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tv   The Bottom Line  Al Jazeera  April 3, 2021 2:30pm-3:01pm +03

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if thai food in the early blossom may portend a changing climate that will bring more extreme weather come the summer months but for now and to parent all the more beautiful given the fragility and transience of its existence the blossom is here to be cherished robert bright al-jazeera so. far let's have a quick check of the headlines here on al-jazeera and 1st up at least 5 more people have been killed in the amar in the latest crackdown on mt cooper tested more than 2 months since the military deposed the civilian leadership security forces shot and killed protesters in 3 different cities on saturday despite that demonstrations are continuing in major cities including young gone mandalay military has also issued arrest warrants against 18 prominent online critics tony chain has more now from bangkok in neighboring thailand those protests are still ongoing they have
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been pretty much every day since the coup happened on the 1st of february. in money in town and month state and embargo we understand the security services have opened fire and killed a number of protesters 5 being reported at the moment although it's painted that number will rise we also saw protests on the street of yangon on and mandalay myanmar's 2 largest cities prosecutors in taiwan have questioned the driver and the owner of a construction truck that rolled onto rail tracks just as a train was approaching at least 50 people were killed when the train hit the truck and the rails on friday it is taiwan's worst rail disaster in recent history believe $500.00 people were on board. somalia's military says it's pushed back an attack by al shabaab fighters the fighters targeted 2 army bases about 100 kilometers from the capital of mogadishu where the government says most of the attackers were killed the young group is also claiming victory it says it captured
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the bases and dozens of somali soldiers were killed in the fighting a police officer has been killed and another injured when a man rammed his car into a barricade outside the u.s. capitol complex in washington d.c. the attacker was shot and died in hospital. france's 3rd nationwide lockdown comes into force in a few hours as the government tries to stop a new wave of corona virus infections parisians have been leaving the capital head of the new restrictions it includes an overnight curfew closure of schools and nonessential shops and a ban on travel between regions for 4 weeks on friday france reported its biggest jump in covert 19 intensive care patients in months infections have doubled to around 40000 leaving hospitals overwhelmed are you up to date with that line more news coming up here and odds are right off the bottom line for.
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hi i'm steve clemons and i have a question that i've been asking every year since 2010 why can't the united states and its war in afghanistan let's get to the bottom line. for nearly 20 years the united states has been fighting in afghanistan making it not only a forever war but a forgotten war it was meant to make sure that the government of afghanistan which was run by the taliban at the time wouldn't be able to give safe haven to al qaeda again after the attacks of $911.00 but here we are 2 decades later with the taliban out of power but still a significant force in afghanistan late last year the taliban and the united states were very very close to a major summit in camp david when everything fell apart at the last minute former
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president set a deadline for the withdrawal of the last few 1000 american troops for this may but president biden doubts that's going to happen so what's keeping us leaders from ending this forever war joining me to figure this out is stephen walt professor of international relations at harvard university and one of america's leading political scientists he coauthored the israel lobby with john mearsheimer in 2007 and most recently wrote the hell of good intentions america's foreign policy elite and the decline of u.s. primacy dr weil is terrific to have you on with us today talking about this let us start for this is there ever going to be a time where america's generals america's strategic class think the conditions have been met to depart afghanistan you and i have been talking about this red decade and a half and it just feels like we've gone the full loop. i think that's right given the way they have defined the objectives no we're never going to reach that point because they've defined the objectives quite an realistically suggesting that
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afghanistan not only as you know be no longer a possible safe haven for terrorism but also that it has to have not the export of narcotics any more not facing any problem of refugees leaving their own politically stable arrangement and on good terms with all of its neighbors and not so that's a bridge too far we're never actually going to get there so if that's the objective will be there 'd literally forever in 2010 you and i were part of something called the afghanistan study group report which you mostly authored at that time there is a new afghanistan study group report that has come out recently can you share a little bit of the differences between what you formulated now 11 years ago and what this recent afghanistan study group report which is congressionally mandated
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is recommending to the president. well their principle recommendation was that biden not abide by the may 1st deadline that was agreed to by the trumpet ministration and they didn't actually say the united states should commit to stay there forever but that that may 1st deadline should not be the point at which we finally withdraw our forces then they laid out a set of objectives very similar to the ones i just described that we had to achieve an end state of an independent democratic sovereign afghanistan prevent al qaeda from operating there prevent afghanistan being a source of narcotics etc etc etc and also one of the united states to support a much more rigorous or ambitious program of regional diplomacy to try and get buy in from other states in the region the difference i think between what they're recommending or what we recommended 10 or more years ago as we had much more limited objectives we agreed back 10 years ago that you had to get regional buy and
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from countries like india and pakistan and russia and iran and some of the other neighbors there on i think that's the one part of the report the recent report that that does make sense well but we had much more modest objectives recognizing that america's vital interests didn't depend on doing a lot of social engineering in afghanistan and that our vital interest was prime primarily making sure that afghanistan was not as an existential threat our haven for terrorists and that fortunately is relatively easy to achieve and does not require a lengthy u.s. presence there one final point i think what you and i realized 10 years ago was that the united states was not going to be able to determine afghanistan's political future by itself and we couldn't do that when we had $100000.00 troops there we're certainly not going to do 'd it with the 20024000 that we seem to have
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there. there now and that's another place where i think we were much more realistic than the more recent report which if followed would keep us there literally forever seeing as i described in the beginning our original goal our original strategic objective was to attack the party that attacked the united states in 911 and to remove from power the taliban because they had enabled and protected them and given them home refuge there and so one of the moving pieces of the shell game has been whether the taliban is trustable whether it is al qaeda or not al qaida and i have to tell you over the nearly 20 years of this i've heard it all that they are distinct and separate or that you know from folks like a charming master who previously advised president from that they are indistinguishable and that we may be setting ourselves up again when we leave afghanistan for the taliban to repeat history what are your thoughts on that
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distinction between al qaeda and ongoing terrorist groups attacking the united states and the taliban is political players inside afghanistan right of the taliban do represent a substantial fraction of the afghan population they do have some degree of popular support it's not simply you know isolated group of extremists with no base in the community the. community is a large part of the afghan population but i think almost all the people who study this understand that the taliban have primarily a local agenda they have various values and principles that we might not agree with but they don't want to spread them all over the world they certainly don't want to bring them here they're not in the business of exporting jihad elsewhere it's very different from al-qaeda which of course had a very ambitious global agenda very different from groups like isis which are now
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present in small parts. and are true some groups agree at odds with al qaeda so i think it's very clear to understand that it's very important understand the taliban are not the same as al-qaeda the other thing to remember is the situation is fundamentally altered from what it was in 20012002 1st of all the united states is much better prepared to address terrorist dangers we're much better protected here at home than we were before 911 the 2nd al-qaeda has morphed and spread into lots of different places it no longer needs afghanistan as its only potential safe haven and of course some of these groups are at odds with each other americans should not be particularly upset if the taliban and al-qaeda and isis are to some degree fighting each other in a distant and distant land. and then finally the united states would not just sit back and do nothing if we saw al qaeda reconstituting itself in afghanistan
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starting to build training camps the way it had under bin laden we didn't do anything about that even though we knew those camps existed pretty $911.00 we would certainly respond now knowing where that might lead so for all of these reasons the sort of safe haven argument and that the taliban are somehow going to nurture more terrorists that will come after the united states i think is largely fallacious steve one of things i find amusing it bout this moment is that there is a new afghanistan study group that was born out of the u.s. institute of peace that i mention mandated by congressional congressional act and i want to just read some of the things that they recommend here they recommend that a key objective of the ongoing u.s. military presence is to help create conditions for an acceptable peace agreement they suggest that that support for institutions of the afghanistan state including security institutions bringing in afghan partners is important continued support for courageous members of afghan civil society a reemphasis on diplomacy
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a negotiation the harnessing and coordination of international support for a post agreement afghan state my question is your professor this was where was the state department and that and the pentagon over the last 20 years have of these large we've been the same goals for 20 do they ever get a failing grade. unfortunately that that's all too true in different aspects of american foreign policy and i think the most depressing thing about the most recent afghanistan study group report is how it essentially repeats the justifications that president obama used in 2009 when he sent more troops there not calling for more troops there just calling for leaving the ones there that we've got it's the same justification that donald trump used in 2017 when he. a small surge of troops there so in that sense the arguments haven't changed at all and the 2nd
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argument that again we've heard now for 20 years or so is that the united states on the one hand has to show its credibility and reassure the afghans that we'll stay there until the job is done and at the same time we also have to pressure the afghan government to reform because without reform will never succeed these 2 objectives are in fundamental tension right you can't tell the afghan government that will be there no matter what and at the same time pressure them to fix things so that we might not have to be there it's a completely contradictory set of incentives and of course the history of our involvement there has been constant pressure on 1st the karzai government and then its successors to get their act together so that they can actually handle the television with minimal assistance and after 20 years that has never happened to believe now that somehow in the next 4 months 6 months year or 4 years we're suddenly get a get a magical change of circumstances in afghanistan itself such that the united states
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isn't basically propping up the afghan government i think is again completely unrealistic i want to say something publicly right now that i have not said previously and i want to tell our audience that the report that stephen walt was a part of it helped principally author was called the new way forward in the afghanistan afghanistan study group report you can google it online it is different than the one that just came out but on the day that came out then vice president joe biden called my cell phone and there he was on the line and said steve if i could sign up on that report if i could be one of the signers my vice president i would do it because i agree with every word in your report now that vice president is president the united states and we see a bit of a replay of. history where president obama faced with some of the same challenges at that time was encouraged not only to leave troops in but to increase
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dramatically the number of troops that were deployed there what do you think is are the issues around biden right now even though i think you and i both know he's been an advocate for departing. right i think 1st of all he is facing the same sort of opposition from what some people call the blob of people who are not willing to admit this is a job we simply can't do and shouldn't be trying to do in part because of course it's a huge distraction from some other strategic priorities that we have but i think we're also dealing here with a familiar problem we've seen this in other interventions we certainly saw this in vietnam and that's that people do recognize that once the united states is gone bad things may happen the situation could easily get worse you could have a resumption of the kind of civil war and warlordism we had in earlier periods it's possible that you'll see some small uptick in terrorism it's certainly possible
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that the condition of women in afghanistan will get worse and someone like joe biden understands that too it might be in our interest to do so and ultimately staying isn't going to change any of those circumstances but no president sort of wants this to happen on their watch they choose to kick the can down the road even though they know it ultimately isn't going to lead to a fundamentally different outcome it'll just happen to somebody else so i think what we're dealing with here is this sort of classic case of trying to get a decent interval they will try to cobble together something that looks like a peace agreement the united states will eventually leave we may agree to provide various forms of assistance and then if things do fall apart we can sort of say well at least we tried really hard and the fault was really the afghans themselves were hoping that that if things go south they go south far enough after we left that we won't be held responsible and i think that's the kind of pressure that
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president biden is now out trying to confront and decide what he's going to do about it and i know i have read the hell of good intentions and would love you to talk a little bit about the strategic. context for some of the choices america tends to make over and over and over again which is to try to go into countries like afghanistan but there are many others and think that it can fix the rubik's cube of the problems there when in fact what's going on is you both have a civil war or a couple of civil wars on top of that proxy conflicts we haven't talked about pakistan and india today but it's almost impossible to think of any resolution in afghanistan with think without thinking about the broader players that each are prodding each other and you know we do china out there that sees something like afghanistan as a trap for american power why aren't those signers of the recent afghanistan study
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group paying attention to the larger stick to strategic costs of our 20 years there . but i think it's partly because there is this very profound consensus within much of the american foreign policy establishment you know we like democracy we think it's the way of the future we still believe that the world is in the long arc of history leads towards some thing like every country being a good liberal democracy and it's very hard to resist the temptation to believe that if we go in and give some foreign country the opportunity to build a. democratic society that they won't seize that opportunity and with a little bit of help we can spread the american gospel to some other country as well i think that's a very profound almost muscle memory reflex action within the body politic here in the united states and the tragedy here is that you know the united states has tried to do that now in 3 of the least promising places for that kind of
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a transformation iraq 1st that afghanistan and also you could add i think libya to that list where none of the preconditions that would make a democratic transition easier successful were. isn't aware the united states wasn't going to maintain a deep lengthy you know 50 year in involvement cetra and what americans i think don't fully understand is that once you've gone in and removed a government and essentially destroyed the existing political institutions it's a free for all there are winners and losers that will compete for power and without a set of existing institutions you're engaged in a massive social engineering project where you're trying to change not just the way people pick their leaders but also the relations between different groups in society in the afghan case the relations between men and women one of the most fundamental issues in any society when you do something like that it inevitably
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creates enormous resentment and it also is going to create lots and lots of unintended consequences now because the united states is so powerful and so secure over here in the western hemisphere we can do projects like that in a place like afghanistan for a long time without people here at home really feeling the pinch but of course it has been costing us billions of dollars and we do have other priorities and just look at the amount of time this is going to take up on joe biden's that to end when he's still got to deal with china with a pandemic with our relations with other allies and lots of other problems one of the many reasons why the sooner the united states can be gone from afghanistan the better well i mean i've talked to lots of people who voted for donald trump and military exhaustion and fatigue and the sense that these people largely military families that i was speaking to from the south and midwest of america felt as if they fought over generations of conflicts not only in afghanistan and iraq but
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before that vietnam korea etc etc but that the quid pro quo from trade from dealing with engaging in international affairs was going to benefit them they think they fought the cold one. more and china won or that they see what's going on in these forever wars and they feel like they get they lose their home in a in a financial crisis so i'm hearing what you're saying but the let me make the positive side of this that there are groups that think there is a responsibility the united states has to women's rights to universal human rights and to you know that broad dimension of trying to create justice in other parts of the world and i understand that is it wrong to have put those up as potential goals for our original engagement in afghanistan and is it wrong to just leave without securing. those results i think it would make sense to stay if
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there was a plausible theory or really a victory if one could lay out a rather clear realistic affordable mechanism or procedure by which the united states could then in fact reliably promote those particular values in a lasting and enduring fashion but of course we've seen 20 years now of the united states trying and in some cases trying pretty hard to bring those about in afghanistan and without success with the situation deteriorating well over the last several years even though the united states continues to be fully engaged there continues the budget some $50000000000.00 to devote to different parts of the war effort in the reconstruction effort so i would have a different attitude towards american involvement if in afghanistan if i thought there was a realistic prospect for success my concern is that if we continue if this you know goes from being bush's war to obama's war to trump's war and becomes biden's war
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you and i could be having this conversation 4 years from now you know at a 2nd biden term or 1st term for some other president and say well what's this president going to do because the circumstances will not have fundamentally changed if a. america was to extract itself from afghanistan perhaps other engagements that you critique in the world that are not to the strategic benefit of the united states how do you think china will look at that you think china will look like wow america's got more capacity to do what it wants now or do use it will they think america is just doubling down on strategic contraction in the world. i don't think the chinese would be upset if we stayed there for the other 4 or 5 years i think strategists in beijing must have been overjoyed over the last 20 or 25 years to watch the united states poor enormous amounts of resources you know so more upwards of 5 trillion dollars into conflicts in the greater middle east meanwhile china was
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building you know world class infrastructure being better at 5 technology than the united states cetera stay out of trouble in a variety of ways so i think a strategist in beijing is hoping that biden will continue to this endless sisyphean struggle in afghanistan and not you know cut american losses reduce our commitment there reduce this distraction and focus much more on what is far more important for american security and i think ultimately the wellbeing of people around the world which is to compete more effectively with china primarily in a but also in some other places as well. i would love to just as we finish up the show steve to get any other strategic counsel that you would give the president the united states in this moment of doubt about american power in the world basically concern among allies that will be with them in their dark days and what you think
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you know the really tough challenges are that we have ahead if you had 5 minutes with joe biden but but do it in one and a half what would that what would those be. i would actually tell biden that he so far he's done most things right he understood i think that the 1st thing to do is to get the united states past the pandemic get as many people vaccinated as rapidly as possible the 2nd thing you need to do is to get the american economy going again in a variety of ways and i think the combination of the rescue package that's already been passed and the infrastructure plan there they're working on is going to do exactly that get the american economy going and more importantly invest in things that will make the united states increasingly productive over time and increasingly competitive in all of the places all of the industries that are going to drive things for the rest of the 21st century and that includes by the way i think green technology notice this is one of these great places where we can do something
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that's actually good for the united states make americans more productive make americans wealthier but it also ultimately will help in terms of geopolitical competition with countries like china as well you know that's ultimately going to be driven by which of these 2 giant superpowers is able to control the commanding heights of technology in the united states isn't going to dominate across the board we just don't want to be in a position where we're 2nd across the board so i think biden's instincts have been terrific so far like concern is like some of his predecessors he will end up getting nibbled to death by small distractions in other places that ultimately don't matter very much stephen walt professor of international relations at harvard university and principal author of a new way forward the original afghanistan study group report thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us today. so what's the bottom line president biden basically has 2 choices choice number one as stay in afghanistan with nothing
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really changing on the ground and just kick the can down the road for the next president to deal with don't forget. joe biden wanted to end this war in 2009 and he ran last year saying he wanted to end it and how about that $50000000000.00 that the united states spends every year on this war to put it in perspective be entire gross domestic product the g.d.p. of afghanistan is just $1000000000.00 ok so what's choice number 2 biden can just call it quits like the one president trump was about to do regardless of whether that leads to a collapse of the government or the takeover by the taliban or more civil war in the country and more humiliation for the united states for withdrawing from the country without making it safe or stable comparisons with the soviet union withdrawing 30 years ago humiliated will be made so any way you look at it there's really no happy scenario for the long suffering people of afghanistan but the u.s. must decide why it's still there and move beyond the blur of inertia to deciding
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a clear course any clear course and that's the bottom line. the latest news judge me to see there will be no closure on the justices and the identities of those people finally the football means are revealed with details coverage there's something else that difficult about this plot it represents an invisible dividing line between the wealthier and the former from around the world the man who knelt on his neck in his friend the weekend in minneapolis for proof
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nazi concentration camp. football rebels on al-jazeera. a showcase of the best documentary films from across the network on al-jazeera. this is al jazeera i'm debbie navigator with a check on your world headlines at least 5 more people have been killed in me in mar in the latest crackdown on and protesters more than 2 months since the military deposed these civilian leadership and security forces shot and killed protesters in 3 different cities on saturday this fight that demonstrations are continuing in major cities including gang gone and mandalay the military has also issued arrest warrants against 18 prominent online critics tony chang has more from bangkok in neighboring thailand.


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