tv U.S. Institute of Peace Discussion on Afghanistan Peace Talks CSPAN May 4, 2019 3:11am-4:33am EDT
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a panel in washington dc discussed those talks and the prospects for stability in afghanistan. this is one hour and 20 minutes. >> good afternoon. we have a vision of the world without violent conflict by working on the ground with local partners. we provide tools to manage conflicts so that it does not become violent.
this discussion could not come at a better time because the peace process is very active right now. recessed they have priorities for the peace process by the afghan people and currently there is a negotiation ofh the taliban in a series discussions they have had on protecting u.s. national security interests from terrorism in afghanistan. the u.s. ip has been deeply involved in afghanistan since 2002. we work closely with the afghan government, as well as with the civil society organizations on programs, research, and ideas to reduce the violence in the country and improve stability going forward. support to the afghan peace process is our highest priority right now. we are working with the u.s. government and the afghan government and we are mindful that peace process don't succeed
if the people in a country are not behind it. therefore, it is essential to have civil society, use, and other groups included in the process, so it will be successful. we have great panels here this morning. it will be led and moderated by johnny walsh who has worked with us as a senior expert on peace processes in afghanistan. he has also worked on iraq and middle east issues. thank you for joining us. >> thank you very much all for coming. and thank you to everyone on c-span for joining us. ,o set the stage very briefly it is a particularly interesting moment at which to be having this conversation due to three very recent developments. speak, thee ambassador is in doha.
a fresh round of talks with the taliban. which has been considered one of president ghani's signature initiatives for this moment in the peace process, and less than two weeks ago, there was a very near miss in doha at what would have been the first gathering among the taliban, the afghan government, and other afghans to have a serious discussion of the political issues that could potentially end this war. i think what brings these three developments together is there is a long-standing vital question that is finally coming to a head, which is how can we collectively turn positive movement on u.s. taliban discussion into a serious peace negotiation among afghans that would actually have a chance at ending a war, because it is not something that all would agree that the u.s. and taliban can negotiate by themselves.
as we all grapple with this question, challenges overlaid are enormous in the united states. both parties i think our impatience to ultimately get out of afghanistan. there is an insurgency that remains extremely strong and is at least attempted -- tempted to wait the u.s. out. the afghan political class i think, it is fair to say, is pretty uniformly wanting peace, but it is deeply divided, including on how to achieve peace. and that is to say nothing of upcoming presidential elections in both afghanistan and the united states that make everything in this space a little more complicated. meanwhile, the war is more horrible than ever, and i think it looks quite likely that the 2019 fighting season will be a very, very bloody one, despite efforts by many parties to achieve a near-term cease-fire. the 2018 fighting season reclaimed afghanistan's place as the most violent conflict in the world, i think.
it shows the urgency, not just the political logic, but the urgency of trying to find a way out of this or. and a final comment before i introduce the panelists themselves, i hope that conversations like this can help advance the larger thinking about what compromises can end a war of this kind. a peace process is not about achieving what any one party wants, it is about what they can potentially give or due to accommodate the other side. that goes for all of them. for every side, it means on some level, abandoning the dream of comprehensively winning the war, it means accepting that if there is a peace agreement, it will involve some amount of legitimacy for one's enemy, it might involve political power for one's enemy, or degree of it, anyway.
not to be defeatist, but no peace process has ever succeeded without working through these issues, and i hope discussions among panelists of the caliber we have today, discussions going on in doha, can help advance that question. moving from my immediate left, our panelists includes the head of total news tv, itself one of the finest products of post-2001 afghanistan. truly a gifted journalist and one of the key observers of afghan politics that i have ever dealt with. is a senior fellow at the carnegie endowment for national peace. he played a leading role in some really important u.s. efforts on the afghan peace process during very difficult years when i too was working there, at the state department. we have the senior officer here
at the u.s. and the duties, -- u.s. institute of peace, over 20 years of experience on afghanistan, deep networks and afghan civil society, women's groups. she has returned from kabul to speak with many of these groups about where we stand in the peace process. i hope we hear more from that later on. got smith is a senior fellow here at u.s. ip, and recently returned as the political director for unmia, the united nation's mission inside afghanistan. i look forward to hearing each of what you have to say. i asked that each of you give five to 10 minutes of opening thoughts about where we stand in the peace process. i might fire a question or two at you at your that -- after that, and then we will open it up to the room. >> thank you. we were about to go to doha, but the plane didn't come, so i figured i should take a plane, go to d.c., and i'm glad i'm here today.
it is great to see a lot of friends through u.s. ip through -- for arranging this event. i think there is a very strong sense of urgency at the moment for afghanistan to reach some sort of political settlement. i am carefully not using the word peace, because it has different meanings to a lot of people. but one should probably take a step back, and see that the peace process in afghanistan is a new thing or not.
who wants peace and afghanistan and who is against peace? the earliest memory that i have from my childhood is when a rocket landed at our house in kabul and we left -- i think it was 1993, we left for the north. so that was associated with war and conflict and civil war, and all sorts of war. at the same time, the past couple of decades, we witnessed conflicts in afghanistan, and there have been on and off efforts for peace as well. some of them were here, some of those developments for so many years and decades. so talking about peace is not necessarily a very, very new thing, and it is not just today, we wake up trying to come to a political settlement. that it is -- that is why it is important to learn from the lessons of the past few decades. also, i think we should not waste time in identifying who is for and against peace. there is such a unanimous
consensus on peace -- all afghans want peace. this is such a desperate desire for all of us as afghans and for our international partners. our news alone, we have lost 11 colleagues in the past three years. so this is personal, and that has to come to an end. i think all afghans want peace. peace processes in the past have not delivered and failed. i think it would be a fundamental mistake if today we tried to draw a zero-sum game, the -- to define who is going to win and who is going to lose. i think that would be a strategic mistake, if we started thinking like that. so there has to be some sort of compromise on both fronts. and that was the fundamental reason why the efforts of the 1990's didn't really deliver,
because that produces winners and losers in the short term, and resulted in the continuation of conflict throughout the country. a zero-sum game approach would be a fundamental mistake. coming to today's efforts, i think it has a clearly defined two areas for the u.s. peace process, the u.s. centered approach and the afghan centered approach. american approach needs to focus on counterterrorism and draw down, fundamentally important for the united states. but it is deeply linked, its success and failure, to the afghan components of the deal, which are cease-fire and an ultimate afghan settlement. the question is, how are we
going to get to that settlement? if there is no winner and loser, are we sitting in kabul and the private sector and the media and the government over the past 18 years, how much compromise are we going to make? what is at stake? i personally believe that any political settlement is one step that. -- back. probably hopefully tactically for some of us, and then it should be a step forward for the taliban. so we can tell the taliban that the afghanistan of today has come a long way, that it can observe all parties, including the taliban. i think the common ground for the taliban and the rest of the afghan society is an islamic republic. i fundamentally believe that is a solution. i asked them about this in a
similar town hall meeting in kabul -- what can we make -- what if we put the american and islamic republic and makes it? what do we get out of it? he said the word islam we can find in both, and in terms of emirates or a republic system, that will be a difficult debate. but i think it it is also in the interest of the united states and our international partners to engage with the taliban in a strategic dialogue to ensure that we keep that trajectory of the past 18 years, and then we build on that. why do i emphasized so much on this? it is not just the name. i think a setback on a republic system would mean a huge victory not just for the taliban, but so
many other groups like the taliban who carry these as lawmakers ambitions -- islamic ambitions through the world. it might pose national security risks to the u.s. and to many other countries throughout the world. i believe that in the next 18 months to two years, there are four fundamental elements to a political settlement, if we are going to get one. first, there has to be cease-fire. without cease-fire, you cannot really continue talking. the momentum will be lost. if there are ongoing talks in doha and ongoing fighting in kabul, kabul will take headlines. and doha and efforts like doha, maybe elsewhere -- germany, indonesia, uzbekistan, all has shown interest in hosting afghan dialogues.
so cease-fire will fundamentally overshadow the peace process. that is critical as a first step. the second step, i think, is an agreement on a transitional government. i am not saying this is necessarily an interim government, but a government to implement the details of the agreement is very, very important. it is not necessarily that i support it or think this is the best decision for afghanistan, but i really don't think that the taliban would jump on the iranian train, so the train has to stop at some point, new people get on board and it continues its journey. some sort of transitional setup, i believe, is critical. third is changing the constitution. changing the constitution of afghanistan is something that was also suggested.
all of us agreed, to an extent, that amendments are needed. the question is to what degree? i do not think there is such a great consensus over what the taliban and wants or what changes we want. fourth, as i said earlier, is agreeing on a political system. on what kind of political system afghanistan might have post deal. the last point is even if all four happen, are we going to get to peace or not? even if we get the taliban to come to kabul and run half the government, if not more, does that mean peace or not? the very recent attack in kabul, which took the entire city of 5 million people hostage for more than half a day, was claimed by
daesh. taliban said they had no role in it. so what argument is this? the taliban is the underlying reason for instability in afghanistan. so this is the biggest step towards peace. but this is not the only step that afghanistan requires towards getting a lasting and sustainable and inclusive peace. there are so many factors, social factors, reasonable factors, and political factors, not necessarily linked to the taliban, which contributes to the ongoing conflict in afghanistan. about peace in afghanistan is not just talking about the taliban, but i think this is just one step forward. i will stop here. >> thank you.
>> thank you. thank you so much for having me. it is always a pleasure to be at usip, and it i have been asked to provide a justification, a defense, an apology for a u.s. led these process and asking me to defend the current administration's policies. and the beginning of that defense is simple. the reason this peace process makes sense is that it is as a whole.
as difficult as it is, as many ways in which it might fail, its success is plausible. there is a weight and vision from recent steps to decent reasonable outcome in afghanistan. it is more plausible than any other policy that is available on the table, it is not as if we are slowly winning the war in afghanistan and if only the u.s. were willing to make this current level of commitment or triple the level of commitment or 100 times the level of commitment for the next four years to my we would get to the end state in afghanistan that we would all ideally want in a perfect world. that is not what is happening. if you compare the afghanistan i arrived in in 2002 to the afghanistan today, there has been immense social development. you cannot make a plausible case that our intervention over the last of the last two decades has moved us in appreciable, positive direction in terms of the political resolution of the underlying conflicts which let us there to begin with. the core reason for this peace process is simply choosing the most plausible of a variety of exceptionally difficult, all quite possible to fail policy
options. because you only asked me to talk from five to 10 minutes i will identify what a plausible, potentially successful peace process from the current moment could look like. i am not getting into the level of detail, i will not talk about the afghan settlement but the process. i think a settlement in afghanistan is the end state of three separate, somewhat linked peace processes. somewhat linked in the sense they have to end together in order to be sustainable, but they do not need to start together and they do not necessarily need to move in parallel. the first of the three processes is the u.s.-taliban bilateral process. the one after far too much delay on our part of the obama administration, the bush administration or the trump
administration's part, after far too long, the ambassador has gotten started. that is the trade-off. the u.s. agrees to the troop drawdown and the taliban agree to police the territory they influence and control against internationally focused terrorist groups. sadly, that is the easiest of the three peace in question. i say sadly because it is really hard. there are a lot of divisions on both sides and both of these questions. what is a terrorist, what is good enough in terms of taliban adherence to this deal, what is the time for drawdowns, there are a lot of divisions in both sides and getting to some kind of actual agreement as opposed to the agreed framework, not surprisingly, that was achievable in fairly short order, that is going to be extremely difficult it's still the easiest part. the second part, the one i
imagine we will spend most of our day talking about is the intra-afghan peace process. the first thing i would say is that it matters to us americans as americans simply because it matters to us as americans. this is not a gradual seminar. it is not bloodless. a lot of american blood has been shed over the question of afghanistan's future, and it is inconceivable for the u.s. to walk away without due consideration to what kind of a -- an arrangement we are making means for afghans. it matters to us because it is a core part, as you correctly identified, it is a core part of the sustainability of any security arrangement we might make with the taliban. if what we leave behind is x of the afghan civil war, we will be right back for where -- to where we were in the late 1990's were the chaos in the country must forces some side, i cannot tell you what side it will be, but some side to invite in and
accept the supportive terrorist groups. are seeking. i want to say a parenthetical. one of the things that curses peace process in general, this in particular, is inflated afghan -- expectations. afghan out -- afghanistan will be a poorly governed place for the future. you cannot say that we will walk away from the table if afghanistan is not fully at peace and every part of the territory is governed from the center.
that is not a reasonable expectation. setting this as a bar will ensure failure and sub sub optimal outcome. a realistic expectation about minimizing the political violence of the civil war that is achievable and necessary for the u.s. to achieve our security aims. what does that mean? first of all, it means an equilibrium lyrical solution in afghanistan. there is a real division of power on the ground. the taliban are not 10 feet tall. they are not the only people who controlled military and economic forces. there is some genuine equilibrium on the ground between forces. a political solution is one which recognizes that genuine division of powers and creates a political system which in some way reflects it. so that the cost and the risk to any party from defecting from
absolution, deciding they will seek maximal victory is so high that it is less likely that any party chooses to do so. it is easier to accept the imperfect compromise solution that it is to run the risk and pay the cost of defecting from that solution. that is the nature of the political outcome that afghans need to work out amongst themselves. i would argue that the u.s. and our international partners have a fair amount of leverage, quite a bit of leverage, to use in trying to help afghans reach that outcome. the leverage comes from two things, the first thing it comes from is the u.s. troop presence. that might seem ironic given that i said the most rapid progress on the negotiated drawdown. but here's the thing. i think the leverage the u.s. troops give us does not have much to do with whether we are talking about 100,000 or 14,000 or 7000, or, quite frankly, 700 troops.
the force that matters is the counterterrorism force that targets and kills their leadership and that is not a lot of guys. depending on -- it is not a lot of guys. the difference between the 14,000 that we have now and that last core that would come out at the end of the drawdown in terms of the political leverage is, i think, close to zero. our military leverage does not come from the troop intensive tasks of, for example, training and equipping the afghan army. which has been largely [inaudible] our leverage stays throughout the drawdown process. the second thing our leverage comes from is money. no government in the modern era has resourced itself internally. the function of a central government is to take external resources and distributed to the barons in the field. so long as the u.s., our allies, and our partners are providing
much more money than we do to anyone who does not have u.s. troops on the ground, so long as we're willing to do that, we have substantial leverage to get to and sustain political settlements in afghanistan. i will say parenthetically here that one of the areas in which the state department has followed out is consultation with contract -- congress and consultation with our allies and partners. at some point in the not so distant future, if this comes together, those of people you have to ask her money. asking them when the train is moving rather than when you are
stopped at a station is just, in my experience, much more difficult. i will speak briefly about the last piece which is the regional peace. every civil war is a regional war. civil war soon i get font unless the actors have support from abroad. i have this weird atom of optimism in the back of my brain. they're willing to accept suboptimal outcomes from their maximalist perspectives in afghanistan because they are afraid of the chaos of a u.s. troop withdrawal. they want to see some kind of outcome. the other louder concern in the back of my head which is, are the regional actors going to make afghanistan policy qua their interest or will it be driven with their interest with us? will iran say that we could work with this settlement in afghanistan but it is better for us to stick the u.s. in the eye on the way out. same with russia. same with these come as countries that are not adversaries. the question of whether or not it is possible for the administration to prioritize things so that we can not invite the regional parties to take advantage of a moment of weakness.
i will say one last word and handed over. you are except the right. throughout the sorry history of this conflict, this is not the first moment where people have tried to make peace. at almost every moment, someone has been trained to make peace. if you go through all those episodes and you are play the story of the offers that were on the table, from the perspective of the u.s., from the perspective of afghans and ask yourself, has the offer ever gotten better? has the -- the offers that we turned down and we turned them down in 2001, 2003, 2004, were those offers better or worse than what we were able to get in 2009, 2010. where the offers better or worse than what we were able to get in 2015 at 2016? it always gets worse. our position is deteriorating. this is the best moment we have had since the last moment, and it is better than mo -- any moment we will have in the future to try to come to a political settlement. thank you. >> thank you. to avoid repeating what was said before me, i will focus on two
issues. one is the invisible impact of the ongoing war in afghanistan and efforts to ensure their rights are protected and not compromised during the peace process. before getting into that, i would like to discuss or add to the opening remarks by reminding us all that this week makes 41 years of political turmoil, violent conflict, mass displacement, economic instability -- in afghanistan that has effective -- affected life between generations. there have been lots of talks, rightfully so, about as a boy impact of the four decades of war in afghanistan and the need for a peaceful political settlement. it is clear that afghan people want peace. and we all want ace and stability.
so what is missing in the mainstream conversation is that of the invisible impact of four and how much's -- we must look at ways to do with it now and after a peace agreement is reached. the trauma of war and conflict leaves and oftentimes invisible but lasting effects on people's emotional and mental well-being. last month, i was in afghanistan , and i spoke with a diverse number of afghans, men and women, youth included about the hope for peace and also their fear. i kept hearing about invisible impact of the prolonged war. many afghans i talked to told me they own their family members -- they and their family members
suffer from anxiety, depression, personality and behavioral problems, having witnessed and being exposed to her affect stories of the -- expos to horrific -- being exposed to her fixed the bombings. it has lead to deep and prolonged complications on people's psychological health. we, the international community, must be willing to provide the necessary assistance to help afghan men, women, and children to [inaudible] the visible and invisible impact of war. that brings me to my next point, which was also raised, and that is the need for an immediate cease-fire. while the afghan government are -- and political leaders and tell men debate about the number of delegates of -- you should be
on the list, where and how the talks should take place, afghans are being killed on a daily basis. every day. more and more women become widows, children become orphans and [inaudible] so the taliban and the afghan government must demonstrate by their actions that they are serious about ending the war and declare a cease-fire. the prolonged cease-fire will boost the public morale and result in unprecedented support for the peace process. now, on women's issues, there are perceived consequences of a peace agreement by women and the fear that the taliban might impose restrictions on women's employment, education, mobility, and so on. i think women's concerns are and should be men's concerns, too. i believe a significant number of afghan men sympathize with and advocate is to preserve the gains of the past 18 years on women's rights. women's concerns are legit.
we should listen to them. and alleviate their concerns and address and to the extent we can. after all, they left with the experience of discriminatory practices and unfair treatment of different groups and parties for the past many years. one half women done, they have organized in kabul and the provinces and in many cases, have taken personal risk to voice their concerns. they have made it clear over and
over about the red lines and the international community and particularly americans must use what -- whatever leverage is left there that we have -- and we have. with the afghan government, with opposition leaders, and the taliban, to make sure that afghans' basic rights that are guaranteed in their constitution apparent. if the constitution is amended which is likely, i think it must be done in a way that people's rights are improved and not limited. >> thanks. jarrod made the case for a policy. i thought it might try to explain what the position of the afghan government is and
particularly the president because these positions are not necessarily aligned. a few days ago, there was an op-ed in the wall street journal pointing out the surreality of the way it was described, us coddling our enemies and chiding our allies, and part of the, what of the examples was this incident that happened six weeks ago here in washington when the
president of afghanistan's security advisor made comments that were critical of the ambassador. our reaction was swift and quite severe and to this day, our diplomats in kabul are not supposed to attend meetings or meet with the national security adviser so we are in a strange position here. while supporting afghanistan's military forces, we are not allowed to support with afghanistan's security advisor. this -- dissidents -- this points to a variety of peace strategies which could come to a point of collision in the near future. what the president believes, i believe he is committed to a peace process. in february of last year, he made this unconditional offer
for talks with the taliban that helped lead to the moment we are now, that would -- that led to the appointment of the ambassador but he has a different view of how that should happen. he wants to be able to negotiate for my position of strength. the afghan government with the tele-band. he would rather see the taliban negotiate their way into the afghan constitution than to see a new constitution or more of a even split when it comes out of the lender -- lender. -- out of the blender. the -- there is a large round of consultation with afghans to decide what should we are red lines, who should be on our negotiating team and so forth. so, fundamentally, there is a difference of time. the ambassador feels that he is under quite a degree of urgency. the president does not feel the same degree of urgency. i think president ghani is gambling on the fact that there will not be a sudden withdrawal of u.s. troops from afghanistan as has been threatened. so he rejects the idea there is a near deadline under which some
kind of an agreement needs to be made. this is why the comments that were made by his national security adviser were allowed to be made. if you was not confident there was still a long-term commitment to afghanistan, i don't think these comments would have been made. and if they had be -- had been made and he did not want them to be made, i don't think his national security adviser would still be in place. the second issue is president ghani faces reelection in september. and you can see why it would be or how it would be in his interest to play for a time, go to an election and win in the first round or be among the finalist in the first round if there is no clear winner and then basically turned to the u.s. government and say, this is the moment you're going to
withdraw troops, with all your commitment from the government, i am about to be reelected, i am the best reformer you will ever see. i have got five more years of legitimacy by the afghan people. and basically gamble on that moment to then i himself more time and then hope at that moment to negotiate from a position of strength. i think that is the strategy. there are two downsides to the debts he has made. the elections. my experience especially having gone through the october parliamentary elections last year is that president ghani tends to overestimate what can be done in what time to make an election happen. right now, preparations for the presidential election which is scheduled for september 28 are for behind. the parliamentary elections are still not resolved.
there are 33 seats out of 250 for kabul province that have not been finalized. the parliamentary election was such a disaster last year that the entire electoral commission was replaced. the new commission does not have a lot of experience. they still have to make a number of key decisions about registration, about what kind of elections to happen and we are less than five months then when the elections are supposed to happen and we are moving into the fighting season and ramadan. there is not a lot of time to get a lot done. there is a real possibility, speaking to experts who are in kabul and following this closely, that these elections will not happen. that sets up a bit of a crisis. according to the constitution,
president donnie's term and's on may 22. if people believe election shall be held in september, he could buy himself a grace period. if elections cannot happen till spring, that would be annexed or year of his mandate with a lot of opposition to him, and a lot of discontent. that could create a problem such that we have never seen before. we have never seen presidential elections that did not have -- happen in the year it was supposed to happen. opposition politicians are planning big demonstrations for may 22 and we'll see what sort of effect that has, but this would undermine his legitimacy. the second downside is what if president ghani has miscalculated about the reaction of the u.s. and our willingness to stay no matter what? summary wrote an article toward the end of last year saying in september of 2019, every american journalist and
afghanistan will be looking for the first u.s. soldier who is fighting in afghanistan who is not born when 9/11 happened. there's a lot of frustration in the second -- in the u.s. on both sides, this may be the only bipartisan issue in washington, a lot of consensus on trying to unwind our commitment in afghanistan. i would say a lot of frustration as well with the way that our afghan politician partners have been, perhaps wasted a lot of resources that have been provided on a necessary internal squabbles. there is running out and a certain fragility of the position here for supporting another second term with president ghani and with significant resources. the next few months will say whether this bit pays off. we will see which process has more dynamism.
i will conclude that i agree with jared, this is the only policy option we have, and i have referred earlier to this surreal aspect of us being nice to our enemies and not nice to our friends. there is something else that is surreal. the hidden costs and the real cost of this war, the wind came out with its civilian casualty figures for the first quarter, 580 killed, 1190 two injured. a lot of civilian casualties and 23% dime -- down from the same time last year as a result of some of these movements on the peace process, but it is very high and i imagine a lot of afghans are thinking it may be a bit surreal that while this destruction is happening, we are talking about where we should meet, what the venue should be with -- and what the format should be and so forth. i think that alone puts me on the side of urgency in moving this peace process board rather than consolidation of the second
term of the constitution. thank you. >> great, thank you all. that was truly impressive on all counts. i would say we have gone fairly deep on the u.s. perspective, the afghan government perspective. maybe we could talk about the taliban and a little bit. so much of this hinges on whether we are looking at a meaningfully different taliban that we saw in the 1990's, whether it is on women's rights, democracy, sharing of power, on terrorism, and so i like short questions and in the interest of setting a positive example to any of your interrogators among the audience, have the tell been changed and what kind of deal do they want? and maybe i could start here. >> has the taliban changed? i have been asked this question so many times, especially in the
recent months. i think taliban have been consistent with their views at least toward women and women's rights. since their formation in 1994, they have been saying that they are committed to guaranteeing women's rights, [inaudible] when they repeat the same statement, if they mean a different interpretation of sharia or is it the same interpretation as they had in 1984, 1986 where they had force that interpretation to physical violence, intimidation, and humiliation of women and girls. i want to focus on the taliban's views on women for now. >> anyone else to -- care to weigh in? >> if you talk about individuals, you may have a different conclusion. there are people that we and the press talk to. some of them relatively accommodating, taking criticism, being open to questions, and some of them are pretty
group the dilemma for the taliban is how to change from a military group which sees things black and white to a political group. to have a wide range of issues to do with so many issues and it would be difficult for the taliban to make that transition, especially overnight. which i believe is going to come with serious costs to the taliban. >> i challenge the question. two things can change to get a different outcome. one thing that can change is a talent and one thing that can change is the taliban -- of the situation in which the taliban find themselves. i would hypothesize is if the taliban face the situation as they did in the 1990's of a collapsing alternative order that creates a vacuum that sucks them into every part of the country, they will probably behave more or less as they did
in the 1990's. if they do not face a collapsing bond order, if they face a more organized opposition and again, with the use of international leverage, you're able to get the equilibrium political solution which reflects the changed circumstances on the ground, then their decision point is very different. they might want a maximalist victory but they cannot have it, so they will live with something else. the biggest from my perspective, there are lots of things to be afraid about four afghans, there are lots of things to be afraid of four afghan women. the thing to be most afraid of is that lapse of the bond order which will come if the u.s. pulls the plug with nothing else organized. that is why and i agree with scott, we probably agree to much of here, it is not interesting. president ghani is throwing the
dice in a couple of issues and i would not be throwing the dice. you are gambling a lot in terms of your ability to sustain this political order and negotiate a better outcome than the 1990's. >> i would add quickly that part of the change that we need to be asking ourselves regarding the taliban is, why would they stop fighting when they appear to be having the momentum? and when you speak to those who are close to the taliban, maybe not part of it right now. one of the more interesting items i have heard is because we are tired. the fact is or all of the problems we have on the afghan national security forces for all the attrition happening on that side, and most of these battles, the taliban are being killed more often than afghan national army soldiers. they're able to replenish is year. we forget that set of the picture that it is debilitating for them and not the nicest way to live if you could come to
some sort of agreement where, as one of them put it, we want to go back and live in a land which is familiar to us and that land is not full of u.s. soldiers, that land may have other elements that may be unfortunately familiar, but that is a case for perhaps why the might make this engagement and look for real compromises, not just a maximalist position. >> a lot has happened in the last 18 or 20 years and the talent needs to be brought up to speed. what other practical ways to bring them up to speed is, one is to, the ambassador to explain what has changed in the past 18 or 20 years. a more practical way would be to
bring them up to speed is to facilitate formal as well as informal dialogue between afghan women and the taliban. today, women are active participants in politics, justice, security, health, education, often culture. their active in the private sector and millions of women are now breadwinners of their families. unlike 20 years ago when they were in power, when female provisional engineers, scientists, teachers, and lawyers were forced to beg on the streets in kabul because employment was not allowed. today, they are earning their income through hard work and gaining an ever-increasing sense of personal dignity. they need to be brought up to speed that things have changed. thank you. >> thank you all. i am tempted to monopolize the
mic but maybe i will open it to the crowd. i can't remember if i mentioned that i like short questions. if we could go to the gentleman over here, my colleague matt will be passing microphones around. we will start with one at a time. >> a quick comment, you're doing a great job. mark raise two points which i wanted to give feedback on. the u.s. army. you are right, special forces are doing a job that they are not passive. general mcdonald, after 17 years, he is ready to move out assuming the taliban will hold al qaeda and daesh in control. the secretary of defense is doing nothing. moscow has had three meetings and moscow participated, the pakistanis might have invited --
they did invite us and we turned it down. no one mentions warlords. maybe that is northern alliance. part of the country is controlled by a warlord and he was fired. comments, please. >> phone tears? -- volunteers? >> i will take a brief statement. you have it -- accurately described the kind of messy situation that exists on the ground right now. you have to bear that in mind when contrasting it with what comes next. you have a messy situation, the situation that follows will be messy and imperfect. part of this involve getting your head straight in terms of
what the expectations are, but also, to be clear, it can be easier to negotiate from a messy situation to messy situation. there is already a 20 year pathway in afghanistan of dealing with local military powers that needs to be taken advantage of. >> just a quick point on the warlords, you reminded me of another reason why there is an incentive for the taliban to negotiate, which is, if there were and i don't think it is lightly, -- likely, if there was a sudden u.s. withdrawal and we are back to the situation of the 1990's for the taliban had to fight a civil war, they would be fighting against resurrected warlords directly as post right now with a fight against a national army, which is being supported by us. that could be an much nastier fight than the when they are doing right now. >> the gentleman over here.
>> i was supposed to be on the same plane to doha, but we got stood up. it goes back to your second point about the transitional setup. you did not say interim government but i frankly find that as confusing. you mentioned that peace is not a new phenomenon in afghanistan. so is a transitional setup. we are not going back to our three steps back, we are going back to 1992. we saw this movie played a before and we saw how that ended up. i want some verification on that point -- clarification on that point from you. >> there is a huge risk as you may suggest that we try to go back to square one without having a clear vision of which direction we are going. i totally understand that.
but there are three scenarios. the best deal is you get the taliban talk to the afghan government. not the very best deal is to get the taliban talk to all afghans, mostly those outside the government. and then probably not a deal, probably a deal but certainly not peace is to transfer power to the taliban, which can result into civil war. my understanding is that the u.s. policy at the moment is to engage with the government of us data -- of afghanistan as a group among other groups to talk to the taliban. you may have noticed president trump's state of the union speech in which he said that in afghanistan, all political groups, including the government as a group are talking to the taliban. that is the policy of the u.s.
and if they make progress, and my understanding, there is some sort of a transitional setup, that is part of the package. but i wish we get a deal in which the taliban come and talk to our legitimate elected government and then accept all our gains. and they can join the elections and become our president, become the chief executive in case we could not agree on who the president could be. i don't think this is the case at the moment. i don't think we are talking about the best deal option.
>> down to the front. >> thank you very much. after doha, no doha, there were some afghans that was better not to -- said perhaps it is best to get them out of the regional rivalries. is that a option or do they have to stay in qatar? president donnie said is -- president ghani said i want to have a negotiating team. as you saw all the old warlords of the past are wanting to be on the negotiating team. does that mean there is no space for the young, educated afghans
or women who can help to move the country forward? it is the other war between the afghans of the past and the afghan of the future that seems to be creating problems and try to talk to the taliban. >> on the first question, to be perfectly honest, i think people get spun around the axle of doha somewhere else. the people who the u.s. and afghans need to speak to, the taliban came they need to use it to our the same people whether they are sitting in the hot or -- doha or bonn. they have tried to do it in moscow. if they goes to -- it goes to bonn, that is fine. to suggest that they are eight governing force overstates the role. i would bracket that question.
i would say a word about this question of negotiating teams. every i will refer back to some of the points that scott made. i think if president donnie is an inspiring figured, he has been dealt a very bad hand and he has played it very badly. he has made to tremendous mistakes which have undermined his and the government's position in trying to set this up. the first mistake that he made was to publicly advertise division with the u.s. the government of afghanistan's main source of strength israel -- its relationship with the u.s. even if president ghani was dissatisfied with the way the u.s. was proceeding, that was something to sort out in private. snc made that public, he diminished his own government's role in this process. and then the second mistake he has made is to try from that relatively weakened position to
demand full ownership of it. so having this 250 person delegation come and sit at his feet in couple as kabul and instructs them they were to represent the government when a taliban said they would meet with members but not representatives of the afghan government to my going ahead with this despite the boycott of every non-ghani political figure. these are not displays of unity and strength, they are displays of ghani's on weakness. where that leads anyone trying to assist the afghan dialogue,
whether or not it needed to be this way, the afghan government is one of many non-taliban forces, it is powerful, has variety of structures at no other force has but it is only one. i think it is unlikely at this stage with legitimacy three weeks away from disappearing, it is unlikely they can recover that area the last thing i would say is that from the perspective of that, the only thing that would be worse than having -- not having an election in september is not having an election in september. there has not been an election since the first bonn cycle that has enhanced the legitimate of the bonn order. if you go to this election in september in the current you situation, what emerges from it, the puzzle pieces become difficult.
>> i think they are trying to organize another meeting in a qatar. the ambassador said last week on the record that we are not going to humiliate the nation for making mistake. -- making a mistake. they are trying to organize a conference probably not for 200 50 people but 150 people or less. a on the negotiating team, there are two ideas. you have this pool of 100 or 200 people. and then based on the topic, you pick, if it is about cease-fire you send military experts. if it is about women's rights, you send a dominant great -- group of women activists. if it is about the political system then you send the political leaders or the islamic scholars. that is one idea.
the government is more pro-a specific team of hand-picked seven to 15 people who can be permanent like the taliban team. then they go and discuss a busy with the taliban. my understanding is there is no agreement on which model is best or should be accepted. >> i think the compilation of the list has been and continues to be an issue. in addition to government representatives, i believe for that to be a conclusive that inclusive list, society has to be represented as well as the private sector. men and women from these sectors of society, the private sector, as well as [inaudible] it seems the taliban delegation includes former detainees and prisoners which they label as victims. it is important the delegation
does not only include government investors and officials but other sectors within afghan society who have been affected by the past two decades of war. we also must not forget minorities. religious minorities as well as other groups have been marginalized over the years. >> the stages of peace process is there is a tendency to be overly prescriptive. we don't really know what is on the tele-been agenda, so we don't know how we would divide the model of specialists, what kind of specialist would have to be recruited for this sort of thing. what is unfortunate about the opportunity missed in doha, this is the first time where you have the substantial discussion, after which you could decide what model is most appropriate. that does not get us past the
fundamental problem or one of the fundamental problems, which is a huge lack of distressed among the kabul afghans. you have this paragraph -- this paradox when 200 50 people have been referred to, on the one hand people say 250 people is way too big and on the other hand, you have another 2500 people saying, but we should have been included. it is hard to wrap her heads around that dilemma. >> i think we will start with tom and after that we will take a few at a time. >> i had a question about the list of presidential candidate to have declared so far. just wondered if the panel had views on whether any of the tickets that currently exist will produce or is capable of producing a government that acknowledges the genuine distribution of power within afghanistan. if not, are we inexorably headed toward another mediated outcome in september? >> i agree that having election -- an election is worse than not having one. the curious thing about this election is it was supposed to be held in april, and it was postponed to july.
before it was postponed, the candidate lists were consolidated. normally you would have several months does between finalizing your list and going to the election. now have -- we have almost nine months in which there can be either candidate's dropping out, perhaps consolidation of certain tickets. this is uncharted territory. to your point specifically, i think that it would not be a bad opposition strategy to try and do that, to have a -- a team that goes up against an incumbent president with a very specific agenda, opposed by a team that might have a more [inaudible] agenda but is clearly representative of the nation of the various political
tendencies. it goes back to the point i made, whether they can overcome their amount of trust to figure out who will be on that team as a "and and they did not when there was a chance in the first formulation of candidates, there had in a movement to get behind a single team and they proved unable to do that. >> anyone else care to -- there was a forest of hands laughs -- last time. we will go here and to the gentleman here second and the general men next to our first question or third. we will try and do another one. >> thank you very much. i an afghan american journalist, nice to see you. a few questions for you. i understand that the access to this meeting was not as open as our colleagues would have wished. if you could comment on that. and what in terms of afghanistan's neighbors and the foreign dynamic, you just spoke about there are worse and worse scenarios, if we had taken the
potential lease offer in 2002, it would have been better than later on and this is perhaps the best we can get before it deteriorates further. you have dealt or some of your colleagues in afghanistan have dealt with the taliban. it seems that we are all sitting and guessing about who are the tele-ban, what are their demands, if they finally work through the details of what they want out of a negotiated peace, what might they spill out? in terms of women's rights, and freedom of press, and what kind of islam they want for afghanistan? could you please comment? >> will take a second and third before hand.
>> my first question, what do you think really the afghan side, the government and the parties are ready and willing to go to peace talks and do they come to an agreement and the second question. do you feel that the u.s. is rushing to make a deal, do get this feeling? thank you. >> and then. >> my question is [inaudible] the meeting that they initiated was a good move. so a quick question that what outcome do you see in peace negotiations and washington, d.c.?
>> i think i agree that [inaudible] in terms of media coverage could have been planned and executed better. kabul, irnment in criticize it a lot. i tend not to do so here. i agree there were difficulties for media to go there. there was live coverage of the opening sessions and the concluding sessions yesterday. what the taliban's views are on women and media. one thing i heard out of moscow was that the taliban said three things are not acceptable. women cannot be president.
women cannot be judge. to issue an execution order or verdict. third, women cannot be imam. this was discussed privately in moscow at the taliban's meeting. if you talk to others -- other islamic scholars, i debated a couple of weeks ago and he had a totally different look at it. i think it is important for the people like [inaudible] who has a totally different view and the taliban to sit together and we come to a common understanding of what islam says about women. media, the taliban has
been used to the privilege of free media in afghanistan, perhaps possibly too much. we have been criticized by our government and afghanistan for giving taliban too much coverage. that was entirely an editorial decision by a free press in afghanistan. on the political side, to be honest, it depends on what kind of deal we get. if we get, let's say, i am just guessing. if the future political system includes a body above the government which is untouchable, let's say, it would be difficult for us, it would be difficult for the future of media in afghanistan to talk about that. i am not saying that is coming. i am not saying i have heard it from credible sources, but i am just guessing what kind of a
mixture the taliban and islamic republic set up would look like. on entertainment and social programs on singing competitions, music shows, the taliban, we would need to engage with them. we need to sit down with them. one of the reasons that some of the media representatives who are interested to attend the doha talks were to discuss some of the issues with the taliban to see if they are on common ground. >> would you like to take yours? >> it may not be so much there is a rush to remove troops. there is a rush to determine some sort of clarity about our engagement in afghanistan, particularly about how that can be unwound. and given that the state building model heavily resourced we have been pursuing for the
last 20 years has reached the end of its usefulness, some sort of disengagement is the only remaining option. and the ambassador has spoken of and need to get an agreement quickly. if we can get a process which is established, that has an agenda where the two sides are speaking to each other, that possibly has a third party mediator, then that would buy more time, and the process would require time to go through some of the many complicated issues such as the ones that were just mentioned. the establishment of a process would be sufficient and what is things. if it can be done in an atmosphere of a reduction of violence or even better, a cease-fire, that is probably best outcome for now, and that would allow a continuing rational engagement.
>> what can the afghans do? first of all, when i talk to afghans, they appreciate and they see or they saw the moscow meeting as a first step to open the door for further dialogue -- that was a good initiative. do whatever you can to support peaceful resolution to the conflict in afghanistan and to the extent possible of lloyd -- ethnic tensions.
i see that unfortunately a lot from afghans in the ds bora. pora.as >> i'm going to cut off there. go, to touchre we on something jared said, as hard as this is, it is possible. it is possible. it is the most plausible of any of the remotely favorable outcomes that could come to this country. that applies equally to the interest of every party in this conflict. i hope they see it that way. please join me in thinking our outstanding panelists. [applause] >> thank you all for coming.
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