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tv   Washington Journal Kelley Vlahos  CSPAN  August 14, 2021 11:05am-11:51am EDT

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8:00 p.m. eastern c-span looks at discussions from congress and how the institution operates. monday night, a conversation about modernizing congress with representatives tom graves and brian baird. tuesday night, hearing focusing on bipartisanship and civility. on wednesday night, a second hearing on political civility with psychologists, scholars, and journalists. on thursday night, representative derek kilmer of washington and william jennings of washington talk about waste but -- ways to foster bipartisanship. watch all next week at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, online at, and listen on the c-span radio app. >> "washington journal" continues. host: we are back with kelley
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vlahos, the senior advisor for the quincy institute for responsible statecraft. she is here to talk to us about the military and political situation in afghanistan. guest: thank you so much for having me. host: tell us what the quincy institute is. guest: wow, the quincy institute is a think tank dedicated to a new foreign policy based on restraint, military restraint, and diplomatic engagement with the rest of the world. challenging the consensus foreign policy over the last 70 years, has been more about military domination in the world and american primacy. we are looking at a foreign policy that sees diplomacy as the major engine for engagement in the world and reorganizing foreign policy to be more about
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american interests and the interests of the broader world. we do not think the foreign policy of the last several decades, particularly after the 1990's has been particularly good for the world or america. it is a major challenge, as you are seeing in the world today, the status quo has not worked, and so we are out there, we are on capitol hill. we are talking to americans. i edit a magazine that is promoting writers and contributors every day who are taking a different view of how we have done things in the world. and it is hard, that i think it is working, because i think americans are ready for change. host: where does the quincy institute get its funding and do you consider yourself conservative, liberal, independent? guest: this is the neat thing
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about the quincy institute. we get our funding from both left and right donors. our major donors are george soros and charles koch. if that tells you anything about our trans-partisan mission, i think that gets to it there. our founders had a vision that they were tired of the partisan politics that were dominating foreign policy in this country. i think if you talk to americans on both left and right they are tired of endless wars. they are tired of sending our troops to places and for missions that our politicians cannot even describe clearly or articulate anymore. it is not a partisan issue. we see that democrat and republican presidencies, one after the other, have sent our troops across the globe in harm's way way to police the
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world and meddle in other country's politics. we realize it is going to take the energy of both the left and right and all of the enthusiasm that i have seen in my career as a reporter in communities across the country to harness that energy on changing our foreign policy and the way that we see our role in the world. it is unique in that way. is it a challenge? yes. we are trying to talk to people who are living through an era of partisan polarization. but it is a challenge i personally have taken on because i am dedicated to this idea that there is common ground. this is about the wars, this is about the military-industrial complex, this is about elites directing our foreign policy for the last 70 years and becoming more and more disconnected from regular americans.
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if we take the partisanship out of it we realize we have a lot of common goals together and we need to sort of bring it all together. that is what quincy is trying to do and i think we are doing a good job of it. host: let's switch over to talking about afghanistan. what is your view on president biden's decision to withdraw troops from afghanistan and the consequences of that decision, as we see the fighting increase and the taliban again to take over the country again? guest: my personal view and that of the quincy institute are intertwined. quincy institute has supported the 2020 doha agreement president trump signed that would have withdrawn all u.s. troops from afghanistan by may 2021. that did not happen, but we supported president biden's
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effort to get our troops out and end the military chapter of this war by september 11. that was accelerated. most of the troops are out of that country now. what you are seeing today is not the result of the withdrawal. i think a lot of critics of president biden and his decision to end the military chapter of this war are saying, look, what you are seeing on the ground today is a direct result of that. no, what you are seeing is a direct result of 20 years of a bad policy, a bad interventionist policy. we had basically put a band-aid on the situation for the last two decades. and the withdrawal, yes, ripped that band-aid off and you are seeing it bleed everywhere, and it is horrifying. the images you are seeing from afghanistan among the people there, the anxiety that afghans
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are feeling now, the fallen cities -- one after one after 1 -- but what that tells me is that the politicians who have been running this war for the last 20 years have been lying and misdirecting about the actual conditions on the ground there. and we know that. reporters know that, analysts know that. we know that "the washington post" came out with the afghanistan papers last year that basically said our political leaders, our military leaders, had known that this war was not winnable, they kept that band-aid on because it was politically convenient. i commend president biden for actually taking that really brave, bold step of saying no, we are bringing the remaining troops home and we will work with the afghan people to come to a political settlement. we will work with our partners in the region. we will build up our diplomatic
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machinery there. we cannot win this war with boots on the ground. he spent a lot of capital on it, because guess what, you are seeing all of the rotten fruits from our intervention there and from all of the policies and poor strategy. it is going to be tough, because you do hear mainstream voices saying, see, should have left troops there. see, americans did not have the stomach for war. biden did not have the stomach for war. come on, people. one more year, 15 more years, 20 more years and that country would not stabilize, what is going on on the ground there. it is going to be a tough road, but i think this is the best thing for not only the afghans, but for american interests as well. host: we did the u.s. go wrong? was it entering afghanistan in the first place?
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was that the management of afghanistan's government and helping prop up the government for so long? what could have been done differently? guest: as somebody who has lived through this experience as an american, i can tell you after -- it is almost 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. we are headed into a 20 year anniversary and the u.s. military was deployed to afghanistan to rout the terrorists and their taliban friends who had harbored them, al qaeda being responsible for those unbelievable tragic events that happened on 9/11. and they actually accomplished that mission. that is when we should have gotten out. in 2004 president bush said we were refocusing our efforts there, not only to get the remaining terrorists in the country, but to help taliban --
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i mean, to help the afghan government build itself, to rebuild a republic. but what happened was we were trying to rebuild a republic in our image. we set about a nationbuilding task, pouring upwards of -- it's going to be $2 trillion when all is said and done. basically trying to imprint our form of democracy, our form of a republic on afghanistan. that is where it went wrong. at the same time we were trying to do that, we were pursuing a military solution to their problems. we had at one point surged 100,000 troops, or enough troops to equal 100,000 troops on the ground during the obama administration. what did that do? what did that do?
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the taliban has become more emboldened over the last several years. civilian casualties have gone up. afghan security forces, as much as we have poured $85 billion into building a military and police force their, they have been taking casualties over the last four years, like triple than they were at the early part of the war. you know, there is just so much to talk about on that score, but i think it is when we redirected our initial counterterrorism mission to a nationbuilding mission. host: let's let some of our viewers take part in this conversation. we are going to open up our record -- our regular lines. republicans, you can call in at (202) 748-8001. democrats, your line is going to be (202) 748-8000. independents, you can call (202) 748-8002.
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we are going to open up a special line for afghanistan war veterans. afghanistan war veterans, want to hear from you on what you think about what is going on in afghanistan right now. your number is (202) 748-8003. keep in mind, you can also text us at (202) 748-8003. and we are always reading on social media, on twitter, and on facebook. now, president biden said this week that afghanistan's leaders should come together and assert that their forces actually out number the taliban. first of all, is that true? and is it plausible for afghanistan's security forces to come together and repel the taliban right now? guest: i don't want to impugn the president, but from what i have read, and this has been
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true over the years, and this is not just me or reporters, this is the inspector general, the special inspector general for afghanistan. we don't really have a handle on how many afghan security forces there actually are. i think that they are saying officially, i think it is 300,000. host people or most analysts would put that number at about 1/6 of that. even that we don't know for sure. the problem is there has been so much corruption in not only the military there, the afghan military and police forces, but in the government at large. there has been a cooking of the books, and so the special inspector general for afghanistan here in washington has been saying repeatedly over the years that there are plenty of ghost soldiers, ghost police
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officers, people who are on the books, but they don't know where they are. to say that the taliban is vastly outnumbered is a bit suspect, to me. i think what we are seeing in afghanistan today is the result of the corruption and the forces very much stretch then in places where they have not and well-equipped, they have not been well fed. when you hear of these forces caving to the taliban, it is usually because these poor guys have been out there at these outposts without reinforcements, without food. i was reading a story today about these forces -- forgive me, i think it was in kandahar -- who have been eating potato spots for the past week and they were handed a handful of slimy
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potatoes and they said, forget it, we cannot do this anymore. it has come down to that. you say, wait a minute, put $83 billion into this military and they are eating potato spots and there is no reinforcements? that is the result of the widespread corruption within the government there, within the bureaucracy, which, you know, that speaks more broadly to the fact that we have put billions and trillions of dollars into a country which acted sort of like a sieve in terms of our money and resources. it hasn't gone to the places and for the things we promised our people, the afghan people. now when push comes to shove you see unfortunately these military forces just crumbling, and some of them being bought off as well. so, you know, i understand biden
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is trying to build more out, that i think that ship has sailed. host: just this morning afghanistan's president had a recorded speech broadcast in afghanistan. i want you to react to some of the things he said. there is the story from the new york times. in a recorded speech early saturday afternoon he promised to prevent further instability did not resign. he said he has begun extensive consultations at home and abroad and that the result which should be -- would soon be shared. he said we mobilizing afghanistan's defense forces was a priority. first of all, do you think mr. ghani should resign and do you think it is possible for him to re-mobilize afghanistan's defense forces? guest: i don't want to say whether i think ashraf ghani should resign or not. i think the problem all along
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has been american voices, american politicians, and the military telling other countries who they should elect to be there leaders. i will say this. i feel that mr. ghani has been an ineffectual leader. i think he, broadcasting the sort of confidence he could immobilize the defense forces, that he is bringing in outside partners to embolden that process, you know, i think these words are basically empty. so, you know, i don't want to pick or choose who should stay or who should go, but he has been overseeing a very, very corrupt government over the last decade. he has won an election that many felt were not credible and fraudulent.
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i am going to leave it at that, but when you look at 20 years of him -- not all 20 years, because his predecessor was also there for many years, but he has overseen a country that has gotten billions of dollars from the u.s. government and what you are seeing today is that that government, that country is in no better state or condition than it was when we got there, and that says a lot about ashraf ghani's tenure. host: let's let our viewers take part. we will start with paul, who is calling from indianapolis on the independent line. good morning. caller: good morning and thanks for taking my call. i guess the question when you talk about this issue is, where do you draw the line? a lot of people, like victor davis hanson, have been saying getting involved in afghanistan was a mistake from the
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beginning. never from the time of alexander has ever been a good idea. do you believe the -- believe the united states should have intervened in the balkans back in the 1990's? should the united states have intervened in cambodia much earlier? the north vietnamese had to end pol pot's regime. could have intervened in rwanda. you are dancing on the edge of baseboard, it seems to me, -- edge of a sword, it seems to me, and it has to do with how much responsibility you take for anything. guest: the cases you have identified, the different between the first, which was the intervention in afghanistan, and the others, is that we were attacked.
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we were attacked on 9/11. i haven't pulled the american public on this question, but i feel like the majority of americans felt like it was an -- it was a valid reason to go after those responsible for the attacks on american soil. the other cases, we did not get attacked. you could make a case that some of those interventions or some of those wars that were happening in these conflicts were not directly harming national security. i know that is probably not a satisfactory answer, but as we have seen in our wars, particularly post-1992, post persian gulf war, which, you know, i hate to bring this up -- i don't hate to bring this up, it is an uncomfortable fact that we have gotten in more conflicts
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in the past 30 years then we had during the 1900s. most of the conflicts we have fought in this country have been after 1990. we have used our military to solve problems in that period rather than diplomatic engagement. as it worked? has it made the world a safer place? we can talk about cambodia, but i think the growing consensus, particular at quincy, is that u.s. military intervention doesn't often, or at all, make things better. it creates conflict for people on the ground. it puts civilians in harm's way. it puts our troop in harm's way. it creates more insurgencies, or enemies. it creates secondhand conflicts over borders. when you look at what happened
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in iraq, for example, a war of choice. it was the obvious argument we now know is a lie about weapons of mass destruction. there was also lies about saddam hussein being connected to al qaeda and the 9/11 hijackers. we made the choice to intervene and depose saddam hussein. please tell me, or at least point out how the world is in a better place because of that war. we have seen the middle east on fire ever since that war. we have seen billions of people displaced over time, or millions, rather. we have seen civilian casualties upwards in the millions. it sounds like, yes, the u.s. is a powerful nation, a rich nation. we should use our resources for
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good, if that even means intervening in human conflict overseas, we have to look at the repercussions of that down the road. and i think the best example is the iraq war, our post-9/11 wars. our interventions have consequences. host: some of our social media followers are thinking that perhaps we are paying attention to the wrong place in this situation. they have a comment for you. here is a question. how involved is pakistan in helping the taliban? the next one was, in this discussion we never discussed the fact that lawton was captured and killed in pakistan. should we be negotiating with pakistan rather than the taliban? guest: this is been the story, the elephant in the room for as
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long as i have been covering the war here in washington for 20 years, is pakistan's role. we know they have had this very strange relationship with the taliban where there has been tons of winking and nodding over the years about the connections between their intelligence services and the taliban and other extremists right over the border. these are two countries that have this tenuous border, so the taliban have gone back and forth. we have had cia operations in pakistan throughout, since the beginning. we know what the connection is, the problem is that the government has told us, you know, subsequent presidents through the years, that they are on our side, that they are
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fighting the extremists, that they are taking care of business. it has been very frustrating for the american government, because we know that for as long as we have been fighting there and making gains and holding key places that these taliban fighters have been refreshed and refurbished and resourced out of pakistan. so, yes, the listeners are correct. we should be negotiating or talking with pakistan. and those talks have been ongoing over the years, it is just now we are entering a phase where we are actually losing control of the situation in terms of being the primary negotiator. the taliban is in the catbird seat right now. they are in control, increasingly. you don't know what the state of the afghan government is right now.
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pakistan is sort of gauging their role, their future role and relationship with the taliban. they have said that we are the problem, because now all of a sudden these regional players are jockeying for position. i think, yes, pakistan will be involved in the future of the region. i just don't know if it is going to be up to us anymore. i think we will be playing a role diplomatically. i hope so. we don't want to completely withdraw from the region. i think it is important that we stay connected and build relationships and help whatever comes of the next few weeks and months and years of afghanistan. but i am just not sure how much control we will have over the situation and dictate who pays, who doesn't, you know, who gets
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the better seat at the table and who doesn't. host: let's go to earl, who is calling from nashville. morning. caller: good morning. how are you doing this morning? host: just fine, go ahead. caller: i might choke up because i spent two tours over there. i would say that we should have went right ahead and kept going. we should have never stopped. we should have kept going and took care of the whole business and rot our soldiers home. now we are -- and brought our soldiers home. now we are looking at a situation we cannot win. now all of these afghanistan people, they are not going to fight. they are going to put down their weapons and the taliban will use it against us. i would say that, as being a
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veteran, that we have put a lot of money in that country. we have lost a lot of my brothers over there. my white brothers, my black brothers that put their lives on the line. and it hurt me to my heart to see this stuff unfold, because i have been there and what my white others and black others, blood is in that country. this is how the united states is being treated. host: go ahead and respond there. guest: thank you so much for your call. believe me, i can't truly empathize with you because i
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haven't been there, what i can tell you the reason why i got into reporting in the first place is because i grew up in post-vietnam era. and i had friends and family and a community that spilled a lot of blood in vietnam and i could not understand why we as a nation did not remember and did not learn our lessons from that war. i started reporting in the 1990's and the troops were coming home with undiagnosed illnesses and i saw how the v.a. and the government was responding to their wounded veterans coming home, then i was aghast to see we were willing to put tens of thousands, if not millions of soldiers, into afghanistan and iraq and not be prepared to take care of them when they got home. so i really sympathize with the veterans of today who are
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looking at what is going on in afghanistan and probably wondering, what the heck was it all for? that is part of what i do -- why i do what i do. i don't think we should be sending our men and women over to war zones and conflicts in leslie -- endlessly for no reason. i mean that. i mean we have a country now that looks the same as it did 20 years ago. but in the intervening years we have lost over 2500 troops, tens of thousands of wounded, men and women who would have died on the battlefield in vietnam have been taking care of with advanced medicine and triage, but they are living today with multiple head injuries, amputations, heart injuries, you know?
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ptsd. i don't want to see that anymore. i want to see a country in which we cherish our men and women and we only send them into war when it is absolutely necessary, when we are attacked and defending this nation. so i feel for the veterans today, because they must have a ton of mixed feelings about their service. but i point out that poll after poll have shown most veterans feel the withdrawal of troops by president biden was the right thing to do. and they don't believe the war was worth it. they have been polling that way for years now. that says something when american veterans are saying, that is done. that goes for iraq as well.
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they said get out of rock, it was not worth it. -- iraq, it was not worth it. i can't say how mortifying it is to even say those words, but that is how veterans have been polling, and i feel for them today. host: there are some opponents of president biden's decision to pull troops from afghanistan, including mitch mcconnell. i want you to react to this statement mitch mcconnell put out. when you look just at how the -- sorry, wrong statement here. unless president biden adjusts course quickly the taliban is on track to secure a military victory. the news of a further drawdown in our embassy and a hasty deployment seem like preparations for the fall of kabul. president biden's decision has us hurtling toward a sequel to the humiliating fall of saigon
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in 1975. president biden's strategy has turned an imperfect but unstable situation into an embarrassment and a global emergency. resident biden is finding that the quickest way to end a war is to lose it. the costs and ramifications will echo across-the-board -- echo across the world. what do you think? guest: senator mcconnell is one of many politicians who over the years have been saying the same exact thing over and over and over. any time there was some sense a president or there was a movement to get out of that war, to reduce the troops, to start ringing our men and women home there have been politicians like senator mcconnell who say, don't be defeatist. this is going to be an embarrassment. everything is fine. we are turning a quarter -- a
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corner. victory is right around that next heads. as an american public we have seen how -- where that has gotten us. i mentioned the afghanistan papers. that is the key. what are the afghanistan papers? the afghanistan papers, published at "the washington post," was a series of interviews. it was a series of interviews that was done after it was found the special inspector general for afghanistan had a sickly brought in hundreds of military officials and diplomats, all american and other government people, and talked to them about the war. it turns out that most of them, many of them, admitted off the record or felt like this was not going to be public, that this war was not winnable. this was at the same time that many of these same people were
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publicly telling the american public that victory was right around the corner. all we needed was a surge of troops, all we needed was putting more money in and training more luke perry over there -- more military over there. well, craig whitlock got wind of these interviews and he followed them up, he foia'd them and exposed the fact we had been lied to over the last 20 years. when mitch mcconnell gets up there and starts talking about how, oh, we are turning a stable but imperfect situation into an embarrassment, embarrassment is the policy that has been shoved down our throats for the last 20 years. you want to talk about imperfect? i have heard these arguments and seen them on twitter about oh, we haven't lost but two troops
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in the last several years, but the afghan forces have been losing triple the number of people they were losing to the taliban three years ago. their casualties have gone up. our casualties have gone down, their casualties and civilian casualties have been going up. the taliban has been gaining territory since the trump administration, since the early part of the trump administration. this is a culmination of things that have been happening under the radar for years. it is just the media hasn't been covering it. the american people, we have had other things going on, so our focus has been distracted, and the politicians don't want to talk about it. don't tell me this is about biden's withdrawal. that is disingenuous, that is a lie, and i don't think we should be listening to people like senator mcconnell, because they
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have been misdirecting us for the last 20 years. host: let's talk to bruce, who is calling from baltimore, maryland on the republican line. good morning. caller: good morning. do me a favor and don't cut me off. first off, i find it disingenuous that c-span generally goes to the "new york times" and "the washington post co. -- post." i have a subscription to "the washington times." the new york times and washington post have a particular agenda. for the veteran that spoke before, hats off to him, brother. i have never been in the military, but i can see what is going on with joe biden. what he is doing to the military. that is another issue right there. just tell the truth. you are going to blame this on what happened 20 years ago?
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and sure, there have been mistakes, but the truth is with joe biden -- and you edited a lot of mistakes that joe biden makes. he mumbles through conversations and he does not do a very good job. it shows his weak is on the world stage. we are not just concerned about what is going on in afghanistan. so, 28 days, unfortunately it will be the anniversary of 9/11. that is where some of the islamic terrorists started this nonsense. what is going to happen is not only what has happened in afghanistan. now the taliban, al qaeda, and some of the fundamentalist islamists that want to support terrorists around the world, what is going to happen is this is going to be concerned about what is possibly going on in israel.
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i voted for donald trump because -- listen carefully, and i'm going to say this. some people might be offended. some of the regressive jews out there -- host: let me go ahead and let you respond there. guest: there is a few things i want to respond to, you can say whatever you want about donald trump, but his appeal at the time when he was on the campaign trail in 2016, much of his appeal was that he was calling out -- excuse me -- the iraq war as a failure and he called george bush out as a liar in terms of the weapons of mass destruction, the reason we got in the war, ostensibly. that was a big draw, that he was calling out the forever wars and that he had pledged to end them and bring our troops home. we can debate about whether he really meant it or whether he was actually effectual at that,
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but he did set into motion the withdrawal of u.s. troops from afghanistan that we are seeing today by signing that doha agreement. this is not about democrats or republicans or even left or right. that is why i work for an organization that is harnessing efforts on both sides to end these forever wars. this is about washington consensus thinking about our role in the world, about american primacy, about using the military to get our way across the globe or meddle in other people's problems. that is why you see, from george bush, to president obama, president trump, you see the use of military all throughout. the blame does not go to one side or the other in my mind, because they have all been part
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of this failure in one way or another. president obama had increased the drone war. he increased the number of bombs dropped on other countries and civilians killed and efforts to disconnect the american people from what the military was doing. there is so much to talk about, that i want to emphasize this is not a liberal or conservative issue. this is an american issue, and we need to address it as such. host: let's try jonathan, who is calling from conyers, georgia. could you get as a quick question in? caller: just a quick comment. good morning. trump told wolf blitzer that bush -- i will say bush, cheney -- should be impeached for lying us into iraq. regarding the middle east, when hasn't it not been on fire? 6000 years ago?
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the pakistani isi was largely responsible for the civil war in afghanistan, and aligning themselves with and creating the taliban. the pakistanis hid and give safe harbor to osama bin laden. in pakistan there is 30,000-plus schools teaching radical brand of islam. why don't we focus on that? we give them billions of dollars . until they start reforming this system they have that produces this type of mentality in the world, we need to cut them off. host: kelly, can you give us a quick answer here? guest: i would go back to the mujahedin. we supported the mujahedin against the soviets in afghanistan. the mujahedin give life to osama bin laden. i will go back to my original
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point here about u.s. interventions and not seeing the consequences of them. host: we would like to thank kelley vlahos, the editorial director for the quincy institute for responsible statecraft for being with us and talking us through the military and political situation in afghanistan. thank you so much for being with us. guest: thank you so host: coming up next, we will talk to the editor of the new republic magazine about andrew cuomo's resignation this week. later, in these times magazine contributor kat cisar discusses her recent art -- recent article about redistricting. stick with us. we will be right back. ♪ >> sunday night on june day, elizabeth becker, author of "you
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don't belong here," tells the story of a female vietnam war correspondence. >> there was no embedding like we have now. there was no military censorship, so it was probably the first and last uncensored american war. the south vietnamese had their censorship in the boston telegraph, so it was, for women, a gift. because it was only because of this lack of codification, this openness, that women could get through it had been the biggest barrier as a war correspondent, that you were not allowed on the field. >> journalist elizabeth becker. you can also find all q&a interviews ever you get your podcasts. ♪
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>> british writer charles dickens is credited with creating some of the world best known fictional characters. over 2000, for that matter, scattered throughout his 14.5 published novels. american authors and politicians often refer to situations as being dickensian. jenny hartley, professor at hampton university in london, has published three books on charles dickens. the most recent one, titled "a very short introduction." we asked professor hartley to tell us about dickens' life, including his trips to the united states. >> author jenny hartley on this episode of book notes plus. listen at or wherever you get your podcasts. >> "washington journal


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