AFGHANISTAN
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Korengal Valley
In June 2012 there was a political debate on the future of Afghanistan after 2014 and the role for the international community following results of the NATO Summit in Chicago on 21 and 22 May and the report 'Talking about Talks: Toward a Political Settlement in Afghanistan' of the ICG,26 March, which noted that the West is too much focussed on creating a safe situation in Afghanistan. This end, with Western support Afghan organizations responsible for security (inlcuding the military and the police) are trained and expanded rapidly so that the Afghan authorities this responsibility ultimately wield.

In Chicago, this approach is confirmed, whereby it was agreed that after the departure of the ISAF-NATO combat troops in 2014 the Afghan government continues to support with money and trainers for the security services. According to the International Crisis Group (ICG) and to resolve the conflict permanently peace is needed. The "insurgents" are part of Afghan society and will therefore have a role to play. The long (and expensive) international contribution is doomed to fail if the Afghans themselves cannot come to a settlement. Efforts to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan stand little chance of success in the face of an internal crisis of governance, deep-seated political divisions, deteriorating security and widely differing interests and priorities of influential outside actors. While the U.S. and its NATO allies would, at the very least, want the framework of a political settlement with all or most of the three main insurgent groups, including the Taliban, in place well before their planned withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan by December 2014, 2 the two key regional players, Pakistan and Iran, remain suspicious of U.S. motives.

Pakistan’s politically dominant military seems confident that its Afghan proxies are on the way to victory. Iran has adopted a hedging strategy that entails investment in both the Taliban and its traditional allies in the Northern Alliance. Both countries perceive a politically weak Afghanistan as their best insurance against external incursions. Several countries with a stake in the region – India, Russia, China and the Central Asian republics in particular – fear that the U.S.-NATO drawdown will precipitate a destabilising return of the Taliban or, perhaps even more troubling, result in Afghanistan’s next civil war. Under these circumstances, an agenda for reconciliation driven strictly and unilaterally by external actors is unlikely to deliver a durable peace.
     
   

The U.S. War in Afghanistan

1999 – 2021

The Taliban insurgency remains resilient two decades after U.S.-led forces toppled its regime in what led to the United States’ longest war.


The Afghan Resistance has begun | KABUL AIRPORT | Afghanistan 50 yrs ago | TOWARD A POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN | Korengal Valley | RECOMMENDATIONS | kidnapped | Afghanistan and Pakistan
   

 

The Afghan Resistance has begun Vengeance is unfurling over a wounded land  
The Afghan Resistance has begun
Bernard-Henri Lévy, August 21, 2021

Trump dreamed of it.

But it’s coming true with Biden.

And historians will never stop wondering what could have induced the 46th president of the United States to commit such a grievous error.

Is it the naïveté of a politician lacking any sense of history or tragedy, the one who took the Taliban at their word when they assured us of their peaceful intentions in Doha in February 2020?

Is it the cynicism of a president already looking ahead to his re-election and pandering to those in swing-states who are said to be fed up with “endless wars”?

Is it an effect of a swing of the pendulum between the four major poles of American diplomacy laid out by Walter Russell Mead: Wilsonianism and its democratic messianism; Jeffersonianism and its hard and fast isolationism; Jacksonianism and its reflex to give tit for tat, but only when US interests appear directly targeted; and Hamiltonianism and the formulation, so dear to France’s Montesquieu, that America’s only truly vital interests were those of peaceful commerce?

Or is this a new pole altogether? One pioneered by Barack Obama in August 2013, when he declined to enforce the red line that he had said would be irretrievably crossed if the Syrian leader resorted to the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens? The one at work when, without warning or any shred of moral or strategic interest, Donald Trump abandoned his country’s Kurdish allies, first in Iraq when he allowed the pro-Iranian militias to invade Kirkuk, then in Syria when he allowed Erdogan’s murderous proxies to enter Rojava? The one brought to its culmination in the present Afghan rout, this abject display of open desertion being broadcast live to the world and punctuated, as I write, by scenes of panic and chaos at Kabul airport that could easily be mistaken for those in Saigon in 1975?

Is it, in other words, the consolidation of a trend that I first sensed almost twenty years ago, when writing American Vertigo and later developed in The Empire and the Five Kings? Gone the great power, which has jettisoned its dreams of exceptionalism, its ambition to be a shining city upon a hill! Broken, the gracious Virgilian thread that made the invention of America a new Aeneid whose mission was no longer to rebuild Troy in Rome or Rome on a grand scale in Europe, but to reinvent Europe with improvements! Onward toward a new pre-Columbian order in which the old empire, in retreat, no longer counts and makes way for the latter-day reincarnations of the Ottoman Empire, Greater Persia, Great Russia, Imperial China, and, as here, the new Ummah made possible by a radical misreading of the Koran!

It is too early to know for certain.

And each of these explanations is at least partially true.

But the time has come for a review of accounts.

And that review shows that what the most pessimistic of us feared must be booked not just as a loss but as an abomination in three parts:

 
1. The wolves are through the gate

They are hunting down the supporters of republican government and institutions, as well as my journalist friends from Tolo News.

They are sending women back to their fabric prisons after many thousands of them had tasted dignity and become accustomed to gender equality and the freedom to show their faces.

Sharia is the law of the land.

Lists of suspects, banned and “wanted” people are being posted at the entrances to neighbourhoods, sounding an ominous clarion call.

Islamic tribunals will soon be operating at full speed, with their absurd crimes and atrocious punishments.

And the scenes of stoning that have been filmed over the past few months in remote villages will be reenacted live in Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, sites of high civilisation where the descendants of horsemen and poets had begun to embrace the democratic dream.

A people are in agony.

The triumph of a strain of barbarism that, twenty years ago, the great democracies and their Afghan allies easily defeated and whose legions of rabble on motorbikes are no more formidable today than they were back then.

And of naïveté, when the American administration, speaking through national security adviser Jake Sullivan, adds credulity to dishonour by accepting the Taliban’s word that it is ready to “protect” civilians seeking to be evacuated from the country while offering dubious evidence of good intentions.

Worse than a crime, this is a mistake.

And, worse than a mistake, it is a stain.

A stain on the term of Joe Biden, whose first dramatic error this is.

But also, in a greater sense, this stain dishonours the modern conscience. It will take a long time for that conscience to forget this failure, this shame.

  1. And what of the United States?

Already devalued by the sacrifice of the Kurds on the altar of appeasement, first toward Iran (the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq) and then toward Turkey (the Kurds in Syria), the word of the United States is suddenly worth nothing.

Imagine you are a Ukrainian in Donbass battling, in the trenches of Luhansk or Donetsk, pro-Russian separatists and mercenaries in the pay of the Kremlin.

An Armenian in Nagorno-Karabakh who has learned that the resentment of those pining for a return of the Ottoman Empire and denying the genocide of their ancestors knows no bounds or limitations.

Or a Taiwanese, South Korean or even a Japanese sensing the nearby presence of the iron jaw of Chinese totalitarianism just waiting to bit

 
To say nothing of the Balts, the Poles, the Czechs — of Europeans, in other words — who had been living, like the generation of the founders of Europe, in the belief that venerable old treaties protected them and ensured their security.

What do they all think of this self-inflicted Saigon? This geopolitical suicide? How can they avoid ruminating on the betrayal and massacre of Carthage’s Punic allies, as recounted by Gustave Flaubert in his novel Salammbô, when confronted with this spectacle, this disarray in a diplomatic system that has made the inexplicable choice, just weeks before the anniversary of September 11, of returning Afghanistan to the terrorists on a silver platter and allowing them to build a nest for the vipers of the new Al-Qaeda and their ilk? When confronted, yes, with the direct, deliberate and slow-motion abandonment of a people who, like the Kurds, were our rampart against radical Islam and protected the world from terrorism? Under the circumstances, how is it possible not to conclude that if Putin, Erdogan or Xi got it in his head to fill part of the void created by the American retreat there would be no one to oppose him?

Dizzying.

An Afghan Anschluss.

Munich on all fronts.

And even if one must be wary of comparing the incomparable, this is truly terrible.

3. But then, there is Panjshir

There remains, living in his homeland of Panjshir, one young man, Ahmad Massoud, son of the legendary Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who, in his day, embodied the struggle against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and who was assassinated two days before September 11.

A few days ago, just a few hours after the fall of Kabul, the young Ahmad Massoud was able to elude the hired killers sent to track him down.

Knowing that if they captured him, he might suffer the same fate as his illustrious father, he did exactly what his father had done, a little less than twenty-five years ago, after the first fall of Kabul, when he managed to get hold of one of the last old helicopters that the Taliban had not yet taken over and took refuge in his bastion in Panjshir, above the Shomali Plain, to organise the Afghan resistance.

He wrote to me from his native village on Monday (16 August), several hours after rejoining his commanders.

“We find ourselves,” he wrote, “in the situation of Europe in 1940.”

The debacle is complete, he continued.

The spirit of collaboration is all around us.

Subjugation is closing in with sound and fury.

As Kabul groans, as the villages of the north and south are put in chains, vengeance is unfurling over our wounded land.

But despite reversal and even catastrophe, all is not lost, he told me.

  With my Mujahideen, I intend to resume the struggle.

I call on all free women and men in the world, friends of Afghanistan old and young, to join us in spirit.

I call on all free fighters from all over the country, whatever their origin or ethnicity, to come to our valleys.

Already, he continued, groups of brave citizens are moving to the front with their creed, their bravery, and their antique rifles and grenade launchers.

I welcome them!

They will be — we will be — the living faces of the Resistance, and, soon enough, of the counteroffensive.

Free Afghanistan has lost Kabul, but it has not lost the war.

Massoud’s words were the words of the Spanish republicans in 1936.

Of Czech president Beneš in 1939 and of Alija Izetbegović, in 1992, at the height of the siege of Sarajevo, when he gave me a dramatic message to pass on to French president François Mitterrand.

Almost word for word, they are the words of General de Gaulle’s radio address to his defeated countrymen in June 1940, broadcast from London, in which he urged them not to submit but to continue to fight.

Except that the Afghans were betrayed, the young Massoud pointed out. Betrayed but not defeated. And they were not defeated because their leadership, their generals, did not even take them into battle.

I know this young man, just as I knew his father.

I have done numerous video interviews in the mountains of Panjshir, where, for a year, Massoud has been quietly preparing for the worst and stockpiling arms, equipment and supplies, as his father had done.

I trust him.

I believe him when he says he inherited from his father the taste for freedom and the instinct of fighting to defend it.

I believe him when he insists that he has no choice and that the fight is now ineluctably his, body and soul.

I believe that when he issues a call for all free Afghans who love their country and reject servitude, whether living in Afghanistan or abroad, to join him, he is not only sincere but credible.

At my initiative, France’s President Macron received him at the Elysée Palace on April 5, 2021.

I was present at that meeting, where the best of France appeared to have a rendezvous with an heir to the noblest anti-totalitarian and anti-fascist struggles of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

And I am convinced that, in the new Great Game that lies ahead, it is this young man whom France, Britain and the rest of Europe will have to support.

In this area of the world, he is the embodiment of the future and of hope.

 

  KABUL AIRPORT
On August 16, 2021, thousands of Afghans trapped by the sudden Taliban takeover rushed the Kabul airport tarmac
 
See how Afghanistan looked like before the Taliban ever came to power. Afghanistan's Golden Age | The Afghanistan of dreams from the 1960's
 

 

  Extract TALKING ABOUT TALKS: TOWARD A POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN:
Extract TALKING ABOUT TALKS: TOWARD A POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

A negotiated political settlement is a desirable outcome to the conflict in Afghanistan, but current talks with the Taliban are unlikely to result in a sustainable peace. There is a risk that negotiations under present conditions could further destabilise the country and region. Debilitated by internal political divisions and external pressures, the Karzai government is poorly positioned to cut a deal with leaders of the insurgency. Afghanistan’s security forces are ill-prepared to handle the power vacuum that will occur following the exit of international troops. As political competition heats up within the country in the run-up to NATO’s withdrawal of combat forces at the end of 2014, the differing priorities and preferences of the parties to the conflict – from the Afghan government to the Taliban leadership to key regional and wider international actors – will further undermine the prospects of peace. To avoid another civil war, a major course correction is needed that results in the appointment of a UN-mandated mediation team and the adoption of a more realistic approach to resolution of the conflict.

No matter how much the U.S. and its NATO allies want to leave Afghanistan, it is unlikely that a Washington brokered power-sharing agreement will hold long enough to ensure that the achievements of the last decade are not reversed. A lasting peace accord will ultimately require far more structured negotiations, under the imprimatur of the UN, than are presently being pursued. The Security Council should mandate Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a small team of mutually agreeable mediators as soon as possible to ensure that critical stakeholders are fully consulted and will remain engaged in the negotiations process. The unequivocal commitment of the Security Council, which includes among its members Pakistan (through December 2013), will be vital to this endeavour. Consultations on preparations for the appointment and organisation of the team and the appointment of an individual to lead it should begin immediately with the aim of having the team in place well before the security transition completed.

So far there is little evidence that any of the parties to the conflict recognise the urgency of the situation. Instead of a sequenced roadmap that would prioritise domestic reconciliation and include basic political reforms, accompanied by a multilateral mediation effort, the Afghan government and its international backers have adopted a marketbazaar approach to negotiations. Bargains are being cut with any and all comers, regardless of their political relevance or ability to influence outcomes. Far from being Afghan-led, the negotiating agenda has been dominated by Washington’s desire to obtain a decent interval between the planned U.S. troop drawdown and the possibility of another bloody chapter in the conflict. The material effect of international support for negotiations so far has been to increase the incentives for spoilers, who include insurgents, government officials and war profiteers of all backgrounds and who now recognise that the international community’s most urgent priority is to exit Afghanistan with or without a settlement.

The government’s efforts to start negotiations have been both half-hearted and haphazard. Amid fundamental disagreements over the very meaning of reconciliation, the process appears focused on political accommodation with a phalanx of unsavoury powerbrokers. The rhetorical clamour over talks about talks has led to desperate and dangerous moves on the part of the government to bring purported leaders from the three main insurgent groups – the Taliban, Hizb-e Islami and the Haqqani network – to the negotiating table. This state of confusion has stoked fears among ethnic minorities, civil society and women that the aim of Karzai’s reconciliation policy is primarily to shore up his constituency among conservative Pashtun elites at the expense of hard-fought protections for Afghan citizens. A thorough reassessment of Karzai’s national reconciliation policy, the role of the High Peace Council and the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) is urgently needed. The program has faced staunch resistance from local security officials mistrustful of participants’ motives, and its impact has been minimal at best.

The Afghan government must include all relevant domestic stakeholders in the negotiation process rather than the current amalgam of warlords. A small team of designated negotiators with demonstrated expertise in national and international affairs should be selected to shape the agenda. The government’s negotiating team should reflect the country’s diversity – linguistically, ethnically, religiously and otherwise – and should include representatives from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the National Security Council (NSC). The inclusion of members of the political opposition – conservatives and progressives alike – will be crucial to the team’s success.

Kabul should also ensure that a settlement is fully inclusive and protective of all citizens’ rights. Greater transparency in the conduct of negotiations and more vigorous public outreach to the political opposition, ethnic minorities, women and a wide range of civil society actors will be critical in winning back the confidence of citizens in the negotiation process.

Confidence-building measures should not be limited to simply winning over Taliban support for negotiations but rather focus on ensuring the broadest buy-in for a settlement. Any deal that appears to give preferential treatment to the Taliban is likely to spark a significant backlash from the Northern Alliance, Hizb-e Islami and other major factions. A deal that aims at simply appeasing the Taliban could also lead to defections within government institutions, particularly the security forces. As dramatised by the widespread violence prompted by the burning of several copies of the Quran at the military base in Bagram in February 2012, all indicators point to a fragile political order that could rapidly disintegrate into a more virulent civil war, if the Afghan government and international community are unable to arrive at a more sustainable approach to settlement that moves beyond carving up the spoils of government.

External actors can act as either spoilers or facilitators of any internal negotiation process. While the negotiation process must be Afghan-led, any settlement would need substantial assistance from a neutral third party. The UN, aided by input from regional and other bodies such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has a crucial role to play. The UN Secretary-General should use his good offices to expand consultations with Kabul and key regional and extra-regional players, particularly the U.S., Pakistan and Iran, on the formal appointment of a mutually acceptable panel of mediators who are internationally recognised and respected for their knowledge of both international and Islamic law and regional political realities.

After the movie at the Aspen Institute
RESTREPO

The ASPEN Institute showed a frontline report, named after the soldier who died on the outpost in the Korengal Valley (KOP) in Afghanistan. Jung, the reporter questioned what exactly a soldier is doing in combat.

"They weren't political at all. They're so focused on their job in the notoriously dangerous combat zone. It was difficult and there were demands for complicated technology. The stories are very personal: about confusion that the ghost will take over, about nobody wants foreign troops in his country, about it is not a pretty picture in the head'.

In the coming years, the government is likely to face even greater challenges to its legitimacy, as regional and global rivalries play out in its backyard. Ultimately, the success of any settlement will depend on Kabul’s ability to set the negotiating agenda and ensure broad participation in what will certainly be a lengthy multi-step process, as well as on the insurgency’s capacity to engage in a dialogue that focuses as much on political settlement as on security concerns.

Ensuring that the next presidential election, at the end of Karzai’s term in 2014, results in the peaceful transfer of power will be critical. Any attempt to extend his term would trigger an irreversible constitutional crisis and widen the appeal of armed resistance. No later than May 2013– a year before the election is constitutionally mandated – the parliament must amend the constitution to clarify the rules of succession and define in detail the parameters of presidential authority, from the opening of the campaign to certification of polling results. Electoral reform must also be undertaken within the coming year in order to prevent another clash over the authority of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and guarantee maximum participation in the polling process.

Constitutional reform is also essential to build support for a sustainable settlement. The current political system is fundamentally out of step with the diverse nature of Afghan society and at odds with the need to reconcile improved governance with local self-determination and broad access to the levers of power and justice. Imbalances among the executive, legislature and judiciary and the need for devolution of power from Kabul to the provinces must be addressed. Change of this sort cannot be implemented under the impetus of any single, decisive conference. A halfbaked power-sharing arrangement between the ruling government and elements of the insurgency through a one-off consultative Loya Jirga (Grand Council) or under the aegis of yet another U.S.-led and externally manufactured international gathering will never adequately address the current anomalies in the constitution.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS  
To work toward creation of a fully inclusive, transparent negotiation process that respects the country’s diversity and is protective of the rights of all citizens
To the President and Parliament of Afghanistan:

1. Conduct a thorough reassessment of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) and initiate reform of the High Peace Council; ensure that the monitoring and evaluation team publishes in Dari and Pashto every quarter a report on program, joint secretariat and council activities that includes a thorough assessment of expenditures as well as policy and implementation challenges. Consider discontinuing the APRP program if, by the end of its funding cycle in 2015, participation remains low and insecurity high in areas where the program has had historically low buy-in

2. Appoint a small negotiating team with the aim of building trust between the parties and fostering a structured, sustained dialogue. Members of the government team should be drawn from the National Security Council, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and Afghan civil society and include women, ethnic minorities, civil servants experienced in local governance and economic issues and jurists with demonstrated expertise in international and Islamic law. Input on nominees should be sought from relevant branches of the executive as well as from parliament. Relatives of sitting office holders and individuals with active links to armed factions should not be considered.

3. Conduct greater public outreach on government plans for reconciliation to ensure that a broad spectrum of citizens contribute to shaping the negotiating agenda; consider supporting a nine- to twelve-month program of nationally supported television and radio programs focused on seeking public input to the peace process, as well as providing support for structured community dialogues to take place at the local level.

4. Conduct domestic consultations on planning for a constitutional convention to take place upon the signature of an internationally-guaranteed accord; devise a plan to hold a national referendum on constitutional reforms recommended under the aegis of the constitutional convention.

 

 
To recommit to Afghanistan’s territorial integrity and principles of non-interference, make explicit support for an Afghan-led negotiation process and coalesce behind one UN-organised mechanism for engaging Afghan partners in that process

To the members of the UN Security Council, regional partners and major donor countries:

5. Use the remaining time before completion of the NATO withdrawal at the end of 2014 to:

a) work with the UN to identify a mediation team that can effectively engage the Afghan state, insurgent leaders, regional actors and the international community;

b) conduct consultations with relevant governmental bodies on engaging in negotiations under the rubric of a UN-mandated facilitation effort; and

c) apply restraint in the initial phase of negotiations to ensure buy-in to the process by the Afghan government, political opposition and insurgent groups.

6. Give more vigorous support to regionally-backed cooperative arrangements by holding consultations on the design and architecture of a consultative mechnism that includes regional actors (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India and bordering Central Asian states) and other external players, eg, NATO, Russia, China and the U.S.

7. Adopt a Security Council resolution mandating the Secretary-General to appoint a team to be responsible for designing a multi-stage mediation process and undertaking consultations on the negotiating agenda with the leading parties to the conflict well before the completion of the security transition; the negotiating team should be under the direct guidance and management of the Secretary-General but should liaise with and draw on the resources and capacities of UNAMA to advance a coordinated negotiation process.

 
8. Conduct a thorough assessment of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program to determine specific benchmarks for continued financial contributions to it, including improvements in vetting, monitoring and oversight; consider defunding the program at the end of its life-cycle in 2015 if no demonstrable progress is made in these areas, and an internationallybacked political settlement that includes a robust plan for reintegrating and rehabilitating insurgent force has not been reached.

To the UN Secretary-General:

9. Initiate consultations with Afghan government leaders on the role of the UN following NATO withdrawal; seek counsel particularly from the permanent members of the Security Council and key regional actors, especially Pakistan and Iran, about the design of a UN mediation team, led by a designated envoy, to facilitate negotiations.

10. Appoint a mediation team composed of internationally-respected diplomats, scholars and jurists to facilitate the negotiations process by no later than March 2013; members should include a balanced mix of men and women and should be recognised for their demonstrated experience and expertise not least in regional politics. The team should consist of five to seven individuals under the chairmanship of a designated envoy selected by the Secretary-General.

11. Empower and resource the UN team to mediate negotiation of an agenda that addresses economic, legal and political concerns of the leading parties to the conflict and arrives at a political settlement that includes:

a) a constitutional reform exercise;
b) mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing implementation of the accord and for regular assessments of those mechanisms; and solid financial and political guarantees from key international players that resources for monitoring and enforcement will be available for a minimum of five years following signature of the accord.

To advance electoral reform so that the Afghan government enjoys a stronger democratic base and consequent legitimacy.

 
To the President and Parliament of Afghanistan:

12. Repeal the February 2010 presidential decree on elections; initiate consultations on electoral reform within the legislature with a view to adopting reforms to the electoral law that: give the lower house a measure of approval over the appointment of the Independent Elections Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission, while clarifying the roles and responsibilities of both bodies; mandate an overhaul of the voter registry; and take such critical first steps as mapping and delimiting local constituencies based on population data regularly gathered by the Central
Statistics Office.

13. Adopt a constitutional amendment that clarifies the rules of presidential succession so that the provisions for interim governance are strengthened in the event that the president is incapacitated and/or compelled to resign and ensures that elections for his/her replacement can be held freely and fairly; amend the electoral calendar for the presidency, parliament and provincial councils to better reflect geographic challenges and other limitations.

To the members of the UN Security Council, regional partners and major donor countries:

14. Prioritise discussion of electoral reforms for the international conference in Tokyo in July 2012 and negotiate an agreement from the Afghan government to address problems with the electoral calendar before May 2013.

15. Condition aid for future Afghan elections on the repeal of the February 2010 presidential decree on the electoral law, rationalisation of the electoral calendar and an overhaul of the voter registry, to include a redrawing of electoral constituencies to make them more responsive to present-day demographics and geographic
divisions.

Kabul/Brussels, 26 March 2012.

 

KIDNAPPED  
During Washington Ideas Forum (WIF) 2010, international and national security issues were on the table. New York Times reporter David Rohde recounted his kidnapping by the Taliban in harrowing detail.

NYT: 7 Months, 10 Days in Captivity: "The car’s engine roared as the gunman punched the accelerator and we crossed into the open Afghan desert. I was seated in the back between two Afghan colleagues who were accompanying me on a reporting trip when armed men surrounded our car and took us hostage. Another gunman in the passenger seat turned and stared at us as he gripped his Kalashnikov rifle. No one spoke. I glanced at the bleak landscape outside — reddish soil and black boulders as far as the eye could see — and feared we would be dead within minutes.

 

  success in Afghanistan is not achievable unless Pakistan is not part of the problem
 
At the 2010 Washington Ideas Forum, Holbrooke said that "success in Afghanistan is not achievable unless Pakistan is not part of the problem. In the end, we're going to work with the Pakistanis as long as I'm involved in this. That's the right policy, and this administration believes that".

He disputed Christiane Amanpour's question about why Pakistan had retaliated against an allegedly accidental border crossing  by cutting off NATO military supply routes.

"Let me be try to phrase it very precisely: first of all, I don't believe that it's going to change the fundamental relationship between our two countries. Apparently some events ... crossed the border ... an area that is ill-defined in areas is complicated and very rough terrain. It was very unfortunate and an investigation is going on by NATO, as it should be, but i do not think it will change the fundamentals of our relationship."

He said that supply routes that been "slowed" but not completely closed.

Holbrooke wouldn't say what "winning the war" means. "I'm not in light at the end of the tunnel stuff," he said.  But over the past year, he said, "the Taliban is under immensely greater pressure, and they are feeling that." He expressed strong support for President Hamid Karzai's Taliban "reintegration" program -- but recognized that it was "not operational" because "it is constrained by the circumstances of this tragic, complicated program." And did not object to Karzai's new efforts to negotiate -- although he does not like that word -- with hard-line Taliban group.

Amanpour wanted to know if the U.S. and NATO forces could get the job done by July 2011, when troops will begin to return home. "The president has not put a fixed deadline. He has said very clearly that withdrawals will be based on a careful and conditioned basis. It's the beginning of a drawdown process. There is no end-state stared." President Obama, Secretary Clinton have all said repeatedly that there has to be a presence in Afghanistan after the combat troops have left. And they will, because [combat troops] are not going to be there indefinitely."

Amanpour bristled when Holbrooke suggested that changing the ancient tribal and religious culture in the region is not a viable goal. Holbrooke bristled at the suggestion that he was condoning crimes against women. He said his point was that "[w]e will never have a day when we will be violence free." One other question Holbrooke would not touch: when the U.S. had decided that destroying the Haqqani network in Pakistan was a prime strategic goal.

Holbrooke: "I'm not going to get into that." Amanpour: "That's a direct question." Holbrooke: "That's a direct answer." Amanpour: "That's a direct non-answer." Holbrooke: "You can get on a table if you want. "