Ahmed Rashid, a journalist and the best-selling author of "Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan" and several books on Afghanistan and Central Asia, including "The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism," joined Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear Tuesday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
"It's very depressing, quite frankly," Rashid told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker, referring to the fact Afghanistan has for a long time been in a state of political turmoil, with the government unable to establish full control over the country's territory due to various terrorist factions.
In 2017, after extremely tenuous efforts by Afghanistan's national army to thwart terrorist attacks, US President Donald Trump announced a resolution to send more troops to the war-torn state, while also appealing to NATO members to assist by increasing the numbers of their servicemen present in the war zone.
"I think a lot of advice was given to the Americans when they first came into Afghanistan, especially on reconstruction, rehabilitation by people like myself try to give the [then-US President George W.] Bush administration a proper direction. Unfortunately, they did not take that advice. Of course, the biggest mistake they made is going into Iraq; and, of course, by doing so, they took away the best American troops and forces from Afghanistan to Iraq, and those troops never returned for another seven to eight years later, when [then-US President Barack] Obama sent in troops," Rashid said.
"So, but more than the presence of troops, there was not a political settlement for the Taliban, which at least in the first two years after 9/11 was eminently possible, because the Taliban was a defeated, shattered force, and there were some die-hards left. Eventually, Pakistan became so untrusting of the Americans that Pakistan helped re-launch the Taliban in 2003-2004, and really that was the start of the war," Rashid explained.
"You're saying that the Taliban immediately shattered after the October 7, 2001 invasion by the US and its allied forces," Becker said.
"Then the Bush administration turns its attention to the invasion of Iraq, again using the war on terror as a slogan for doing whatever, and during that time, your point is that the Taliban, having been fundamentally shattered, could have been brought in to some sort of agreement by the US. Why would the US not have done that?" Becker asked.
"One of the reasons was that the American forces were very uneducated on who the Taliban were exactly. The Taliban was never part of the national terrorist organization like Al-Qaeda. They never took part in any of Osama bin Laden's attacks, and they were very much part of the fabric of Afghanistan. There were already some Taliban leaders telling the Americans that they want to surrender as long as they are not sent to Guantanamo," Rashid explained, referring to Guantanamo Bay, a US military base and detention camp in Cuba.
"They barely tolerated me," Rashid explained, referring to Taliban members he tried to interview.
"I wanted to take pictures. They refused to allow TV crews. It was very difficult dealing with them. They were against journalists and outsiders. But the Taliban gave bin Laden sanctuary under the premise that he would not carry out acts of terrorism from Afghan soil. Bin Laden started funding the Taliban, the movement. The Taliban became kind of addicted to this and obliged to bin Laden for the benefits that he was giving them, including training the Taliban troops, and there was an element in the Taliban that became very fanatical, and so there was a rift in the Taliban," Rashid added.