel. so usa and afghanistan has several development programs that are dependent on success of the peace process, namely jobs for peace program and the continuation of a women's civil society program. and so they've kind of been placed in a holding pattern since the autumn. there's uncertainty. laurel, what would you advice the folks to do regarding best practice on tailoring these economic growth and governance programs amidst all these -- all this uncertainty. >> i hesitate to say this because i don't know it for a fact, but i very strongly suspect that what's going on is that existing programs are being redefined to be supposedly in support of a peace process or
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implementation of a peace process. i say that partly because that's -- i know how the u.s. government works, and that's a typical way it works. you know, i don't think there's -- if there are programs that are being pegged specifically to implementation of a peace process, i don't think that there's really much you can do other than stand by and see if one develops some -- some traction. but i also would say, you know, there are probably at this stage limitations to how effective some of these programs are going to be anyway unless a peace process takes hold. >> anybody else? last question. >> let's say you have an unrealistic miracle and the taliban do form a government along with the existing government.
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what kind of policies or programs would they want implemented other than just holding on to power? >> well, the taliban is rather explicit that it wants a country that's ruled in accordance with islamic doctrines. now, of course, islamic doctrines can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways. under the existing institution, the islamic branch of afghanistan. the taliban does not believe that the islamic character of the republic is adequate. one of the bit fights is whether the war should be emirate or republic or what kind of combination that expresses how they believe -- how they believe that the existing setup is inadequate. now that's part of the issue that will be very -- very much questioned. there are big discussions about what role for women, some
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taliban interlopers will say, look, a woman can be even the minister, but absolutely not a prime minister or president. others will express much greater restrictions on the role of women and the role of public space when they reach puberty certainly. if you look at how the taliban rules and practice on the ground in territories where they control, it varies substantially by the shadow district governor and military commander, but they tend to impose significant restrictions on what we would define as civil liberties and freedoms. they will tolerate education for girls up to a certain point. they will often have a taliban member present in the school to make sure that only what they believe is appropriate. is being taught. at the same time, they make sure the teacher does not show up and
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collects money for being a teacher and -- abroad. so certainly they have been prohibiting music and sometimes -- and tv, soap operas. they sometimes say we are only prohibiting now. once we are in power, we'll allow it, but right now we cannot allow it. they are quite explicit that they do not want an economic collapse. now, that does not mean that they -- that they have really an economic vision other than preserving the flow of international aid and possibly international investments. and have been quite effective in reaching out to china, for example, and promising china that chinese investments will be protected in the country ruled by the taliban. >> i mean, they claim that they recognize, they claim to foreigners at least that they recognize mistakes of the taliban regime of the 1990s and that it will be important not to
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repeat those mistakes. precisely what they regard as mistakes and what they will do differently is another question. and you know, one hopes if there is a peace process and it takes time, these are questions that will be explored. but i don't think in reality you're really going to know until the aftermath. >> so, on behalf of vanda, thank you for coming. thank you to tom and laurel. happy holidays to everybody. really appreciate you being here.
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sunday night at 8:00 eastern, american history looks back at the impeachment trial of president bill clinton which took place over five weeks in january and february of 1999. >> we're here today because the president suffered a terrible more or less lapse. infidelity. not a breach of american public, not a breach of society, that hamilton mentioned in federalist paper 65. i recommend it to you before you vote. but it was a breach of his marriage vows. it was hi breach of his family
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trust. it is a sex scandal. >> explore our nation's past. watch the clinton impeachment trial sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on spac-span3. sunday night on q&a, wall street trader turned photojournalist chris arnadae on his book "dignity" about the plight of those living on the margins of society in america. >> it was a sunday morning, i believe, or saturday. it was empty because the -- all the semis were gone. she was in the industrial part of hunts point. and immediately her intelligence just came right through. and we spoke for about an hour, half an hour or so. and she told me her life, which is just, you know, it's like a cliche of everything wrong that can happen to somebody.
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and eventually i asked her what i asked everybody i photograph, whi which is, you know, what's one sentence -- give me one sentence you want me to describe you. she shot back, i'm a prostitute, a mother of six and child of god. >> sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. join us monday for more from campaign 2020 with democratic presidential candidate tom steyer. he's scheduled to speak at a politics and eggs breakfast hosted by the new england democratic council in manchester, new hampshire. live at 8:30 a.m. eastern over on c-span2. you can also watch online at or listen live on the free c-span radio app. next, a discussion about anti-trust issues and how t


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