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RAY SUAREZ: For more on the situation in Afghanistan, we get three views. Torek Farhadi is an economics adviser to President Karzai and an advisor to the Central Bank governor in Afghanistan. Born in Afghanistan, he is now a U.S. citizen. Frank Wisner was the co-chair of the Council on Foreign Relations’ task force on Afghanistan, which issued the report Afghanistan: Are We Losing the Peace? He served as ambassador to India during the Clinton administration. And Sara Amiryar was born and raised in Afghanistan, is now a U.S. citizen. Last summer, she was a delegate to Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly, which selected its current government. We asked the Bush administration to participate in this discussion, but they declined.
Sara Amiryar, is the United States losing the gains that it fought to win in Afghanistan?
SARA AMIRYAR, Delegate to Afghan Loya Jirga: If the current situation is not changed, if the security is not really increased beyond Kabul, and if human rights abuse is not stopped, I doubt that actually that the full promise and the full democracy will be reached in Afghanistan.
RAY SUAREZ: So things — if I understand what you are saying — are moving away from the direction you need them to move in, right?
SARA AMIRYAR: That is what I believe, yes.
RAY SUAREZ: Torek Farhadi, the same question: When you look at what the war aims were, 21 months ago, is the United States, is Afghanistan, in danger of losing what it had hoped to gain?
TOREK FARHADI, Adviser to President Karzai: Well, the war was aimed at stopping al-Qaida and destabilizing their operations. I think it has achieved that objective. A second objective of U.S. involvement was to make the place a better place and a safer place and that is taking time, will take time.
We are dealing with a challenging situation for security reasons, but also for structural reasons. This is a country that has been in civil war for about two decades. People have not gone to school. Education is lacking. Women have not had the opportunity to go to school. Civil servants haven’t received any continuing education and they don’t know what modern techniques of management and they don’t know or — and they don’t know computers. So it will take time.
I’m optimistic that the work we have initiated is going to pay off. But we need to do much more. We need to continue this partnership between the United States and Afghanistan and do much more to create an economic opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and create jobs so that they can get off the militias and they can get off signing up with the militias and go to work and produce and create an economic life for themselves. Once you have that, then they will fight not to lose it.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Wisner, your report, the council’s report, seemed to imply that many of the things Mr. Farhadi suggested had to be done have to be done really right away or else you risk the country sliding back in anarchy?
FRANK WISNER, Former State Department Official: That is correct. We argued that the situation in Afghanistan has approached a pivotal point where decisions need to be taken in three regards.
First, as your first speaker pointed out, to deal with the pressing security situation; to make certain that peacekeeping forces are deployed outside the capital, that the provincial bosses or warlords get a strong signal it’s time to disarm and accept the central authority; and third to accelerate and development of a national army and police force; in short, to back up with strong security measures the Karzai regime and the move towards constitutional government.
We also suggested and believe that the time was right to take a firm step toward a sustained economic reconstruction program. The international community has been called upon to put $15 billion over five years on the table, $1 billion or $5 billion — $1 billion a year or $5 billion total from the United States.
And third, we felt it was also very important that the United States use its diplomacy to bring the key regional powers back around the table: Iran, Russia, Pakistan, India. To create a consensus among them that this was the time to push Afghanistan along back the Karzai government, and move the country towards the constitutional outcome and elections we hope will take place next year.
RAY SUAREZ: Sara Smiryar, you heard Ambassador Wisner refer to the Karzai government. When you are traveling through much of Afghanistan outside the capital, is there any sense that there is a Karzai government, that there is a central administration that has some influence in the day-to-day affairs of the country?
SARA AMIRYAR: Well, I have traveled actually to 20 provinces. I did not really see that there is power actually or central government’s power is respected in other provinces. The other provinces actually are ruled by the commanders and by the warlords.
And also, I believe that security is just in Kabul. Kabul is not Afghanistan. In the other provinces, there is no safety, there’s no security and I believe that if they want really peace to come to Afghanistan and democracy, the central government, President Karzai’s government, should have power — actually should actually rule the provinces. And the commanders and the governors they really do whatever they want to do.
RAY SUAREZ: Torek Farhadi, is that situation really in the cards? Are the provincial leaders and the warlords going to give up power to the central government?
TOREK FARHADI: The provincial leaders have come to Kabul time and time again and they have promised loyalty to President Karzai. So there is acknowledgment that there is a central government, there is acknowledgment that there was a ground council, or a Loya Jirga, last year and President Karzai was elected as the president of Afghanistan by all these people.
So now, the central government ought to have the capacity to deliver services to these regions. That is how loyalties will be bought in Afghanistan. At this point, the central government has had little resources to deliver these services — being security, reconstruction, regional development, education. All of these services have just started to being delivered.
RAY SUAREZ: But isn’t one reason why they don’t have the resources the fact that many of the conventional sources of revenue for a central government are in fact being collected by the regional people and not making their way to the central administration?
TOREK FARHADI: In one or two parts of Afghanistan the leaders in that region are collecting customs revenues and their argument is that we are spending this money on our own region because you, the central government, cannot do anything for us anyway so we’re going to spend it here. But they have agreed that they will submit the revenues to the central government and the central government will parcel out the revenues to all the regions of Afghanistan because there are some poor regions in Afghanistan as well.
There is — in the center of Afghanistan, Afghanistan itself is a land locked country. The center of Afghanistan there is a province named Bayam — it doesn’t have access to it, roads to it. So it is a challenging situation. This is going to take some time. And we have to stick to the challenge but we ought not to get discouraged.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Wisner, comment on what you just heard from Mr. Farhadi — this push-pull between the provinces and the center.
FRANK WISNER: Well, I think he has put his finger on it. The history of Afghanistan underscores a central fact and that is if there isn’t a degree of Kabul authority over the country, Afghanistan as a country cannot make any progress. At the same time, the reality of Afghanistan is a federal or more dispersed nature.
What is at work today is a constitutional process to divide the responsibilities of Kabul and the surrounding regions. And your commentator was absolutely right when he pointed out that government has to be able to give to create loyalties but the provincial leaders have to be able to cede in order to make an effective Afghanistan.
Here, I think the issue is not for tomorrow. It is a today issue. It’s very important that we as the United States send an unmistakable signal that the time is right for the Karzai government to succeed, to extend its authority, to make the necessary political deals but with strong American backing.
RAY SUAREZ: And what does sending a signal mean? What does that consist of?
FRANK WISNER: It means making it clear, unambiguously clear, to the provincial leaders that while they played a useful role in toppling the Taliban, the time is right now, to support Karzai, and allow the constitutional process and elections to come in and then play a normal political role in the country’s future as the end of the elections would foresee.
RAY SUAREZ: Now in the Afghanistan that you saw, was there any sign of what the ambassador described was happening?
SARA AMIRYAR: In some parts. What I saw — my observation — I believe that Karzai is a good person, he has a good heart and he means well for the country. But his power is limited.
And the United States really also should get its policies consistent with the promises that they made. For instance, the warlords, the previous fundamentalists, they still receive support from the United States.
Pakistan is interfering and they are not being stopped. And who is actually training these al-Qaida people and also the Taliban and send them inside Afghanistan? All these latest disturbances — who created all that? The United States understands that, you know, that Pakistan and other neighboring countries are the core of this problem in Afghanistan and there should be a policy to stop that.
And as Mr. Farhadi mentioned about the economic situation, if the economy is not revived and education not enhanced, then I think that we are not really looking for a very successful future or democracy in Afghanistan. We are — and I think that the United States and also the world cannot afford really to make the same mistake in Afghanistan as they did in the 90s. Afghanistan was left at the mercy of Pakistan and Wahabis of Saudi Arabia and look what happened. And now if the same mistake is repeated, I think that the not just Afghanistan but the whole region will be ruined. So they have to look at the policies again and be consistent with the application of that policy toward Afghanistan and also the promises that the world made, the donors made they should keep that.
RAY SUAREZ: She has made serious charges: Pakistan, an American ally in the war against terrorism, actually being part of the problem in reconstituting Afghanistan.
TOREK FARHADI: Well, I think Afghanistan also has to put itself together. We need strong police force and border guards.
We need to be able to safeguard our borders in order to limit the infiltration of terrorism into Afghanistan. We need to have a national army that is stronger. And we need to create frankly, economic opportunities for people so that the culture of war is un-rooted — and the culture of effort and creation of resources comes to play.
RAY SUAREZ: Very quickly. The ambassador suggests there is a very limited window of time in which to start achieving these things, do you agree?
TOREK FARHADI: I agree absolutely, yes. And I think there is a signal the United States is going to double up its help. The USAID is going to get involved — the OPIC, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, many efforts are in the works to help the situation.
RAY SUAREZ: Guests thank you all very much.
SARA AMIRYAR: Thank you.