al jazeera, bristol. ♪ >> time for a quick check of the headlines. a u.s. court has been shown some of the last moments of george floyd's life in the perspective of the police officer that arrested him. he could be heard begging him not to shoot him. >> please, don't shoot me, man. >> okay, okay. >> please, man. i didn't know come officer.
-- i didn't know come officer -- i didn't know, officer. >> in myanmar, there's a risk of civil war. friends will enter its third national lockdown this weekend is a grapples with more than 30,000 new coronavirus cases a day. schools will be closed for three weeks. pfizer and biontech say their vaccine's safe and effective in 12 to 15-year-olds. they say trials involving more than 2000 adolescents show only minor side effects and 100% efficacy one preventing disease. -- when preventing disease. they should begin inoculating young people before the next school year. yemen received its first shipment of covid-19 vaccines. the astrazeneca docents are part of the international covax program to help poorer nations. 1.9 million doses will arrive in yemen this year.
australia's lockdown and its largest city has been lifted. libya's government released dozens of prisoners. they are believed to have earlier surrendered peacefully and not suspected of any crimes. joe biden announced a two point $3 trillion infrastructure plan that he says will create jobs and make the u.s. more competitive. it is to be partially funded by recent corporate tax. opposition in congress is a certainty. those were the headlines. al jazeera continues after the bottom line. bye for now. ♪
♪ >> why can't the u.s. and the war in afghanistan? let's get to the bottom line. it is not only a forever work, but a forgotten war. it was meant to make sure the government of afghanistan run by the taliban at the time wouldn't be able to give safe haven to al qaeda again after the attacks of 9/11. here we are two decades later with a tele-been out of power, but still a significant force in afghanistan. the taliban and the u.s. were very close to a major summit in cap did dash cam david pigot trump set a deadline for the withdrawal of the last few thousand american troops for this may. the president doubts that is going to happen. what is keeping u.s. leaders from ending this forever war? joining me to figure this out is
stephen welcome a professor of international relations at harvard university. he co-authored the israel op in 2007 and most recently wrote the hell of good intentions. it is terrific to have youon with us today talking about this. is there ever going to be a time where america's generals, strategic last think the conditions have been met to depart afghanistan? you and i have been talking about this for a ticket and i have. 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 are never going to reach that point. they define the objectives quite unrealistically, suggesting afghanistan not only has to be no longer a possible safe haven for terrorism, but also that it has to not be exporting
narcotics anymore, not facing any problem with refugees leaving their politically stable arrangement and on good terms with all of its neighbors. that is a bridge too far. we are never actually going to get there. if that is the objective, we will be there 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's a new afghanistan study group report that's come up recently. can you share a little bit of the differences between what you formulated now 11 years ago and what this recent study group report, congressionally mandated, is recommending to the president? >> the principal recommendation is that biden not abide by the may 1 deadline. agreed to by the trump administration. they didn't actually say
the u.s. should commit to stay there forever, but the deadline of may 1 should not be the point at which we finally withdraw the forces. then they laid out a set of objectives very similar to the ones i just described. we had to achieve an end state of an independent democratic sovereign afghanistan to prevent al qaeda from operating there, prevent afghanistan from being a source of narcotics, etc. also wanted the u.s. to support a much more rigorous or ambitious program of regional diplomacy to try and get b uy-in from other states in the region. we had much more limited objectives. we agreed 10 years ago that you had to get regional buy-in from countries like pakistan, iran, their neighbors there. that is the one part of the
report that does make sense. but we had much more modest objectives recognizing america's metal interested in depend on doing a lot of social engineering in afghanistan. our interest was primarily making sure afghanistan was not an existential threat, as a haven for terrorists. that is relatively easy to achieve and does not require a lengthy u.s. presence. i think what you and i realize 10 years ago was that the united states was not going to be able to determine afghanistan's political future by itself. we could do that when we had 100,000 troops there, we are certainly not going to do it with the 2000-4000 we have there now. that is another place where we were more realistic than the most recent report. which if followed, would keep us there literally forever. >> described in e beginning,
our original strategic objective was to attack a party that attacked the united states and 911 -- in 9/11 and to remove the taliban from power because they enabled al qaeda and give them home refuge there. one of the moving pieces of this shell game has been whether the taliban is trustable. whether it is al qaeda or not al qaeda. to have to tell you, over the nearly 20 years of this, i've heard it all come out that they are -- i've heard it all, that they are separate, or folks like h.r. mcmaster, that they are in distant wishful, and we may be setting us up again -- indistinguishable, and that we may be setting us up again for the taliban to repeat history. what are your thoughts on that distinction between al qaeda and ongoing terrorist groups attacking the u.s., and to the taliban has political players
inside afghanistan? >> the taliban to represent a substantial fraction of the afghanistan population. they have some degree of popular support. it's not simply an isolated group of extremists with no base in the community. the community is a large part of the afghan population. but almost all the people who studied this understand the taliban have primarily a local agenda. they have various values and principles we might not agree with, but they don't want to spread them all over the world, they don't want to bring them here, they are not in the business of exporting jihad elsewhere. it is different from al qaeda, which had a very and vicious global agenda, very different for groups like isis, which are now present in small parts and are to some degree at odds with al qaeda. i think it is very important to understand the taliban are not the same as al qaeda.
the other thing to remember is a situation is fundamentally altered from what was in 2001-2002. the u.s. is much better prepared to address terrorist dangers, we are much more protected here at home then before 9/11. second, al qaeda has morphed and spread into lots of different places. it no longer needs afghanistan as its only potential safe haven. some of these groups are at odds with each other. americans should not be particularly upset at the taliban and al qaeda and i says, to some degree fighting each other, in a distant land. finally, the u.s. would not just sit back and do nothing, if we sawza al qaeda reconstituting itself in afghanistan, 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 pre-9/11. we would certainly respond now
knowing where that might lead. for these reasons, the safe haven argument, that the taliban are somehow going to nurture more terrorists that would come after the u.s., i think it is largely fallacious. >> one of the things i find amusing about this moment is there's any afghanistan study group mandated by congressional act. i want to read some of the things they recommend here -- they recommend a key objective of the ongoing u.s. military presence is to help create conditions for an acceptable peace agreement. they suggest support for institutions of the afghan state, including security institutions, bringing in partners is important, continued support for courageous members of afghan civil society, a reemphasis on diplomacy and negotiation, harnessing and coronation of international support for post agreement afghan state. you're a professor.
where was the state department and the pentagon over the last 20 years? haven't these largely been the same goals for 20 -- do they ever get a failing grade? >> unfortunately, no, that is all too true in different aspect of american foreign policy. the most depressing thing about the most recent afghanistan study group report is how it essentially repeats the justifications president obama used in 2009 when he sent more troops. they are not calling for more troops, just for leaving the ones we've got. it is the same justification donald trump used in 2017 when he ordered a small surge of troops there. in that sense, the arguments haven't changed. the second argument that we've heard now for 20 years or so is that the u.s. on the one hand has to show its credit ability and -- credibility and reassure the afghans will say until the job is done and at the same
time, we have to pressure the afghan government to reform, because without reform, we will never succeed. these two objectives are in fundamental tension. you can't tell the afghan government we will be there no matter what an at the samed time pressure them to fix things -- and at the same time pressure them to fix things. it is a contradictory set of incentives. the history of our involvement there has been constant pressure. to get their act together so they can actually handle the taliban with minimal assistance. and after 20 years, that's ever happened. to believe now that somehow in the next four months, six months, year or four years we are suddenly going to get a magical change of circumstances in afghanistan itself shows the u.s. is basically propping of the afghan government again is completely unrealistic. >> i want to say something
publicly right now i have not said previously. the report that stephen was a part of that he helped principally author was called "the new way forward." you can google it online. it's different from the one that came out. on the day that came out, then vice president joe biden called my cell phone, he was on the line and said, steve, if i could sign up on that report, if i could be one of the signers, i would do it, because i agree with every word in your report. now that vice president is president of the u.s. and we see a bit of a replay of history, where president obama, faced with some of the same challenges, was encouraged not to just leave troops in, but increased radically the number of troops deployed their. -- dramatically the number of troops deployed there. what are the issues around biden right now? although you and i both know
he's been an advocate for departing. >> right. i think he's facing the same sort of opposition from people who are not willing to admit this is a job was simple he can't do and shouldn't be trying to do, in part because it is a huge distraction from other strategic priorities we have. but i think we are also dealing here with a familiar problem. we've seen this with other interventions. we certainly saw this in vietnam. people do recognize once the u.s. 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 an earlier periods. it's possible you will see some small uptick in terrorism. it's certainly possible the condition of women in afghanistan will get worse. someone like joe biden understands that, too. it might be in our interest to
do so and ultimately staying is not going to change any of those circumstances, but no president wants this to happen on their watch. they choose to kick the can down the road, even though they know it alternately isn't going to lead to a fundamentally different outcome. it'll just happen to somebody else. 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 u.s. will eventually leave, we may agree to provide various forms of assistance. then if things do fall apart, we can say, well at least w tried really hard, and the fault was really the afghans themselves. we are hoping that, if things go south, they go south far enough after we have left that we will not be held responsible. that is the kind of pressure that president biden is trying to confront and decide what he's going to do about. >> i read good intentions and
would like you to talk about the strategic consequences of what america trusted to over and over again, trying to go into countries like afghanistan, but there are many others, and think that it can fix a rubik's cube of the problems they are when in fact what is going on is you both have a civil war on top of proxy conflicts. it is almost impossible to think of any resolution in afghanistan without thinking about the broader players that hr prodding each other, and china out there, seeing something like afghanistan is a trap for american power. -- as a trap for american power. why aren't the recent signers paying attention to the larger strategic cost over 20 years there? >> i think it is partly because there is this very profound consensus within much of the
american foreign policy establishment. we like democracy. we think it is the way of the future. we still believe the world is in a long arc of history leading toward something like every country being a good liberal democracy. it's getting very hard to resist the temptation and believes that if we go in and give some foreign country the opportunity to build a democratic society, that they will not seize that opportunity. with a little bit of help, we can spread the american gospel to another country as well. i think that is very profound, almost muscle memory, reflex action within the body politics in the u.s. the tragedy here is, the u.s. has tried to do that now in three of the least promising places for that kind of a transformation. iraq, then afghanistan, and libya.
the u.s. wasn't going to maintain a deep, lengthy 50 year involvement, etc. what americans don't fully understand is that once you have gone in and removed a government, and essentially destroyed the existing political institutions, it is a free-for-all. there are winners and losers, that will compete for power, and without a set of existing institutions, you are engaged in a massive social engineering project, trying to change not just the way people pick their leaders, but also the relations between different groups in societies. the relationship between men and women in the afghan case, one of the from the mental issues in any society. it inevitably creates enormous resentment and lots and lots of unintended consequences. because the u.s. 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 hi t. butt 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 agenda. when he still has to deal with china, the pandemic, our relations with other allies and lots of other problems. one of the many reasons why the sooner the u.s. can be gone from afghanistan the better. >> have talked to a lot of people who voted for donald trump. 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 before that vietnam, korea, etc. but that the quid pro quo from trade, dealing with engaging in international affairs was going to benefit them.
they think they fought the cold war and china won, o they see what is going on in these foreverars, can they lose their home in a financial crisis. i'm hearing what you are saying. the positive side of this as there are groups that think there's a response ability of the u.s. -- smuts ability the u.s. has to women's rights -- responsibility the u.s. has to women's rights come accreting justice in other parts of the world. -- women's rights, creating justice in other parts of the world. is it wrong to just to leave without securing those results? >> thinki it would make sense to stay if there was a plausible theory of victory, if one could lay out a rather clear realistic affordable mechanism or procedure by which the u.s.
could then in fact reliably promote those particular values and a lasting and enduring fashion. we have seen 20 years on the u.s. trying and in some cases trying pretty hard to bring those about an afghanistan. and without success. with the situation deteriorating over the last several years. even though the u.s. continues to be fully engaged there, continues to budget some $50 billion to devote to different parts of the war and reconstruction effort. i would have a different attitude towards american involvement in afghanistan if i thought there was a realistic prospect for success. my concern is that if we continue, if this goes from being bush, to obama, to trunk, to biden's work, we can have this conversation for years from now. during a second biden term or a new president's term.
the circumstances will not half on the mentally changed. >> if america was to extract itself from afghanistan or other engagements to critique that are not to the strategic benefit of the u.s., how do you think china will look at that? do you think china will look like america's got more capacity to do what it wants now? or will they think america's just doubling down on strategic interaction the world? >> i don't think the chinese would be upset, if we stayed there for another 4-5 years. strategists in beijing must have been overjoyed over the last 20-25 years to watch the u.s. for enormous amounts of -- pour in norma's amount of resources, trillions of dollars into conflicts in the greater middle east. meanwhile, china was building world press infrastructure. -- world-class infrastructure. being better than the u.s. in 5g technology, staying out of trouble in a variety of ways.
strategists in beijing are hoping biden will continue this endless struggle in afghanistan and not cut american losses, reduce our commitment there, reduce the destruction, and focus more on what is far more important for american security. and i think ultimately, the well-being of people around the world, which is to compete more effectively with china, primarily asia, but also other places as well. >> i would love to get any other strategic counsel he would give the president of the u.s. in this moment of doubt about american power in the world, basically concern among allies we will be with them in their dark days, and the tough challenges that we have ahead. if you had five minutes with joe biden, but do it in one and a half, what would those be? >> i would actually tell biden
so far, he's done most things right. he understood the first thing to do was to get the u.s. passed the pandemic. -- past the pandemic. get people is -- get people rapidly vaccinated. i think the combination of the rescue package already passed and the info structure plan they are working on, it's going to do exactly that, get the american economy going and more importantly invest in things that will make the u.s. increasingly productive over time and increasingly competitive in all of the industries that will drive things for the rest of the tony forced entry. -- 21st century. that includes green technology. this is one of the places where we can do something that's good for the u.s. make americans more productive, wealthier, but also ultimately will help in terms of geopolitical competition with countries like china, as well. that's ultimately going to be
driven by which of these two superpowers is able to control the commanding heights of technology. the u.s. will not dominate across the board, we just want to be in a position where we are second across the board. i think biden's and sticks have been terrific so far. -- instincts have been terrific so far. my concern is, he will take up too much time with small distractions that don't matter too much. >> stephen, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us today. so what's the bottom line? president biden basically has two choices -- choice number one is to stay in afghanistan with nothing 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.
he ran last year saying he wanted to end it. how about that $50 billion the u.s. spends every year on this war? to put it in perspective, the entire gross to mystic product, the gdp of afghanistan, is $19 billion. what is choice number two? biden can call it quits. like president trump was about to do. regardless of whether that leads to more emulation for the u.s. for withdrawing from the country without making it safe or stable. comparisons with the soviet union withdrawing 30 years ago, humiliated will be made. anyway you look at it, there's a happy scenario for the long-suffering people of afghanistan. at the u.s. must decide why it is still there and move beyond the blur of inertia to decide a clear course. any clear course. and that is the bottom line. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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