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Can the Taliban be trusted to keep their promise of reasonable rule? Two experts weigh in

To make sense of the Taliban's plans for Afghanistan, Lisa Desjardins speaks to Ali Jalali, a former minister of the interior who served in the Afghan National Army. He's now a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. And Torek Farhadi, an analyst and former advisor to the governor of Da Afghanistan Bank, ex-senior economic advisor to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so what should the world make of the promises that the Taliban made today?

    Our Lisa Desjardins has that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And, for that, we get two views.

    Ali Jalali was Afghanistan's minister of the interior from 2003 to 2005 and Afghanistan's ambassador to Germany from 2016 to 2018. He was a military officer in the Afghan National Army when the Soviets invaded and was a military planner in the resistance against the Soviets. He's now a distinguished professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

    And Torek Farhadi was an adviser to the governor of the Central Bank of Afghanistan and a senior economic adviser to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He is now an independent analyst.

    I want to start off with something that Jane Ferguson reported. The Taliban clearly is fighting on the field of public relations right now, presenting a moderate face, using buzzwords, things like inclusive.

    Torek Farhadi, what do you think this means? And is it having an effect?

  • Torek Farhadi:

    Look, the messaging is right. The Afghan people are tired of war.

    And we arrive in some ways at the best of all solutions available. If we had put all the options next to each other, we arrived at the best one. For the couple of past years, the U.S. has tried to create an environment for intra-Afghan negotiations. Here, what happened is that the former regime collapsed.

    The Taliban have come in. They have occupied Kabul. They have established peace. Not a bullet has been fired in Kabul. And now they're even ready to talk to each other, to others, in order to establish a government. They haven't been in a hurry to establish their government.

    It looks like Qatar and all the countries that have mediated are encouraging them to talk to other people. And two of the leaders, Hamid Karzai and Dr. Abdullah, issued a small video message, saying they are in touch with Taliban.

    So the conversation is going. The tone is positive. There is mutual respect. I don't expect Mr. Karzai or Mr. Abdullah to be part of the Taliban government, but they will be respected elders. And, someday, they might even be part of a council or, as we call it, shura.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Ali Jalali, positive tone we hear and we just heard from Mr. Farhadi the best of all possible solutions, in his view.

    Do you agree with that about what the Taliban is doing right now?

  • Ali Jalali:

    Well, yes, the — it all depends how you translate these rhetorics into actions.

    People have very bad memories from the time the Taliban were in power and later on in the areas that they controlled, and about their behavior. So, people are in a mood of shock and anxiety and uncertainty what is going to happen.

    I think the people I spoke with, they want any government to come soon, so that the people will have their normal life. And that is — that will take some time. But, immediately, now, people are concerned about their daily life. The banks are closed. And people cannot draw their money.

    The prices are high, and the services are nonexistent. These are the concerns of people. But, later on, I think people will see how these rhetorics of Taliban will be translated into actions. And that's what people will decide.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And that's my question to both of you, is about the actions. It's something that Judy just asked Jane.

    The Taliban is saying they want to end the drug trade, they will keep terrorists from attacking other countries, they want to raise the right of women according to the Islamic law. Can the Taliban be trusted?

    First to you, Torek Farhadi.

  • Torek Farhadi:

    Again, we have no choice.

    The Taliban are de facto in Kabul. They are occupying the presidential palace. They gave the press conference from there. Their tone was very, very conciliatory. They sent message to foreign embassies saying, we will ensure your security. Russia, China, Turkey, and Pakistan will keep their embassies open, as well as Iran.

    These are the regional players. It's important, the regional players. And the United States has said, we will stay in touch with the Taliban after August 31. There might be that the United States also might agree to leave a very skinny presence there, if the relationship improves between now and then.

    The Taliban have to pronounce some words also. They have said that they would like to give the rights of women under Islam. But they need to say that they agree to the charter of human rights, to charter of human rights of the United Nations. They have to speak a little bit the international language.

    But the regional powers will engage with Taliban, although everyone right now is saying we will decide together. But it is most probable that China will recognize Taliban. At some point, Russia will recognize Taliban.

    And my view is that the United States is in a better position if it recognizes Taliban, so that the aid it provides in any case to Afghanistan goes without problems of sanctions, et cetera, that the U.N. provides aid, that the U.N. is financed by the United States.

    I think the United States, by engaging with Taliban, will have more leverage over Taliban. And if the United States doesn't engage with Taliban, we are manufacturing a non-state actor. Then, dealing with a non-state actor is always problematic, and we will blame ourselves if something happens in that territory, because we created a non-state actor.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Ali Jalali, should the United States recognize the Taliban?

  • Ali Jalali:

    Well, I think United States said many times that they will recognize any government, if they actually observe the international law, the human rights.

    And we will see if the Taliban actually live up to the promises that they have made. Currently, in their public statements, they say the right things. But it depends what will happen when they establish themselves more.

    Now they are not in a situation that they actually can make statements that can — that cause them to lose their international support. On the other hand, the one thing that is very impressive, the discipline of their fighters, that, when they enter Kabul and other areas, they actually had acted in the right way, in treating the people in a more acceptable way.

    So I don't know what will happen in the future once they establish themselves. If the — now the nice words is to — for winning international recognition and support, or it is — there going to be a change of policy or a change of their behavior from the past.

    I think, several times, they said that their ideology is the same. How they interpret it, that's the problem, because they are not talking about specific things. They are talking about women rights, but within the context of the Islamic law, the Sharia.

    What is the — how they interpret that Sharia, how they are going to practically implement that?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    So many questions and an interesting picture that you're both painting here. A lot, we need to wait and see, and, of course, so many people on the ground for whom this is life and death at this moment.

    Thank you both, Ali Jalali and Torek Farhadi. Thank you.

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