MARGARET WARNER: Is there a surrender deal in the offing, and should there be?
For more, we turn to Kawun Kakar, a former U.N. human rights officer in Afghanistan. A lawyer, he is also on the board of the Institute for Afghan Studies in San Francisco. Helena Malikyar, a former assistant to the exiled Afghan king; she's now with New York University's Afghanistan Reconstruction Project.
Ivo Daalder, a former National Security Council staffer in the Clinton administration during the conflicts in the Balkans. He is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Retired Army General William Nash, who commanded the first U.S. force in Bosnia after the Dayton Peace Accords were signed in 1995. He's now director of the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations. Welcome to you all.
And Mr. Kakar, starting with you, what are you hearing about these reports of a surrender deal? Are they true?
KAWUN KAKAR: Yes, they are. According to the latest reports from Kandahar, Mullah Omar sent a high-level delegation to the newly appointed head of the interim government in Kabul, Mr. Hamid Karzai, where it was agreed that Mullah Omar and the Taliban will surrender tomorrow to tribal leaders in Kandahar. After this surrender is completed, then Hamid Karzai is expected to be invited in Kandahar.
Now, the conditions of this surrender are clear as to the forces of Taliban. The soldiers would be disarmed and released. But as far as the fate of the leaders of Taliban is concerned, it is still being worked out.
MARGARET WARNER: Ms. Malikyar, do you think these reports, which are somewhat confusing, does it sound plausible to you that Mullah Omar, who had said he'd fight to the death, he urged his followers to do the same, do you think it's plausible that he's ready to surrender, and do you think it's plausible that the opposition is ready to offer him a deal that lets him "live in dignity," or live with dignity as the Taliban spokesman said?
HELENA MALIKYAR: It would be very difficult to believe that such a deal would be agreed upon by the opposition simply because, first of all, the United States and the coalition military forces have made it quite clear that Mullah Omar cannot receive amnesty.
Secondly, Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership are responsible, before the people of Afghanistan for the years of oppression and atrocities that were committed. So I would be very surprised if this agreement has actually been reached.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Kakar, back to you for a quick reply to that. Do you think it's plausible that the opposition, that Mr. Karzai in particular is ready to offer this kind of a deal to Mullah Omar?
KAWUN KAKAR: I think it's unlikely that an amnesty would be given to Mullah Omar, as it was just stated. I think it's clear that Taliban have committed atrocities and Mullah Omar as their head, is accountable for those atrocities and in some accounts, he has even reportedly ordered those atrocities.
And further, of course, he was harboring terrorists in Afghanistan. So he has to be brought to justice. There's no question about that.
However, how he is brought to justice and that is a tough question. What must be done is not to undermine the newly appointed government in Kabul and especially the role of Mr. Karzai, who is from Kandahar.
And one way to do that is to assist Afghans who have called for the establishment of an accountability process that would not only hold Mullah Omar responsible for his deeds, but also hold other warlords responsible for their deeds.
And such an accountability process would even strengthen, enhance the support of the government in Kabul, and in the long run, that would be a much greater... better insurance for uprooting terrorists from Afghanistan.
MARGARET WARNER: Ivo Daalder, how much leverage do you think the United States has over this situation now, as we get to these final stages here, in terms of what happens to Mullah Omar and the senior Taliban leadership?
IVO DAALDER: Well, we're not directly engaged in the negotiations. Those are being done by the Afghans themselves.
But we have leverage, we have the promise of a substantial amount of economic assistance, we have the presence of our military forces in the area, including our direct support to the military troops that are engaged in Kandahar and around Kandahar, and we have the political goodwill of the fact that what has happened in the last two months in this country is a direct result of our military intervention.
So we can use political, military and economic tools to try to shift the basis of opinion within Afghanistan to something that is to our liking.
MARGARET WARNER: General Nash, what do you think should happen, if U.S. Interests are your test, what do you think is the best thing to have happen to Mullah Omar and the senior Taliban leadership, if he chooses to surrender, as opposed to fight to the death?
GEN. WILLIAM NASH: Well, number one, they have to be held accountable for their acts, and I think your earlier speakers were correct when they say they have to be held accountable for their crimes against the people of Afghanistan.
But the United States' interests obviously have to do with their support and harboring of the terrorists that attacked the United States. And I think we also need to determine whether or not... The degree of culpability of Omar and the senior Taliban leaders for the attack on the United States in September.
MARGARET WARNER: But do you think, for instance, that the United States really would want Mullah Omar turned over to the U.S. and have to deal with that?
GEN. WILLIAM NASH: Well, I think there are a number of circumstances that may well satisfy the justice that Secretary Rumsfeld spoke about earlier.
But amnesty or living in dignity in the suburbs of Kandahar is not one of those options. But if necessary, a military tribunal to punish, to try and then punish those who attacked the United States, just as we did against those who attacked Pearl Harbor, is an appropriate act.
MARGARET WARNER: But whose trial, Ivo Daalder, I mean whose justice system should handle this?
IVO DAALDER: My sense is that, unless we have some real evidence of direct involvement of Mullah Omar and other top Taliban leaders in the terrorist atrocities that we have seen only about three months ago, this ought to be dealt with in an Afghani system.
It is, after all, the crimes that this man and this regime has committed against the people of Afghanistan that is most important. We have already punished Mullah Omar. We removed his regime from power.
MARGARET WARNER: Which is what we said...
IVO DAALDER: That was exactly what we set out to do. Now we need to focus on al-Qaida and on Osama bin Laden. Those are the kinds of people we want to have our own justice system work with, but we ought to encourage the local justice system to work.
MARGARET WARNER: So would you make a distinction between al-Qaida leadership and Taliban leadership in terms of whether the U.S. would want to put them on trial or hold a military tribunal?
IVO DAALDER: I would. I would make a distinction between direct culpability in the events and the terrorist acts that we had and the notion that, which is true, that the regime harbored these terrorists.
I would like to see these people tried within the Afghan system to give the new Afghani government and the new system that is emerging in the post-Taliban period the kind of ability to build peace. That's the kind of system you would like to have in all post-conflict situations, where the countries like happened in Bosnia, with lesser war criminals, those Bosnians were tried within their own system.
We had an outside court, now we have the possibility of a U.S. court dealing with particularly people who are particularly responsible for particular atrocities. But you want to keep it within Afghanistan to the extent possible.
MARGARET WARNER: Helena Malikyar, what's your view of what the pressures are right now within this emerging new post-Taliban leadership on this question of what to do with Mullah Omar?
HELENA MALIKYAR: I think the opposition groups who are negotiating with Mullah Omar and his people must be under pressure because, on the one hand, they want a peaceful surrender of the city, and the tribal people, the local people would like to see that. They don't want to witness a bloodshed in the area.
On the other hand, if they don't give Mullah Omar an incentive, for example, a promise for amnesty, he will not have anything to proceed and agree with the surrender.
So I'm sure the people who are involved in these negotiations are under a lot of pressures, and this is a sensitive issue to deal with. I wouldn't be surprised if this debacle would end in something similar like what happened near Mazar-e-Sharif at the Kalangi Prison. That is a possibility certainly.
MARGARET WARNER: You mean in which there seemed to be a deal, there seemed to be a surrender, but then fighting broke out and in fact there was a fairly violent end?
HELENA MALIKYAR: Right.
MARGARET WARNER: And why do you think that?
HELENA MALIKYAR: I'm not saying that that will happen, but there is the possibility of that happening, simply because there isn't enough incentive that one could give to the Taliban leadership to agree to surrender, and therefore, both sides may play a game, which might very well end up in a violent manner.
MARGARET WARNER: So Mr. Kakar, how much slack or leeway do you think the U.S. should give to Mr. Karzai in negotiating something here?
KAWUN KAKAR: I think the U.S. has to be sensitive to the national issues in Afghanistan, specifically to the type of position Mr. Karzai has in negotiating the surrender of Taliban.
I think extending support for Afghans to deal with this issue, in other words, the process, the tribal process in Kandahar and also the national process in Afghanistan to take this issue would be probably served... serve the best interest of all sides in the long run.
MARGARET WARNER: But up to and including some kind of modified amnesty, if that's what it would take to get a peaceful surrender?
KAWUN KAKAR: It is unlikely that there would be an amnesty, even the international... or I should say the Bonn Accord also states that the current interim government cannot extend amnesty to any of the leaders.
So it's unlikely that there will be an amnesty, but how would this process go forward is more the question at this time. And what has to be done is probably there doesn't have to be a rush to the end. That's what would help the process in the long run.
MARGARET WARNER: Final last question to the two of you, General Nash first. Based on your experience in Bosnia, do you think that a future Afghan government can be stable, if Mullah Omar is still there, is still...
GEN. WILLIAM NASH: No, do I not. He has to be dealt with, and he has accountability, not only for the crimes against the people of Afghanistan, for which he must be held accountable by the Afghani people.
But he also is culpable to some degree for a great number of attacks against international interests.
IVO DAALDER: I agree with the General. Clearly the experience in Bosnia shows, when bad people stay in power, stability is not forthcoming. You need to get them and you need to get him from the beginning as soon as you can.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, Ms. Malikyar and gentlemen three thank you all.