|Originally Aired: May 30, 2006
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai Pleads for Peace in the Streets of Kabul
|An U.S. Army investigation found that the convoy accident in the capital of Afghanistan triggering violent riots against the U.S. was due to a mechanical failure. Meanwhile President Hamid Karzai vowed to stand up against the agitators. Two analysts discuss the situation in Afghanistan.|
KWAME HOLMAN: Hundreds of Afghan troops patrolled the
streets of Kabul
today to prevent further unrest. Yesterday, violent anti-U.S. and anti-Western
protests erupted after a U.S.
military vehicle was involved in a deadly traffic crash during morning rush-hour
The heavy cargo truck was part of a U.S. convoy traveling from Bagram Air Base, the
military facility, into the capital, when its driver lost control. The truck
plowed into a dozen civilian cars at an intersection, killing at least five
(through translator): An American convoy came, and I tried to park my car on
the side, when they hit my car and turned it upside down.
KWAME HOLMAN: Coalition spokesman Tom Collins today explained
what triggered the crash.
COL. TOM COLLINS, Coalition Spokesman: An initial
investigation has determined that a mechanical failure of the vehicle's brakes
is the cause of this tragic accident. The convoy was on a logistics mission in
support of our efforts to help the Afghan people.
KWAME HOLMAN: Yesterday's riots were the worst since the
fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. Within minutes of the crash, angry mobs
began stoning the convoy and then headed into the center of Kabul, where some looted, ransacked and set
fire to several buildings, including a compound belonging to the aid group CARE
From among the hundreds of protesters who took to the
streets came chants of "Death to America." Afghan and U.S. troops said they fired warning shots into
the air to control the crowds, but some witnesses claimed U.S. troops fired on civilians.
AFGHAN YOUNG MAN (through translator): People were killed by
troops. They shot two people; they were American.
AFGHAN YOUNG MAN: They are killing. They're killing people.
KWAME HOLMAN: Eleven people were killed; nearly 140 were
injured. Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday pleaded for calm.
HAMID KARZAI, President of Afghanistan (through translator):
We will recognize as the enemy of Afghanistan these people who do
these things. You should stand up against these agitators and not let them
destroy our country again.
KWAME HOLMAN: The outbreak in Kabul
follows an upsurge of fighting in the south over the past month between a
revived Taliban and U.S.
and NATO troops. Some 350 people have been killed, including more than a dozen
civilians, in a coalition air strike on suspected militants in Kandahar last week.
Currently, some 22,000 U.S.
troops and 8,500 other foreign soldiers make up the coalition forces in Afghanistan. And
in the coming months, NATO peacekeepers are expected to take over more security
duties from a shrinking number of U.S. troops, especially in the
"Death to America"
JIM LEHRER: More on the anger in Afghanistan
now from Ali Jalali, interior minister in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005. He's
now a professor at the National Defense University
here in Washington.
And Barnett Rubin, director of studies at the Center on
International Cooperation at New
He served as a consultant to the United Nations on Afghan issues and frequently
Mr. Jalali, "Death to America," why would Afghans be
yelling such a thing now?
ALI JALALI, Former Interior Minister, Afghanistan: Well, these are some
kind of a spontaneous reaction to an incident. However, this does not mean that
the people of Afghanistan
are against the presence of the U.S.
forces or international community, because they do realize that, only with the
presence of the U.S.
forces and the international community, the country can be assured that
stability will return to the country. Otherwise, the country can slip back into
JIM LEHRER: But those people, the hundreds of people who
started throwing rocks and all of that, just because of a traffic accident?
ALI JALALI: Well, this is not only traffic. A traffic
accident triggered something which is more, you know, related to the social
frustration, criminality, and also manipulation of the situation by interest
groups and groups hostile to the government, to turn a protest into riot, into
violence, and where some criminals actually went on a looting spree.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Rubin, how do you read what happened
BARNETT RUBIN, Center on International Cooperation, New York
University: Well, I think that it was a number of different things that came
First, of course, there was a reaction, a spontaneous
element, both in reaction to the traffic accident, but that symbolized
something more, which is the resentment that Afghans -- that's been building up
in many Afghans.
In other words, what Afghans said for the last several years
is, even though we've always rejected invaders, we will accept the U.S. and the
coalition forces if they are here to help us, but not if they're here to use
our country for their own purposes.
The fact that they have seen far fewer economic benefits
than they expected, that the military vehicles are constantly going through
Kabul and cause many more accidents than this -- although not fatal ones like
this -- is a source of irritation, and it symbolizes for them that the U.S. is
using the country at the same time that, in Kabul City, they have no more
electricity than they did when the U.S. came in.
Second, there are some political groups that did take
advantage of this. This accident took place in an area that is under the
control of certain commanders who have recently been demobilized and who belong
to a political group that has been pushed out of power. And there's some
evidence that some of the demonstrators were organized by that group.
Finally, in recent weeks, the clergy has been preaching
rather strongly against the government, in particular since the case of the
Afghan who was reported to have converted to Christianity, who was spirited out
of the country. And they claim that this showed that the government with a no
longer Islamic. So there are a number of factors converging.
Frustrations boiling over
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with that, that there's more here
than just one thing, Mr. Jalali?
ALI JALALI: Yes, I agree with Barney. I think, you know,
sometimes you talk to people and they believe that they are frustrated with the
slow pace of development. They had high expectations in 2002 after the downfall
of the Taliban.
received far less funds for reconstruction than many other nation-building
efforts around the world, including Kosovo, including East Timor, and former Yugoslavia.
On the other hand, in some parts of the area, it took the international
community two years to realize that the ISAF or ISAF war should being expanded
to other parts of the country.
JIM LEHRER: The what?
ALI JALALI: ISAF, the International Security Assistance
JIM LEHRER: The coalition force, the security force?
ALI JALALI: Yes, the security.
The south was neglected a lot. The south is actually the
hinterland of the Taliban. Until now, recently, there was only one base, U.S. forces 3,000, in Kandahar, but those other troubled provinces
close to the Pakistani border did not, you know, have a deployment of
international forces, and Afghan police and Army capacity is very limited.
So, therefore, during the past four years, where the
expectation was very high, and people saw less change in their lives.
JIM LEHRER: Than they expected?
ALI JALALI: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with that, Mr. Rubin, that the
reality for the people on the ground, for the Afghans, has not met the
expectations that they had four years ago when the U.S. came in there and pushed the
BARNETT RUBIN: Well, absolutely. I was in Afghanistan at the end of March,
early April, and I definitely felt this kind of very negative atmosphere in the
people that I was talking to.
And another aspect of what happened yesterday was the very
inept reaction of the police and the ministry of the interior, which Mr. Jalali
used to be the head of.
The interior minister was reported to be extremely
indecisive. The police disappeared from many areas. And I should mention that
the president himself also disappeared from the scene for several hours until
he finally issued a statement at 7:00 p.m.
So it was not only the outburst of anger by demonstrators
and the manipulation by some political groups; it was also the incapacity of
the government to deal with this situation.
A corrupting influence?
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Rubin, what about -- I also read a piece
today which suggested that there's some growing resentment among the Afghans
that has to do with Western workers, as well as troops, having brought a lot of
drinking of alcohol, prostitution, and all of those things with them, and
there's resentment growing on that. Is that a legitimate complaint?
BARNETT RUBIN: Well, without judging its legitimacy, it
certainly is a complaint.
JIM LEHRER: OK.
BARNETT RUBIN: The Afghan constitution says that the
government is supposed to fight against all intoxicating substances, including
alcohol, but alcohol is freely available in many establishments in Kabul because the powerful
Westerners there want it. The government won't do anything against it.
So that symbolizes to people that the government is not
really sovereign, is not enforcing its own Islamic laws, it's not enforcing its
There are so-called Chinese restaurants all over Kabul which are well-known
to be houses of prostitution. They operate with impunity, and both rich Afghans
and also some Western contractors, who are not bound by the rules of the
military, frequent them.
And, again, this is a subject of very strong preaching in
the mosques about foreigners having brought moral corruption to the country. And
we see in some of the targets of the demonstrators yesterday, which included
Western restaurants, and guest houses, and so on, that this was a part of the
sentiment they were expressing.
JIM LEHRER: What's your feeling about that, Mr. Jalali?
ALI JALALI: I agree with Barney that this is a source of
resentment in Afghanistan.
However, I will add this: that most of the alcohol, most of the illegal
activities are done by illegal power-holders, warlords, militia commanders.
During my tenure as minister of the interior, all what we
confiscated, the smuggling of these materials were sponsored, were protected by
warlords. So therefore it is not something that came by the Western countries
or the Western presence there.
However, the kind of a -- the atmosphere in Afghanistan
after the downfall of the Taliban created a sense in people that they can do
everything. You know, democracy means different things to different people in Afghanistan.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
ALI JALALI: And, however, while Afghans went and voted and
supported the creation of democratic institutions. However, this process was
not supported or sequenced by other forms of development that would bring
positive change to the level of the people, so they voted, but they didn't see
change in their lives.
And all they saw in this democracy was all these negative
things, as Barney alluded to. So when they think of democracy, a liberal
democracy, they see these symbols of the democracy.
Creating a partnership
JIM LEHRER: Well, the obvious question to ask you both then
is: What can be done about this? Does something dramatic have to be done? Or,
if not, is this thing going to get worse and worse and worse?
ALI JALALI: I usually say that the international community
should realize that Afghanistan
cannot be stabilized and pacified on the cheap. So far, it has been on the
And on the other hand, yes, the capacity is very limited in Afghanistan.
However, a serious review of the situation is needed. And I think, unless all
these concerns of the people -- unemployment, education...
JIM LEHRER: I know that 40 percent of the people in Afghanistan
are unemployed; is that right?
ALI JALALI: Yes, this is true.
JIM LEHRER: Forty percent?
ALI JALALI: Most of the people who participated in these
riots were unemployed young people.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Rubin, same question. What can be done about
BARNETT RUBIN: Well, on the other side, I think we have to
take a fresh look at the U.S. military deployment there, not whether it is
necessary -- I think it is necessary -- but the U.S. and coalition forces are
there under the right of self-defense, which was certainly legitimate right
after September 11th, and are operating without any agreement with the Afghan
But now we have helped the Afghan people and the United
Nations set up this government, elect a president, elect a parliament. They're
now choosing a new Supreme Court, reformed their administration, reformed their
police, which Mr. Jalali was part of, build their new army.
So it's time for our relationship to have a new basis. And
that should be an agreement that recognizes the sovereignty of the Afghan
government, an agreement about the status of the U.S. forces there, which would be
debated by the parliament.
Of course, there's a risk that they might take decisions we
don't like. But I think it's a risk that will be very good for us to take
because, once the parliament agrees to our presence there and their agreed-upon
rules, then they will have much more ownership and a sense of partnership with
JIM LEHRER: All right. Gentlemen, thank you both very much.
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