The results of the August 20 elections have been summed up in Afghanistan: current President Hamid Karzai has garnered 54.6% of ballots. While the votes were counted, the European and American media increasingly emphasized that U.S. President Barack Obama will not win his war in Afghanistan, that he is in for a disaster. Narasimhan Ram, editor-in-chief of India's largest-circulation newspaper The Hindu, and a participant in the Valdai Club's debates, talks about this subject in an interview with RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev.
Question: Mr Ram, today you said at the Valdai Club that Afghanistan is a disaster. We all have heard more than once that the war in Afghanistan is an extremely difficult undertaking, from the U.S. president as well. But you implied that it is time to recall American troops, and that Barack Obama should do this or will do this. If so, then when?
Answer: The problem is that he has expressed faith in this surge. He is pouring more troops into Afghanistan despite the experience in Iraq. They claim there is no problem in Iraq. But Afghanistan is getting obviously malignant because the Taliban are rampant, and the Karzai regime is completely rotten inside. Everyone can see that. The elections have just been rigged in a huge way. They made a song and dance around Iran where Ahmadinejad... I don't like Ahmadinejad's policy but he probably won. He committed electoral fraud, they say in the press, but what about here? Here the man did not win at all. He admitted 50%, and now he is on the point of being declared a winner and nobody believes that. But apart from that the number of Afghan civilian deaths has been appalling, and there is no excuse for this. They say collateral damage, we did not intend... but this does not boil down to the question of intentions. They are waging a war, and this happened in Pakistan, too, and the drones go and kill citizens, but basically this is the Afghan issue. The Pakistan army is quite capable of taking care of the militants, the Pakistani Taliban. But in Afghanistan, they are not... And nor are the Western allies. It's a completely disastrous war.
Question: So you are predicting that Obama will pull out troops anyway?
Answer: He has to or he will go down. He will become a one-term president like Jimmy Carter. Of course, there are other issues, in particular health care and its reform, but they are being blocked. But this alone is enough to sink Obama's credibility. If he does not get it... I think everyone I know who knows anything about Afghanistan admits this, including Indian diplomats, the press. I don't see any serious dissenting opinion outside the Obama Administration.
Question: And what should Russia do in this case? Before, everything was clear: Americans are responsible for everything in Afghanistan, we are not there, but if they leave... In this case, all of us - I'm referring to India, Russia, China, and Iran, that is, countries bordering on Afghanistan or located near it - will have to do something.
Answer: I think the Taliban is no threat externally. It's a problem in Afghanistan and a very nasty force, very reactionary, very brutal and returning them to the Middle Ages. Al-Qaeda is different. You take measures against al-Qaeda. Don't mix up the two, and I think one of the problems was that Bush's policy was putting everyone in the same basket in waging this war on terror. Taliban can be contained to Afghanistan. It may spill over to Pakistani border regions but can be taken care of by helping the Pakistan military, but I don't think there should be any regional coalition to take care of the problem. We can help them if there is a decent government, properly elected, which is not fundamentalist.