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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  July 26, 2021 12:30am-1:01am BST

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this is bbc news. we will have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour as newsday continues straight after hard talk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm sarah montague. since the united states pulled their troops out of afghanistan at the beginning ofjuly, the taliban have retaken huge swathes of the country and reports have emerged that, once again, they're enforcing the same repressive practices of their past rule. my guest is afghanistan's national security adviser, hamdullah mohib. while he's here in london, he's meeting the chief of the uk defence staff
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who only days ago described the situation in afghanistan as grim. so can afghan national forces hold off against the taliban? hamdullah mohib, welcome to hardtalk. thank you. how did you feel when you heard that the us were pulling their troops out of afghanistan at the beginning ofjuly? this had been a long discussion. it didn't come as a total surprise to us. but the timing of when they will do this, the amount of time that it will take to do this was a bit of a shock. that said, it is a decision that was made and we respect that and are trying to make
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the best of what we now have to do and can. the way it was done, though, according to the times, the electricity was on a timer that was set to go off 20 minutes after the last plane left bagram air base. was that true? look, the withdrawal from bagram air base is not the whole of the story. maybe the airport itself is one story, but then general miller and general mackenzie had a handover ceremony in kabul and it was a proper handover after that. but... so you didn't feel any sense of betrayal? it's an american decision. i am more happy talking about what afghanistan can control. 0k, well, let's turn to that, because since they pulled out troops, the taliban have made astonishing gains. now, they claim that they now
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control 85% of the country. according to the chair of the usjoint chiefs, general mark milley, they control roughly half of all the districts. did it surprise you how much ground they could claim so quickly? there was a vacuum created when the us troops withdrew. true, we didn't count on them in terms of individuals on the ground fighting shoulder to shoulder, but we had a huge dependency on their air support. and some of these districts that collapsed were supplied by air and it required air support to be able to do that. in addition to ours, it always required additional capabilities. and we didn't. .. we didn't have that and as the retrograde progressed,
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some of these outposts in districts that were very remote could no longer be supplied, so they ran out of ammunition, they ran out of food and supplies and that regard created a panic. so some districts that were very remote started to collapse and then that created a kind of momentum for the taliban that they took advantage of. but a large part of this was a propaganda war. and as soon as that was stopped, their progress also halted or at least slowed down. ok, because president... the us president biden said at the beginning ofjuly, "the afghan troops, they have 300,000 well—equipped, "as well—equipped as any army in the world and an air force "against something like 75,000 taliban." now, if those numbers are right, then surely the afghan military should be able to hold out. are those numbers right, first of all? well, the nature of the war
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changed and we have had some setbacks. that doesn't mean they're permanent, they're reversible. loss of territory, and especially in afghanistan, the vastness that it has, holding it is very difficult. the taliban have come out of their shell and are now fighting like a conventional army, in which case they will have to have hold power. and, yes, with the resources that we have, properly used, we will be able to retake what we have lost in terms of territory. but do remember that even now with the losses we have had, in terms of population, the majority of population still lives under areas that are government controlled. except the difficulty is that it's notjust rural areas, it's seven international border crossings. and the taliban now controls more afghan border crossings than the government.
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and that is, given the supply routes, a very, very serious challenge for you, isn't it? jan achakzai used to advise pakistan's balochistan provincial government and made the point that "the ghani government will not "survive long because of the choke hold that the taliban now have "on supply lines." that is a very big problem for you, isn't it? we have challenges right now. this is not an easy time for afghanistan. but, like i said earlier, none of the gains the taliban have made are irreversible. sure, taking territory militarily is one issue, but keeping it is not going to be an easy thing for the taliban. and we are working as we speak right now to consolidate some of our security forces in order to retake some of those strategic locations that
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will have consequences for our security forces, for our economy, for our people. ok, but we're talking about... we're talking about a landlocked country which is utterly reliant on the supply routes, supply routes like the wesh crossing in spin boldak, which is now in taliban hands. we still have many of the supply routes still open, so, yes, we have lost some and that's unfortunate and we need to take them back. but that doesn't mean everything is cut—off. we still have our major supply route to the north still open. we still have a major supply route to the east. 0k. you make the point that there were only 2,500 us troops, but there were 16,000 us contractors and contractors who were supporting your ability to get into the air with airplanes and helicopters.
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and when the us pulled out, they went too and your air force is designed to be dependent on that support, isn't it? lisa curtis, who's a former national security director now at the center for a new american security, described it as "pulling the rug out "from under the afghans. " how long can you keep the planes that you have and the helicopters in the air without them? we have been working on an arrangement with the americans on getting over the horizon support for our aircraft. now, it does slow down the process slightly, but it means that our aircraft will still be able to get the maintenance that they need. so of 162 airplanes and helicopters, which i understand is about the total, how many are usable? it's... the number varies depending on the day because of maintenance and because of what we have, but we should be pretty close to what you described.
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right, because the other problem is that the taliban have targeted your pilots and only 30 pilots were trained in the five years to 2020. and reuters have reported that at least seven have been assassinated. i think they're talking about one specific platform, which is the american uh—60 black hawks. but we use other platforms. we use mi—17s and mi—24s, and it takes... but you can't lose many more pilots. no, we can't lose pilots. they are critical to us. and if you lose the air support you have, you can't keep, for example, kabul, can you? air support is very important. yes. i totally accept that — in the terrain that is. that doesn't mean it's needed everywhere. it gives an added advantage. it gives us an advantage
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over the taliban. and we are totally committed to keeping our air power and notjust keeping what we have, we're working to add to it and there will be some new aircraft that are coming from the us. well, let's turn to the peace talks, because that was meant to be the way out of this. and in theory, there are peace talks going on in doha. do you see any chance of them working? so far, we have not seen the taliban to be truly committed to any kind of genuine peace talks. they have not negotiated in earnest. they've used the negotiations in doha as a way to further their military cause, they have used it to gain themselves legitimacy and to further their contacts in the international community, rather than using it as a base for negotiations. we don't think the taliban are honest in this sense and are pushing for a military victory. i think they're wrong. i don't think they are... but why engage in the peace talks at all then,
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if you think that? well, the afghan people want to see peace. there are three scenarios that could happen. one is that we get into a military stalemate for a very long time and the afghan people continue to suffer as a result of it. there is no legitimacy for the taliban to continue this war. there is no religious legitimacy for it. it's... they�* re killing afghans. they're destroying afghan infrastructure. and one scenario is that this military stalemate continues as a status quo. and then the second is perhaps if afghanistan fractures, civil war ensues, and that, once again, would be a scenario that that that would destroy afghans and the afghan... and our country. and the third scenario, which is the desirable scenario, is that we enter into negotiations, earnest, honest negotiations and work out a political settlement in which the taliban will have a representation
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in the afghan government, but so will all of the other realities of afghanistan that also need to be included. you set out the three options — a stalemate, civil war or a negotiated peace. which do you think is the most likely? so the stalemate is the option that i think will stick for now until the taliban are ready to negotiate. but the end, in the end, we want to see a negotiated settlement with the taliban. how long will it take will really depend on the taliban's readiness. we would like those negotiations to happen right now so that afghans could get on with their lives and we bring peace and stability to the country. but if it needs for us to hold the taliban at bay for some time until they are ready, then that's perhaps what we need to do. so you could work in
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government with the taliban? the assumption here is that there will be a representative government. that means all stakeholders in afghanistan will be represented... so that means yes. ..including the taliban. if there was a peaceful settlement, we will all have to make compromises. i think as hard as it is to imagine us working with the taliban, i'm sure it is as hard for them to imagine working with us. ok, so you accept, you would accept that they have changed? i mean, you are taking part in these peace talks. admittedly, you doubt how genuine the other side are. but if they go anywhere, you are accepting that the taliban have changed. we have not seen a change in the taliban. now, if the taliban try to enforce their ideology and create a monopoly in afghanistan, that is unlikely for any afghans to accept, but if it's a compromise in which we compromise some of our current freedoms to achieve peace,
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then perhaps it might be worth paying that price. but to say that we will forego all of these freedoms and allow the taliban to return their brutal ways of ruling and enslave afghans inside their own country, that is not an acceptable scenario. 0k. well, you will know of the reports. there are reports in the times, radio free europe, elsewhere of what's happening in northern provinces that have been retaken by the taliban, where they've banned women from going outside without the burqa and without male companions. they've asked families to give their daughters to commanders to marry them. they've shut schools for girls over 12. they've banned music, television, told men not to shave their beards, and there've been public beatings. and i wonder... you've heard those reports? yes. and they're not... that's not acceptable. that's not acceptable to the afghan people.
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in those very same districts, what you talked about earlier, the uprising forces, these local defence forces, people are coming and contacting the government. they want to free their districts from taliban. and that should be a sign to the taliban as well, that while the afghan people accept that they are a reality of afghanistan, they can be part of a future set—up, but for them to assume that the afghans will live under their tyranny is totally unacceptable. so when the taliban leader, mawlawi akhundzada, says in spite of military gains and advances, the islamic emirate strenuously favours a political settlement and every opportunity for the establishment of an islamic system, how do you respond to that? well, they should put their words to action and actually engage in political dialogue, and they, in their claim that they would like to
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establish an islamic system, there is already an islamic system in afghanistan. it is the islamic republic of afghanistan. we have an islamic... it is a constitution that is acceptable to the ulamas, islamic scholar, worldwide. and they have made several announcements that the war in afghanistan has no religious legitimacy. so there is no religious grounds for the taliban to stand on any more. what they are doing is they're killing muslims, they're killing their fellow afghans, they're destroying afghan property. and to give it a religious flavour or spin isjust not acceptable and not believable by anybody. to what extent do you blame pakistan for the taliban's current strength? the taliban have had safe havens in pakistan.
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their leaders are in pakistan. the pakistanis have not denied this. they openly say they have influence, and that the leaders are in pakistan, living in their country. they are provided with health care for their injured and supplies and ammunition. so we think that, yes, it's the taliban doing fighting the war, but it's a proxy war. the taliban may be the army that conducts it, but the brains of management, the puppeteering, happens from pakistan. but the prime minister, imran khan's, argument is that the moment the united states withdrew, there was no reason for the taliban to listen to them any more because they were winning the war on the ground. do you accept that? well, the united states announced their withdrawal this
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year, whereas the taliban have had safe havens in pakistan for 20 years. so i think that's just an excuse. and i, you know, i'm not sure if prime minister imran khan really is the person who has any control over this. there is the military establishment that has the control over their policy towards afghanistan and what they want to achieve through the taliban in our country. ok, so when your president accused islamabad of not stopping thousands ofjihadi fighters coming over the border in the past month, do you think islamabad could have stopped them? absolutely. you suggest that you can stop the advance of the taliban, but if you are to gain control again, you need to get the supply routes and retake border crossings like that in spin boldak, don't you? absolutely.
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do you need pakistan's help to do that? well, the help pakistan can provide is not to support the taliban. and that would be the help we need. it doesn't require the military to get engaged. but when your vice president said that pakistan threatened to shoot down afghan jets if they attacked taliban fighters... ..who seized that border crossing, pakistan completely denied that they had done that and they denied that there had been any communication at all with the afghan air force. there are some well intentioned leaders in pakistan, prime minister khan may be one of those, who want to see better relations with afghanistan, and perhaps their chief of army staff, who always says that he likes to see good relations between afghanistan
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and pakistan. but where we see problem is that the rank and file do not seem to be obeying those orders, orat least are respecting those orders. so that's where we become doubtful of what it is that the taliban or what it is that the pakistani establishment actually want to do or if there is any control over it. now, it couldn't be a rogue entity that wishes to do whatever it wants to do, and then the officials go and deny it, but it happens. so what we want to see is have a serious negotiation and serious discussion with pakistan to end these hostilities that exist between our two countries. the prime minister, imran khan, said if any country is trying its best out of all the countries
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in the world, it's pakistan. what do you say to him? well, we will believe in when we see it. we have had good words from some of these pakistani leaders and perhaps they mean it when they say it. but their military and particularly their intelligence agency continues to act as the spoiler for peace. so there... only there could only be two ways. 0ne, they have no control over their military and no control over their intelligence agency, or that it's alljust talk, and the reality is they will continue to do whatever they want and cover it with sweet talk. you're here in london, you're having a number of meetings. and yet, of course, western troops are now pretty much out of afghanistan. what are you asking for while you're here? are you asking for more support? no.
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the troops may be out from afghanistan, but our bilateral relationship and partnership remains to be in place. we consult regularly on not just our bilateral relations, on the way forward, on threats against to both our national security interests. i know you think that the taliban still have links with al-qaeda, that by pulling out... ..afghanistan could turn into... parts of afghanistan could turn into an area that is a threat to the west, to the uk. that argument is absolutely right. but i believe that it's now onto afghans to do what we need to do. we may need financial support, which the americans and nato has announced to continue to the afghan national defence and security forces. but when it comes down to keeping afghanistan clear of insecurity
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and counterterrorism, activities need to be done by the afghan national defence and security forces. and i think they are capable. and us intelligence assessments that the government will collapse in six to 12 months, what do you say to that? you know, assessments, for whatever reason, are assessments. they get published. but, you know, every time there has been predictions about afghanistan from the outside, they have turned out to be wrong. in 2014, over 100,000 foreign troops left afghanistan and the assessments then were, too, that kabul will collapse. it didn't. so whatever happens in afghanistan, will you stay there? absolutely. you were educated here in the uk. i was. you're here now seeing people. no temptation, whatever happens, to leave? i had a good life here and i am thankful to the people here.
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they took me in when we were at our worst. but i must tell you that when you are a refugee, the only thing you think about is back home. and i couldn't shake that feeling out of me. i had to go back. it may be... it may be unsafe from many people's perspective, but i must tell you that i feel more calm in the chaos in afghanistan than i feel in the calm here in london. home is home. we cannot abandon it. hamdullah mohib, thank you for coming on hardtalk. thank you for having me.
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good morning. once again, sunday was a day of extreme. the highest temperature was in northern ireland with 28 celsius, but there was lots of sunshine for scotland, as you can see by this weather watcher picture. northern ireland, northern england, and northwest wales were by contrast further south, there's quite a lot of cloud, and it certainly went downhill, the story, after lunchtime. this is a weather watcher picture sent in from kent, where there was a severe cluster of thunderstorms that developed, and it brought some localised flooding as well. and you can see the volume of lightning strikes too, stretching all the way down from east anglia over to the isle of wight. they slowly faded away and the area of low pressure is moving away as we speak. now, that is going to continue to anchor itself up into the far northeast for the start of our monday morning. it will bring a fair amount of cloud across eastern scotland and northeast england, but it's going to be a relatively quiet start to monday. dry with some sunshine coming
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through, maybe a few isolated showers lingering for a time, but generally a better day. there will be a few showers developing through the afternoon, some of these possibly heavy and thundery, but they should be a little more interspersed in comparison to the weekend. temperatures, well, with a little more sunshine, higher in england, with 26 celsius the high. but we will start to see more showers developing. from the west, moving into northern ireland, southwest wales, southwest england by the end of the day. it's a weather front that's going to move through, and the weather story changes as we go through the week. with low pressure anchored to the north and those winds swinging in a clockwise direction, it will be driving in more moisture, more cloud, and certainly more of a breeze on those exposed west—facing coasts. so tuesday is really quite a messy picture, there will be a lot of cloud around, there will be some showers, and some of those showers thundery in nature once again. i'm not going to be too clever about it, almost anywhere could catch a shower on tuesday and it could be quite heavy, and the temperatures — well, they are going struggle, 15—21 celsius, sojust
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going below where they should be now for the time of year. the low pressure doesn't move very far at all throughout the week. we still keep this feed coming in off the atlantic, a cooler source, brisk wind as well, so that means it stays rather cool and showery. indications of something a little better, though, as we head to the weekend. take care.
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welcome to newsday, reporting live from singapore. i'm karishma vaswani. the headlines: some shocks and surprises on day two, a farcical false start in the men's triathlon gets day three of the olympics under way but kristian blummenfelt wins the metal for his country. and coming up these swimming where the medals will come thick and fast. a top american general warns the taliban they could face us airstrikes — unless they stop their military offensive across afghanistan. we would appear to continue our
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high—level support.

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