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Who will keep Afghanistan safe as foreign troops leave? | Inside Story

Who will keep Afghanistan safe as foreign troops leave? | Inside Story
the u.s and nato

troops

start to withdraw from

afghanistan

they

leave

behind a resurgent taliban and afghans living in fear so what needs to be done to

keep

the country

safe

this is inside

story

hello and welcome to the program i'm imran khan it's being called the beginning of the end for america's longest war u.s soldiers have started leaving

afghanistan

over the past week now president joe biden promised all

troops

will

be gone by september the 11th 2021 20 years after the attacks that triggered the fight against the taliban seven thousand nato personnel

will

leave

as well but as they go the taliban is launching more attacks the u.n says the number of people killed or injured is up by a third compared to this time last year the u.s defense secretary admits afghan security forces face a major task ahead we

will

remain partners with with the afghan uh government with the afghan military and uh and certainly we hope uh through our continued support uh the uh the afghan security forces uh can can be effective uh but uh you know it's uh they they have a pretty significant capability but it's gonna you know we expect that this

will

be a a challenge for afghans who've helped

foreign

soldiers over the years are scared of reprisal attacks from the taliban many have applied to move to the u.s but their applications are stuck in a bureaucratic backlog filio conscious hurry reports from kabul arzu knew she was risking it all when she started working as a...
who will keep afghanistan safe as foreign troops leave inside story
contractor for the u.s government her house has been attacked and she's received many threats her supervisor suggested she apply for a special immigrant visa for herself and her family to

safe

ly move to the u.s that was in 2017 she's still waiting for approval in this country most of the people are not angry even the women work for afghans the worst thing is that the situation is getting worse day by day and as we all know the taliban would take over the government so what

will

happen to our lives the main thing which i'm concerned is about myself and my family security who would take this responsibility because most of the people can recognize me even though i'm hiding myself but i cannot i cannot guarantee that arzu is one of about 18 000 afghans who have worked alongside u.s

troops

diplomats and other government personnel and are awaiting decisions on those special immigrant visas the process is long and grueling a report published in early april found the program ineffective in addressing the needs of those applying by law the application process should take nine months but on average it takes four years if not more since the announcement of the troop withdrawal the u.s state department has said it is aware of the risks afghan visa applicants face and that it is committed to the program but it has yet to commit to any concrete reforms to address the backlog or accelerate visa approval as u.s

troops

withdraw pressure from congress and organizations...
who will keep afghanistan safe as foreign troops leave inside story
including no one left behind has been mounting if we don't do anything if we do not expedite this process i'm pretty much sure after the withdrawal they

will

be tortured and killed in front of their family and their videos

will

be uploaded on the social media for other people to not support the us government in the future dozens of afghans who worked with australian

troops

in

afghanistan

are also pleading to have their protection visa applications processed the taliban considers those afghans who worked with the u.s and other

foreign

countries as traders and has vowed retribution against them dozens of afghan interpreters and contractors have already been killed several while waiting for their visas i have no option the option i have is the only way to die here in this country or get my visa to have

safe

life in the states since 2009 when the visa program was established thousands of afghans many with their families have relocated to the united states and our zoo along with thousands of others desperately want to join them before it's too late filia contra fury al jazeera kabul let's bring in our panel joining us in pittsburgh colin clark he's a senior research fellow at the soufan center which is dedicated to increasing awareness of global security challenges in the united states and globally in nice victoria fontan she's a professor of peace studies at the american university of

afghanistan

in kabul and in doha sultan barakat he's the director at...
who will keep afghanistan safe as foreign troops leave inside story
the center for conflict and humanitarian studies at the doha institute for graduate studies a warm welcome to you all let's begin in pittsburgh with colin clark this administration particularly is pushing the fact that the afghans can do this themselves that the afghan security forces are ready to do this themselves we heard from the u.s secretary a defense saying they have the capability to be able to do it what do you make of that uh i respectfully disagree um i think if you watch what has happened in

afghanistan

over the years you've watched the afghan national security forces who are clearly brave and courageous they need the help and the assistance of the united states military not only in day-to-day operations but in those critical over-the-horizon operations and i'd say particularly in in areas like isr intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance but then you're looking at a situation where they're always going to be needed so they're never going to

leave

i mean at some point 20 years after the fact you can understand why this administration said you know what enough is enough i totally understand and i empathize and i hope it works out i just disagree with the decision i completely agree with you uh when you look at a calendar-based withdrawal versus a conditions based withdrawal many argue and and it's a credible argument that the conditions

will

never be there uh i go back to that the fact that there are still u.s

troops

in germany japan...
and south korea i don't hear people raising issues about that so why would 20 years be the magic number for

afghanistan

when clearly the afghan security forces aren't yet ready to stand on their own uh let's bring in victoria fontan here in now you're normally based in kabul you're the professor of peace studies at the american university in

afghanistan

in kabul that's the kind of institution that is likely to be attacked if the americans

leave

because you'll still be there and you'll be a symbol of america in kabul are you worried absolutely we are worried um we were attacked in 2016. we lost 15 students and faculty at that time and many more were wounded and we know that some of our faculty members national faculty members have been the target of intimidations and threats in the past few months and of course we are worried that this withdrawal is going to impact our national faculty as well as our students who are risking their lives every day to come and study at a uaf so this is a big concern of ours and we are looking into different scenarios for the future at the time uh in the time being and but we

will

resume uh and continue our operations and uh and look ahead uh for uh not to break our promise to both our students staff and faculty i mean victoria that's very personal kind of take on that and thank you for that it's very important as well but generally speaking with the people that you speak to there must be those who say...
enough is enough the americans nato they must

leave

we need to be able to do this ourselves particularly within the afghan government yes absolutely and we hear that every day and the op-ed written by president ghani was very clear with regards to this and so there is a fatigue on both sides so the afghan side and also the international side but at the same time we have sold a dream the job is not done the afghan security forces are not capable of maintaining the security of the country the taliban feel emboldened by this condition less withdrawal and so in that light you know things are very difficult at the moment and and and many are very pessimistic even though we do understand that afghans need to stand on their own two feet of course well let's bring in sultan barakat uh he's in doha joining us now uh sultan we're in a position where there are about 50 to 60 000 fighters with the taliban they control some parts of the country but they don't control other parts of the country the the entire country of

afghanistan

isn't unified by any means a third of it remains lawless and the rest of it is allegedly or supposedly controlled by the afghan government we had several rounds of talks here in doha between the taliban and the americans no agreement no real agreement was ever reached between the two and now we have this announcement that the americans are simply leaving come september 11 2021. do you think the americans have played it the right way well uh...
obviously they played it the right way as far as american interest is concerned so american interest first i think this is all what they can do and the fact the the way they've announced a deadline and linked that to another symbolic day in the american memory is an indication of that but i agree with the other speakers that there is a major uh risk here for those who live in

afghanistan

uh at the same time we must

keep

in mind that the role of the american forces has fundamentally changed since 2014 onwards they're no longer on the front lines they're not really directly in fighting or with the taliban their role and nato have changed into a support and advice mission and for the last uh few years it's been the uh afghan national army who was paying the price and this these people have been fighting directly with the taliban now the uh the principle that the taliban have been holding so far is that they are fighting against occupation and they see that their brothers and sisters have been pushed in front of them and the middle between them and the americans now the time if the americans are withdrawing i think the taliban would have much less legitimacy in continuing their fight and they

will

have to seek a solution where they can come together with the rest of the afghans on an agreed arrangement for security and stability of the country

keep

ing in mind that it's not just the taliban as a military force or that exists at the moment there are many other...
groups that have risen and there are many that have gone back and re-armed over the last two years specifically because of those concerns but sultan you say that the the the taliban and other groups are simply fighting an occupation in their country get rid of the occupation and then there's no longer a reason to fight but that wasn't the case in 1992 they were fighting to take power in 1992 and the taliban succeeded they took over nearly two-thirds of the country what's to stop them doing it once the americans

leave

well as far as i know the taliban were not part of the fight in 1992 the taliban risen as a result of the mujahideen having had to go at each other uh seeking uh power and the taliban really came to existence because of the insecurity that left that the gap in security that was created in the country as far as we are aware and as far as they've been making of statements their objective is simply to over to turn around the occupation now of course the temptation of power is always there the temptation of forcing one's opinion is always there but we can only judge by what statements they have put to the public and it is very unfortunate that over the last year or so of negotiations they haven't been forthcoming in either in clarifying their positions in comforting people back in

afghanistan

because ultimately they all need to to live together and if there is an ambition to be a major force in power or to control the country and so on you...
have to one of they need to understand that they cannot control the country by force they have to be able to govern the country properly they have to be able to manage its resources meet the needs of its people any assumption that they are capturing power that comes with wealth is obviously mistaken

afghanistan

is in a great debt they need to understand how that

will

be managed the government on its own is incapable of providing services to the millions of afghans across the uh across the country right now with all the western support so imagine if they were to turn against their own people and against the western support how

will

they provide for their federal afghans uh victoria let me bring you in here you were shaking your head and nodding at some points uh that sultan barakat was making there are you worried then that the taliban aren't trustworthy i mean let's face it the intra afghan dialogue the talks haven't come to any fruition as of yet those talks are still going on there's a process in istanbul just very recently are you afraid that those talks

will

fail and that there

will

be a split within the afghan themselves well absolutely everybody is worried uh back in kabul um about that and and the the indication that the taliban gave by uh being un

will

ing to come to the negotiation table in istanbul was very clear they um they indicated that since the withdrawal was now uh going to happen they no longer needed to discuss with anyone about any um any...
future uh let's say political accommodation in

afghanistan

for peace and so from that perspective everybody is worried because actions speak louder than words even though we haven't even had any words uh with respects to this and and right now there is no indication that there

will

even be an idea of a power sharing and so um everybody is worried and um and it's it would be high time for the taliban to actually clearly indicate what their intentions are for the moment they have not there has only been um statements here and there and those statements are not encouraging at the same time there has been a wave of targeted assassinations against civil society individuals journalists and and intellectuals and so that definitely is also an indication of what is to come and the fact that an inclusive um society is definitely not on the horizon if the taliban were to come back so they that better be very clear about what they want but i don't agree that they are

will

ing to share any power at this time colin clark in pittsburgh one of the mistakes i feel that many people have said to me that the americans have made when negotiating with the taliban is to consider them a unified monolith that they are actually all together we saw this in the doha talks where often an agreement would be reached and then the taliban representatives here in doha would have to say well we need to go back to

afghanistan

and we need to sell this to our people and therefore an agreement...
wasn't reached because they never actually managed to get that agreement do you think the united states has underestimated how disunified and how much of a threat the taliban are because they are not a monolith absolutely i think the united states still fails after two decades in

afghanistan

to fully grasp and understand the organization that they're at odds with and i think that also goes for al qaeda i think it goes for the haqqanis and several other kind of non-state actors operating in

afghanistan

and throughout the broader region uh just just one point i'd like to raise when we're talking about can we take the taliban at their word are they a credible broker look the towel then still has not renounced al qaeda and few people suspect that once the united states withdraw the taliban

will

will

break with them there's no indication that they

will

so the us is leaving at a time uh when al qaeda is hurting but i fully suspect that uh or expect uh al-qaeda to regenerate its networks in

afghanistan

and throughout south asia but colin one of the things i do want to come to you all with this question but let me just ask colin first we we we have to take a look at the regional players as well you have pakistan and when you're talking about the haqqani network often pakistan are accused of supporting the haqqani network you have iran uh acute you know accused of supporting the northern lines and other factions and then you have india which sees

afghanistan

as...
a very strategic place uh to try and battle their competition with with pakistan itself the regional players are likely to replace nato and america when america

leave

s perhaps not with

troops

on the ground but certainly with influence is that a factor in america's thinking it could be but but actually you know i spent 10 years at the rand corporation uh doing research on insurgency and counter insurgency and one of the main takeaways from years and years of research of looking at data is that the more players that are involved in a civil war the more external actors the longer that conflict

will

last and often the bloodier it

will

be so if the united states is banking on quote-unquote regional players without a military presence but with influence then i think they're you know that that assumption is uh fully mistaken uh victoria fontan the this idea of these regional players particularly within kabul within uh the administration has always been very controversial the afghan has been openly critical of the pakistanis for supporting various groups in the country yet they've been left with little choice and they've had to go to india for investment there is a new great game that is being played out it used to be russia and britain russia and america and now it's between these regional players that's not going to be helpful for peace is it well absolutely not especially if those original players are at odds with one another however the new influence of...
china could be a game changer since pakistan also needs china at the moment so it remains to be seen but definitely what's important to understand and what afghans understand really well is that those regional players do not have

afghanistan

at the core of their thinking they don't they care more about their own influence their regional in fighting than

afghanistan

itself and so that is something um that i think is going to have an impact uh in the months to come and and that i hope

will

influence the afghan political scene to actually unify and seek for um let's say a state response to uh the uh taliban uh rise uh in the future and so that is that is something that remains to be seen but quite hopeful sadan what do you think regional players help or hindrance i think

afghanistan

has had always challenged with its collection of neighbors and unfortunately there continue to be a mix a mix a mixed reaction mix of attitudes towards the end of the conflict in

afghanistan

but for the first time in a long long time we have now reached a stage where their global context the change in in circumstances is uh helping everyone to go more or less in the same direction there are still some differences between certain neighbors and some who are pursuing their national interest at the expense of the afghans but overall i think the position is much better than it was uh for many many years ago uh the real challenge now is is uh on the afghans themselves they need to come up with...
the opposition and i think the responsibility has really got to go back to the afghans for many years they have relied on international actors in one way or the other and it is time to realize that no one is there for for free no one is there for out of interest for any minority group in

afghanistan

genuinely and it is it is only a national vision i think

will

help pull the country together and as i said earlier with the removal of the label of occupation uh i think that should at least in principle take away one of the fundamental reasons that the taliban and other groups have been using for a long time as a reason for as an excuse for engaging in war uh colin cloud just very quickly because we are running out of time does the do you think the american government this administration realized that if there is an afghan peace agreement intra-afghan peace agreement between the taliban various other groups in the afghan government that it might not come at the expense that they want it might not come by denouncing isil and other groups it might not come at denouncing al qaeda um it might just be that the taliban win everything that they want they become a regional power in

afghanistan

and the americans just have to deal with it do they do you think they realize that yeah i think that's one scenario that's being discussed and from folks that i speak to in washington there seems to be confidence within this administration that they can manage the threat they think it's...
a threat that can be managed by an offshore counterterrorism strategy but only time

will

tell i want to thank all our guests colin clark victoria fontan and sultan barakat and thank you too for watching you can see this and all our previous programs again anytime by visiting our website aljazeera.com and for further discussion go to our facebook page that's facebook.com forward slash aj inside

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and you can also join the conversation on twitter we are at aj inside

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from me imran khan and the whole team here bye for now you