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Afghan Dangers

Aired October 9, 2003 - 09:16   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Afghanistan is still a very poor and still a very dangerous place. Rival factions are battling one another today near Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan. The U.N. says there are many casualties as a result. Also, thousands of Taliban forces have been reporting massing in Pakistan, two years after a U.S.-led coalition drove them out of Kabul.
Barnett Rubin is in Kabul this morning. He's been consulting with the U.N. as a member of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Project, and we welcome him here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Two years, sir, after the Taliban surrendered, were they ever truly gone, or were they just lying door man and reorganizing for another fight, like today?

BARNETT RUBIN, AFGHANISTAN RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT: Of course, they were never really gone, and they don't consider they've been defeated either, because they know the factions that took power in Kabul would never have been able to defeat them if it weren't for the power of the United States military behind them.

So now, they have very safe sanctuaries in Pakistan, which is doing virtually nothing to stop them from organizing to fight in Afghanistan, and they're also benefiting from what you referred to as tribal conflict in northern Afghanistan, which shows that the government is not coherent.

But if you'll permit me, I want to clarify something. These so- called tribal factions are actually groups that were armed by the United States and funded by the United States, and are still considered by the United States as our allies in the war on terrorism, and this shows the basic contradiction in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. We claim to be supporting the government of Hamid Karzai, and yet, we have been allied with these factions that are undermining it and alienating people from it and driving them into the arms of the Taliban.

HEMMER: You mentioned the U.S. involvement. Clarify something -- the U.S. envoy in charge there IN Kabul indicates that Al Qaeda, maybe the Taliban, could be getting ready for what's considered more spectacular, larger strikes against the reconstruction of U.S. forces operating there. What can you add to that possibility?

RUBIN: Well, I would add to that, first of all, that the statements made by Undersecretary of State Armitage in his recent visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan are ridiculous. He claimed that this is just an act of desperation on the part of the Taliban. That's clearly not the case. They are gaining strength. And furthermore, they have clear -- they have bases in Pakistan. Some of their major leaders, including well-known war criminals, are openly operating in Pakistan, which Secretary Armitage, nonetheless, claims is cooperating in the war against terrorism. It is not. It is cooperating in the war against Al Qaeda, which consists of Arabs and other internationals, but it is not cooperating in the war against the Taliban.

HEMMER: Away from Pakistan, back in Afghanistan where you are right now, one of the major reconstruction projects of the highway that will link Kabul with Kandahar in the south. You know, the U.S. has pledged $1.2 billion for that country help rebuild and give it aid. Is any amount of money enough for a country like Afghanistan that needs literally everything?

RUBIN: I think the point is -- I would put it a little differently. I think the point is how the money will be spent. It's very welcomed that the Bush administration has changed its policy, as many in Congress were pushing them to do for a long time, and is allocating much more money to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. So far, there is only one major reconstruction project going, namely that road that you referred to.

The main thing however, is this money has to go to strengthen the legitimate authorities in Afghanistan. That is, the government of President Karzai and the reformist groups that are around him, and those who want to take Afghanistan in a Democratic direction. That means that this has to go really into channels that will enable the Afghan government to make decisions about where it goes, and not simply into the pockets of U.S. consultants, U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations, and U.S. business contractors, where unfortunately, a large amount of it does go.

HEMMER: Well, you paint a rather bleak picture for the future, at least in the near term, for what's happening in Afghanistan. They hope to hold elections maybe by wintertime, and we'll certainly track it. That's Barnett Rubin, his view on the Afghanistan Reconstruction Project, live in Kabul. Thank you, sir.


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