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The Global Terror Threat; Interview With Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 08, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Taliban's new all male hard-line government and America's role now. Opposing visions from Democratic senator Chris Murphy
and former Pentagon policy-maker Kori Schake.
ALI SOUFAN, FORMER FBI INTERROGATOR: The world today, I have to say, is more dangerous than it used to be on September 10, 2001.
AMANPOUR: At the FBI, Ali Soufan extracted vital intel from al Qaeda prisoners without torture. Now he warns Michel Martin global terror is far
JASON SUDEIKIS, ACTOR: Ted Lasso welcome wagon has arrived.
AMANPOUR: The breakout feel-good series "Ted Lasso."
One of its stars, Nick Mohammed, on why this big, warm hug of a show is such a hit.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The Taliban have just issued strict new rules banning protests without prior permission, this as Afghan women have again taken to the streets
there to protest in Kabul, this time calling out the Taliban's hard-line new caretaker government.
The Cabinet does not include any women. And there is no attempt to make it inclusive with other factions, as the Taliban had promised.
Some high-profile appointments include a key member of the Haqqani Network, which the U.S. has designated a terror group. He's been on the FBI's most
wanted list since 2016 and is now Afghanistan's acting interior minister.
All of this as the United States and its allies grapple with how to engage the Taliban, especially on behalf of the Afghan people, as food, finances
and public services are all on the verge of collapse.
Joining me on all of this is the Democratic Senator from Connecticut Chris Murphy. He sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he's
chairman of the Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia and Counterterrorism. And he's just wrapped up a congressional tour from the
Senator Murphy, welcome back. Good to see you in Washington, D.C.
So, let's just start with the beginning of many promises to American and other officials that this will be an inclusive government. It is not. And
there's protests still. How do you engage with this group or continue to engage with them, as the president has said he wants to do?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): We have known who the Taliban is for 20 years. We listened to the promises they made about being different this time
But those of us who have been following Afghanistan looked at all of those with a mountain of salt. Listen, we have no choice right now but to be in a
dialogue with the Taliban, whether we like it or not. First and foremost, we still have people we need to try to get out of the country.
And, second, we plan to do the work necessary to hold them to their commitment. And their commitment was that if they came back into power,
they would make sure that al Qaeda never had a footprint within Afghanistan.
And so we have to be in a dialogue to hold them to that particular promise. That is maybe -- that is absolutely vital to American interests. But, yes,
not shocking that this is a government that looks a lot like the one that ran Afghanistan 20 years ago. That's part of the reason we were there for
the last 20 years, trying to work to stand up an Afghan military and an Afghan government that would actually work to keep the hands of government
in the hands of more moderate elements of Afghan society.
Obviously, the Afghan government and Afghan military didn't want to do the hard work necessary to make that happen.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, there's conflicting views on that. Many people do believe that they did and were just sold out by the American administration
starting with President Trump.
So I do actually -- in terms of the Doha negotiations, which cut out the government, as you know.
I want to ask you, then, because we have had the head of the General Accounting Office on Afghanistan on our program several times, particularly
in the aftermath of the collapse. And he has said and many others have looked back and found how, actually, there was so much ostrich-like head in
the sand from American officials, whether they're military on the ground, whether they're in Congress, whether they're in the White House, some in
the media, some policy-makers, just wanting to make this something that it wasn't.
And he talked about not a 20-year war there, but 21-year wars, in other words, not exactly optimum.
Do you think that the U.S. bears some responsibility as well, whether it's Congress, the military, or all the rosy predictions that were put out for
MURPHY: Well, listen, it's clear that there was intelligence coming out of Afghanistan over the course of the last 10 years telling American policy-
makers and American presidents that, when the United States left, the Afghan government and military, we're not going to be able to hold the
country against the Taliban.
And so I think the most important question now is, why did we engage in a fantasy for an extra 10 years? Why did we spend another trillion dollars?
Why did we subject that country to a civil war in which tens of thousands of Afghan civilians were being killed or badly hurt? And why did we have a
lot of American blood spilled during that time?
I mean, listen, it's awful to come to the conclusion that the United States cannot...
AMANPOUR: But do you have an answer to, Senator? Because you're on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. You're a senior member of the American
political class. You're on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Do you have an answer to those whys that you have just raised?
MURPHY: Well, I called for the United States to end the war in Afghanistan in 2011, 10 years ago.
So I was one of those that sort of saw our mission as unfortunately hopeless, and figured it would be better to spend American time, attention
and resources in other places.
Again, this is a question of what America can do and what we can't do. There are a lot of folks in Washington who believe that we can build
American-style nations in very far-off, unfamiliar places, there's not a lot of evidence that we can do that.
And so, as tragic as it's been to watch Afghanistan unwind, hopefully, it will be a caution to the United States about taking on missions that simply
AMANPOUR: So, then, Senator, what happens? Because America's entire raison d'etre in the world is to promote its values, is to promote democracy, is
to promote human rights, and hold various people accountable, as you laid out regarding the Taliban.
So what happens next if America has come to this place of a complete 180 now in its mission in Afghanistan? What happens going forward? Is it a la
carte? Is there a doctrine? What is America's role in the world now?
MURPHY: Well, I think Joe Biden sees the fight of the next 50 years as between American-style democracy and Chinese- and Russian-style autocracy.
And, to him, and, to me, frankly, Afghanistan, had become a distraction from that broader fight. And so this is an attempt to realign resources.
Now, Afghanistan was a -- was barely a democracy. And it, frankly, was making America look really weak, the fact that we were spending that much
money with a partner Afghan government and military that simply weren't willing to do the job.
So we're now able to take those resources and all of that energy that we spent on Afghanistan and invest it in fights that we're just more likely to
win, whether it be sort of pushing back against Russian propaganda in Eastern Europe, or working with nascent democracies in and around China to
bolster them against Chinese aggression.
We just are in a better position to fight fights that actually have a potential win at the end. Afghanistan was just not in that category.
AMANPOUR: Except, of course, it is where the attack on the American homeland was conceived and directed.
You are on the special committee for that region, writ large. You have just come back from that region, and not from Russia or China. And there are
many who believe that that region will be empowered by the very fact that the United States leaving Afghanistan has allowed the worst kind of enemies
that you have identified over the last 20 years to at least get some inspiration.
So, what have people in Lebanon, in Tunisia, even in Israel, what have they been saying to you? Let's just take Tunisia, where, presumably, you're
trying to push a return to democracy over the current emergency laws that are under way there.
Do you feel like you are still taken seriously?
MURPHY: Well, absolutely.
And, listen, this idea that terrorists weren't enabled by the American occupation of Afghanistan, that's ridiculous. I mean, what we know is that,
in parts of Pakistan, where we were dropping drone strikes on Taliban recruitment centers, for every Taliban fighter we killed, we recruited two
or three more.
So, our occupation of these countries, certainly, it allows us to have a closer chase of the bad guys like al Qaeda or ISIS, but it also feeds their
narrative. It also boosts their recruitment drives.
And so this idea that the only way that you defeat terrorism is with U.S. military occupations abroad is nonsense. And I reject it.
In the Mediterranean, certainly, people are concerned about whether the withdrawal from Afghanistan suggests a broader American pullout from the
world. My argument was, it's exactly the opposite. It allows the American foreign policy establishment, the State Department, the Department of
Defense, to, frankly, invest in other fights that are winnable.
Tunisia is a winnable fight right now. Tunisia is an early democracy that's going through a bit of a crisis today. When half of your Department of
Defense and State Department is tied up with Iraq and Afghanistan, it doesn't give you a lot of resources to try to help build a functioning
democracy in a place like Tunisia.
So, my argument is that, by getting out of Afghanistan, we're going to be a much stronger partner for peace and democracy throughout other parts of the
AMANPOUR: And let's just end with Israel, because it's important.
The new prime minister was at the White House not so long ago. It's no secret that the former, Benjamin Netanyahu, was a real thorn in the side of
the U.S. administration, certainly in the recent Democrats, because he did not like, for instance, the Iran nuclear deal, which the U.S. promoted and
felt was beneficial.
What did you hear from Naftali Bennett on how they plan to engage now with the United States, with this administration on Iran and on the two-state
solution and the other issues that are so important to you?
MURPHY: Prime Minister Netanyahu's engagement with the United States was not constructive. He was interested in a relationship with only one party.
And it's really important that we keep the relationship between the United States and Israel sort of politics. Obviously, I have disagreements with
Naftali Bennett's vision of the future. He does not support a Palestinian state. I do.
But it is important to note this government has taken some really important steps, one, to do outreach with the Palestinians, the first government-to-
government meetings at the highest levels in over a decade. And they have begun to open up humanitarian pathways into Gaza to try to relieve the
suffering there in a way that the Netanyahu government would have never contemplated.
This is a -- obviously, a very unique coalition government. They have very little room to maneuver, since there's such an interesting stitch of right-
wing and left-leaning parties. But I left pretty impressed with the seriousness of the government and some of the early steps that they have
taken to lower the temperature both inside Israel and in the relationship with Palestinians.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you one very quick question? I have to, because I'm sure Afghan people are listening around the world and want to know
what's going to happen, how the U.S. will and Congress approve funds and humanitarian aid.
We hear that all those most important basic services are on the verge of collapse. The Taliban has no idea what to do about that, as you know. Are
you going to approve aid, whether it's the Taliban there or not?
MURPHY: Well, in a country that big, I think there's a limit to what the United States can do without a government that's a true partner.
It's much more likely that our aid would move through NGOs, nonprofit organizations. There's plenty of examples around the world in which we
don't have a working relationship with the government, but we continue to flow humanitarian aid into that country, Gaza being an example.
So, that certainly is, I think, a viable pathway in Afghanistan, and one that I think many members of Congress will be open to.
AMANPOUR: Life and death.
Senator Murphy, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
And now, whether it is Afghanistan, or Israel, or Tunisia, or Iran, that whole region remains a vital, vital area of concern for the United States
and the world.
Listening in on that conversation has been Kori Schake. She held several top jobs in the United States Defense and State departments. And she's
worked as a foreign policy adviser to Senator McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, the late senator. She is currently the director of foreign and
defense policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which, if we all remember, was the brainchild for the 2003 U.S. war in Iraq.
Kori Schake, welcome to the program.
Let's just park the fact that Iraq turned out to be a debacle. The withdrawal from Iraq was a debacle, brought ISIS into power there. And let
me just ask you what you think of the robust defense of current administration policy raised by Senator Murphy, that the idea that
occupying a land such as Afghanistan and then not had any impact on terrorism or inspiring militants or the like would be ridiculous.
Can you -- where do you see what's just happened in those terms?
KORI SCHAKE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL AND STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.
I think the counterpoint I would made to Senator Murphy is, he said that, because we were fighting terrorism, it created more terrorists. The
alternative explanation is maybe there would just be more terrorists whether or not we were doing this.
It does seem to me that the United States has been safer in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, not only because we began to play
better defense, better protection of our own country, better screening of individuals, but also because we were targeting terrorists, building
cooperative intelligence and action networks around the world to keep them worrying and on the run, and less able to plot attacks on us.
And that will get more challenging, that will get harder with our withdrawal from Afghanistan. And the notion that you can have over-the-
horizon counterterrorism both exacerbates public frustration in those countries, when we're just dropping in by drone and killing people, and not
doing anything constructive and positive to advance governance and advance human rights in those countries.
But, also, you won't have the intelligence networks to be able to do it with any precision.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's -- I would say, we tried and we failed because they didn't want it. You heard Senator Murphy, you have heard the president say
neither the Afghan government, nor the Afghan forces, which had trillions of American dollars in training spent on them, actually stood up in the
SCHAKE: You know, I think that's disgraceful. I actually think it's disgraceful for the president of the United States, after 20 years of
American involvement in Afghanistan, to say we bear no responsibility for what happens now, that we're writing it off, and to suggest that an Afghan
military and police force that suffered 68,000 dead in order to try and fight for what we were trying to create with them, that somehow this is
their failure, and we deserve to be exalted for being smart enough to write off their future.
I just think that's disrespectful to the people who are bearing the consequences of this policy choice on our part.
AMANPOUR: OK, so how much responsibility, do you think, I mean, not you precisely, but the American Enterprise Institute, the neocons in the W.
Bush administration, who decided to move from the legitimate goals in Afghanistan, to respond to an attack on the headline -- on the homeland,
and then went off on some half-cocked idea that Iraq was a great place to end up?
Let me just play what you might call a neocon, Tony Blair, said -- at the time prime minister -- said in the right aftermath to me of 9/11, that,
yes, we have to number one, respond, and we will help America defend itself against 9/11, but then -- and then listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There has then to be an agenda that we construct at an international level that involves the whole of the
international community in dismantling the machinery of international terrorism, how it's financed, how these people move about the world, the
countries that then harbor them and give them help.
At every single level, we have to pursue and dismantle this machinery of terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, barely three or four days after 9/11, he envisioned what eventually became Western policy, I mean, just go after terrorism in every
single way, including misbegotten war in Iraq based on false premise. We know that's the case.
My question to you is, was that wrong? You're still at the American Enterprise Institute, or you're there now. What is the conservative
playbook for what you would like to see, America defending and raising the kind of ideals that it has done and protecting the institutions that it
created in the aftermath of the Second World War?
SCHAKE: So, a couple of things.
First, I went to work in the Bush White House not long after September 11. And my strongest impression was how frightened people were, how fearful
they were that they didn't understand the dimensions of the terrorist threat.
And I think we made up a lot of bad policy choices out of fear and out of ignorance about the nature and magnitude of the threat. And we are going to
bear the burden of those choices for a very long time.
And I agree with your judgment that the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake of historic dimensions. But that doesn't mean that everything we
have been trying to do is a mistake. What I think we did in the aftermath of September 11 that was consequential was, because we were fearful, we
were trying to look tough.
And, in fact, it seems to me that American power, especially since 1945, works best when we emphasize the magnetism of American ideals and American
successes, the vibrancy of civil society, the quality of good local governance, the transparency that rambunctious journalists impose on all of
us, that we were -- we overmilitarized the nature of the threat.
And that, I think, partly gets to what Tony Blair was saying, that we do our best shaping of the international order when we create rules that other
countries also see are in their interests. That is, we don't have to coerce them into cooperating with us. It's in their interests.
And that too is how we have drawn together multilateral organizations, alliances that both strengthen and amplify American power in the
international order. And we need to get back to playing team sports reliably.
And that's why Senator Murphy and President Biden's insistence that we're putting human rights and democracy promotion at the center of our foreign
policy, while abandoning Afghanistan, sends a very confusing message and an unhelpful one.
AMANPOUR: So, again, you're right. And I have covered successful humanitarian interventions, eventually the U.S. in Bosnia to stop a
genocide, in Kosovo to prevent one from happening, the British intervention in Sierra Leone to stop that terrible war that went on there.
There are many successful recent interventions. How do you pick and choose? How does a superpower like the United States, which has become supremely
militarized, even now asking for more money from Congress? The whole military industrial complex has defined the post-9/11 era.
How do you switch from that back to what you're talking about, to a superpower that should still be energized to uphold all the correct ideals,
the values that we have all grown up being told to respect?
SCHAKE: I'm sorry, Christiane. I didn't mean to interrupt you.
I disagree with your characterization that the military industrial complex is driving spending on the American military. There are legitimate
challenges that we need to be able to defend ourselves against and to be militarily strong enough that we deter.
I would very much hope that China, looking at the desire to retake Taiwan, fears that they couldn't do it because of American and allied military
strength. That's not -- military spending isn't America's problem. We can sustain 3.5 or 4 percent of GDP as a reasonable balance.
But the problem is that we're not doing the other stuff to the same level of excellence that we do our military, our defense policy and our defense
structuring. We need a bigger, more capable American diplomatic corps. People come into the United States speaking 137 different languages.
We can hire for language skill and cultural skill. Then we can teach them strategy. And we can send them out in numbers to support local initiatives
that advance human dignity, that expand human opportunity, that make the world a freer and safer place.
We need to invest in the non-military tools to the same extent we invest in the military tools. And, there, I think the Biden administration has the
right message, and I very much hope that Senator Murphy and his congressional colleagues will put money against those challenges, because
we need it.
And we also need the vibrancy of American civil society. I mean, I think what you saw in the evacuations in Afghanistan was an enormous failure of
the American government and a really hopeful message of the American civil society mobilizing itself and organizing to help people who deserve our
AMANPOUR: Kori Schake of the American Enterprise Institute, thank you so much indeed.
And, of course, the Biden administration touted the airlift as one of the greatest acts of humanitarian rescue in history. But it did turn out that
only a tiny minority of the more than 120,000 who were evacuated were American personnel and not Afghan civilians.
Now, around 8,000 Afghans have been relocated here in the U.K. in recent weeks. More than half of them are children. One family faces an especially
tough path; 26-year-old -- or, rather, 20-year-old Musal (ph), who is a British citizen, has fought to get her six young undocumented cousins on an
evacuation flight with her out of Kabul.
Now barely an adult herself, Musal must care for them all as they establish a new life here in the U.K.
Here is correspondent Phil Black with their story.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's difficult to comprehend what these children are feeling, fear, loneliness, trauma.
These six boys and girls aged 5 to 17 from three different families have been transported from the desperate streets of Kabul to a small English
town. They have left behind everything they know and love, including their parents.
They are at least safe, because of their cousin Musal's extraordinary courage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They cry a little. I don't know what to do.
BLACK (on camera): They cry every day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They cry every day, especially with the parents there. They're like, what's going to happen?
BLACK (voice-over): Musal is 20 years old, a British citizen who was visiting family in Kabul as the Taliban took the capital.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 24 hours, it's like the world flipped.
BLACK: Musal knew her whole family was suddenly in great danger, because they are Hazaras, an ethnic group long persecuted in Afghanistan and often
massacred by the Taliban.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first enemy for the Taliban are Hazaras.
BLACK: So, she eventually headed for the airport with her cousins, determined to save them. This video shows part of their journey.
Musal's uncle is driving. He repeatedly tells the children: "Don't be scared. Nothing will happen."
Just hours later, he would be dead.
Video captured by other people on the same day shows the chaos they were heading into around Kabul Airport. Musal says they pushed through the
crowds. Her uncle was trying to clear a path, when he was shot.
(on camera): And he just fell.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just fell. He got shot right in the heart.
BLACK (voice-over): Musal didn't know where the bullet came from or what to do. She took this picture as he lay dying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said: "Go." That's the last thing he said. He said: "Go."
And I went.
BLACK (on camera): Did you look back?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
BLACK (voice-over): She kept the children moving, eventually approaching some American soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said: "I'm a British citizen."
They said: "Who are they?" Because they didn't have passport documents, nothing. They said -- I said that: "These are my kids. I have adopted
BLACK (on camera): But you didn't know which way it was going to go?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. It was a scene where, if they don't go, even one of them, if they don't go, I'm back. I'm not going at all.
BLACK: You meant that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
When I explained it to the man, and the soldier looked at me right in the face: "Go."
BLACK (voice-over): For Musal, that enormous relief of saving six young lives has now been overwhelmed by great responsibility.
The youngest, just 5 years old, is deeply anxious about his parents' safety.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's like: "We are Hazara. They're going to kill us first. I don't have enough time." This is what he's telling me.
BLACK (on camera): The children grew up in Afghanistan knowing that Taliban means death of the Hazara.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BLACK (voice-over): This young woman's life is now on hold indefinitely as she cares for these children, soothes their nightmares, tries to convince
them they will see their parents again.
AMANPOUR: Phil Black reporting there on the increasingly desperate human story for so many Afghans.
Now, the big question is whether Afghanistan will again become a terrorist safe haven. Few people know more about this than our next guest, Ali
He is a former FBI special agent who made his name investigating al Qaeda plots before 9/11 and his torture-free interrogation of suspects
He tells Michel Martin, this terrorism era is far from over and that, potentially, a more dangerous phase has just begun.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Christiane.
Ali Soufan, thank you so much for joining us.
SOUFAN: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: As we are speaking now, the United States has concluded it withdrawal of ground troops from Afghanistan and we are in the vicinity of
the commemoration oof the 9/11 attacks. So, 20 years on after all that's gone on in the last few weeks, is this country safer than it was before?
SOUFAN: Unfortunately, Michel, we went a back full circle. And the world today, I have to say, is more dangerous than it used to be on September 10,
2001. Afghanistan is not the only lawless region controlled by militants who are anti-Americans. If you look at the map today, 20 years after 9/11,
we have large swath of land all way from the western shores of Africa to Afghanistan that's controlled by militias, non-state actors, some of whom
are considered terrorists by the International Community and by the United States. And I think this is very dangerous.
Now, we have many Afghanistans in Libya, in Yemen, in Somalia, in (INAUDIBLE) region, in Mali and North Nigeria. And the world is way more
dangerous than it used to be before, unfortunately, and we need to deal with this reality. We cannot ignore it like we ignored it years and years,
like the decade before 9/11. I think if we ignore it, we can ignore only on our perils.
MARTIN: And is this because of the so-called war on terror? Is this sort of metastasizing of the terrorist threat? Is that in part, in your opinion,
because of the so-called war on terror?
SOUFAN: Absolutely. It is directly connected to the so-called war on terror. I think, you know, in 2000 -- December of 2001, early 2002, I was
in Afghanistan as part of the first group that went there in order to, you know, destroy al-Qaeda and their network. And I remember, I was full of
hope. The whole world was behind the United States. The Muslim world supported the United States. Everybody was together joined, you know, hand
in hand in order to get rid of the evil that murdered more than 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001. And soon later, we started to see that
kind of goodwill fades.
You know, at the end of 2002, I remember I was in Kabul and I realize we're losing the war. We actually lost the war. When al-Qaeda and the Taliban
were regrouping in Afghanistan. In the meantime, orders were coming from Washington for special forces, for much needed assets and resources on the
ground to move from Afghanistan in order to start preparing for the Iraq war.
I think, you know, by then, al-Qaeda and the Taliban were on the verge of defeat, were on the verge of extinction, and we brought them back with our
invasion of Iraq, a country that has nothing to do with 9/11, a country that has no WMDs, as we later know. And I think it just send a message to
the Muslim world that al-Qaeda and these militants are right, we are there to invade the Muslim world, we are there to steal the resources of the
Michel, if you look at the map today, you will see that the United States have no embassy in Libya, we have no embassy in Yemen, we have no embassy
in Syria. And now, we have no embassy in Kabul, in Afghanistan ever $2, $3 trillion of spend in Afghanistan. In Iraq, we are forced to tolerate, you
know, political leaders who work with Iran and work with Iranian groups that's considered by the United States terrorist organizations.
I think this is a reality that we leave in. This is what the war on terror produced. Unfortunately, the last 20 years, the world saw America at its
worse. I think if we need to reclaim our position in the world, we have to start showing the world America as its best.
MARTIN: Was there one fatal error or was it a serious of errors? I mean, do you trace this failure to the decision to move into Iraq or is that
really the core of it or was there a series of bad decisions?
SOUFAN: I think the war in Iraq was a pivotal point that shifted the focus on -- you know, from al-Qaeda and from the people who attacked us in 9/11
to something that nobody understood around the world, right? And especially in the Muslim world. And then, after that, a lot of the things that
happened later. You know, first of all, we have the torture program, right? And this is the United States of America that claim, you know, we fight for
freedom, we fight for democracy. Here we are. These is the images of Abu Ghraib, see America. This is the real America.
So, I think we started to do a lot of things that violates who we are as a nation, violates our values, violates our moral characters, violates our
constitution. We start running wars around the world without understanding the complexity of how the world is. We just wanted to basically go about
how we thought the world ought to be.
And unfortunately, 20 years later, the events unfolded in Afghanistan, just last week, showed us that we are wrong. We cannot just view every problem
in the world as a military problem just because we have the strongest military on earth.
MARTIN: I do want to ask though about the last sort of 20 years. Because these decisions carry through, as you pointed out, through multiple
administrations of different political parties. So, I want to start with the George W. Bush administration. Is it your contention that the
administration went into Iraq knowing that the premise that they were espousing was a lie? Was it a lie or was it a mistake?
SOUFAN: I think it was a lie. And I think they knew it was a lie. We knew that there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, right? We
knew that. I remember, you know, when the debate was in headquarters, in FBI quarters about this, the decision was, we told the administration the
truth because -- and the FBI would present the truth, we don't present lies to manufacture White House wars, and that was a quote that some people use
in headquarters at the time.
You know, the information was result torture. They caught a guy, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, tortured him and because of torture, he told them about the links
between al-Qaeda and between Saddam and how both of them are working together on WMD. That information all the way to the United Nation Security
Council in the famous Secretary Powell speech. Now, they went back to Ibn Sheikh after we invaded Iraq and we found out that none of it is true.
Basically, he said, look, you were torturing me. I gave you what you wanted to hear. That is shocking. That is shocking.
You know, you, the administration at the time, wanted to go to invade Iraq and they were trying to find any reason, any source that can tell, yes,
there is something in Iraq, so we can justify our invasion. I don't believe that it was a mistake. I believe it was a colossal lie that resulted in
this disastrous adventure in Iraq that destabled (ph) the whole Middle East.
MARTIN: And then, the Obama administration, of which, obviously, the current president, Joe Biden, was a part, was a key part. What was their
role in perpetuating this colossal mistake, which was, as you put it, based on a lie?
SOUFAN: We did not realize or the administration did not want to believe the reality on the ground in Afghanistan. We should have left Afghanistan a
long time ago. Because, guess what, the Taliban, you know, started to be in control, the Afghan government was nothing but a corrupted group of people
that's pushing the Afghani away from the Afghan government towards the Taliban in so many districts around Afghanistan.
The military with the troops that President Obama said did a good job in maintaining the security, creating a secured environment for the diplomats
to can engage, to come up with a political solution. Unfortunately, they send the military, they send bullets, but they never send the diplomats or
we never had a political strategy on how to move forward. And that is colossal mistake also the Obama administration did when it comes to
MARTIN: And Trump?
SOUFAN: Oh, my God. I mean, where do you want to start? First of all, negotiating with the Taliban and ignoring the Afghan government send a very
bad message. Recognizing the Taliban. Sending his secretary of state to meet with the Taliban leadership in Qatar. And after that, you know,
basically saying how the Taliban are smart great people and he wanted to invite them to the White House before 9/11, if you remember.
Then, pushing Afghani government to release 5,000 Taliban warriors that basically the Taliban used to take over Afghanistan later on. A lot of
these kind of things happened under the Trump administration. So, if you have a bad deal that happened now, it is because of the negotiations and
because of what the Trump administration did. But, you know, my criticism of the Obama -- of the Biden administration that, you know, if somebody
give you a bad deal, you don't have to take it. You have been in office for a hundred day, more than a hundred days. You know that you want to leave
Afghanistan. Start preparing from day one.
MARTIN: Ali, what -- given that that you -- you presented us a very dire picture. I mean, let's just be honest about it. I mean, you stay that the
terrorism threat, you don't call it the war on terror, but the threat of terrorism is entering actually a more dangerous phase now for all the
reasons you've laid out to us. So, what now? What should the Biden administration do now?
SOUFAN: We have a lot of tools in our toolbox. Diplomacy, aid, economy, trade, cultural, you know, engagements. And we need the put all these
things together in order to solve, to mount a diplomatic initiative to solve all these conflicts that's happening around the Middle East.
Look at Libya, for example, the United States can do so much to stop the conflict in Libya. All the different factions in Libya reports, you know,
either to Qatar or to Turkey or to the UAE or to Saudi Arabia or to France or to Italy, right? All these regional countries are engaged in Libya and
all of them are allies to the United States. So, why don't we start an initiative to solve that problem on Libya because Libya is on the path to
be similar to Afghanistan, ruled by non-state actors. Some of these non- state actors are, you know, affiliated with terrorist groups and, you know, violent militias.
So, look at the situation in Yemen. We need to find a solution for Yemen. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars in Yemen before on
counterterrorism. Today, we don't even have an embassy over there. And every time we move out from the area, every time we shut down our embassy
in an area, somebody else is coming in and taking the vacuum.
MARTIN: So, you are saying more engagement, not less?
SOUFAN: Absolutely, more engagement. I think we always mix engagement and military power. You know, many of these countries have different reasons,
cultural, economic, political, sectarian, tribal that's allowing this conflict to happen in that specific region. In Mali, for example, it has a
lot to do with the environment, it has a lot to do with global warming and lack of resources, the lack of water. In Yemen, you can make the argument
that, you know, Yemen -- Sanaa is running out of water as well.
You know, before 9/11, al-Qaeda had 400 pledged member who basically took an oath, gave bay' ah to Osama bin Laden. 400. Today, al-Qaeda alone is
more than 40,000 from (INAUDIBLE) to the horn of Africa, to West Africa, to small groups in Syria, to Afghanistan, to Fata region in Pakistan.
MARTIN: And why is that? Why is that?
SOUFAN: Well, first of all, we never countered the ideology. We never had a program to counter the ideology and the so-called war on terror. Number
two, al-Qaeda's numbers went up when we start seeing all these conflicts happening in the region. Like, for example, in Yemen. A perfect example.
Before the war in Yemen, al-Qaeda probably, you know, 800, 900 people. Today, al-Qaeda is about 8,000 people.
Now, the 8,000 members of al-Qaeda, I don't believe all of them are ideologically motivated by the narratives of Osama bin Laden and the views
of al-Qaeda of how the world ought to be. But they joined al-Qaeda because their tribes want security. Their tribes want safety. They want protection.
They want, you know, resources given to them. And they have no other option. al-Qaeda is the only one on the ground that's doing these kinds of
things. So, that number goes up tremendously.
MARTIN: I mean, we've been very focused on Islamic extremist movements, let's just -- as a country. This has been a very big focus. But the fact of
the matter is that in the United States in recent years, white ethnonationalist radical movements have engaged in a great deal of
violence, have killed many, many people and also seem to have a transnational flavor. Do you see a relationship there between a kind of
this rise of -- or maybe in the United States, a return of white terrorist movements or white extremist movement, white identity movements? Is there
some connection there?
SOUFAN: Absolutely. I mean, Michel, as you know, I've, you know, been raising alarm on this for about more than two years. And I testified in
Congress about the threat and the similarities between the new transnational white supremacist movement that we see in the United States
and its connection to many western capitals and western countries and between the Jihadis and how the white supremacists are learning from
You have a white supremacist organization in the states. And now, it is, you know, in many western countries called The Base, literally al-Qaeda.
And they use al-Qaeda manuals, they use instructions from inspire magazine to do their what they call white Jihad. You have so many different
organizations that's copying exactly what the Jihadis are doing, learning from Jihadis.
You have many white supremacist groups on their chat rooms are praising the Taliban as a conservative movement that defeated the United States and took
over Afghanistan because there is nothing these groups would like to do than defeat the government of the United States and have their own version
of reality govern all of us.
So, this is a very big threat and that add a different dimension to the security matrix that we have to deal with. So, the global Jihadi terrorism
is still there, is still alive, and it is still very dangerous and we need to keep our eye on it. But we have also a very dangerous threat in our
midst here in the United States. And that threat also transnational. That threat is funded sometimes by even nation states. And I think we need the
also keep our eye on it.
MARTIN: You said in one of your pieces recently that we can't fight domestic terror groups efficiently until the law treats them the way we
treat foreign ones. What's wrong with the way the U.S. approaches domestic terrorism right now?
SOUFAN: Do we even have an approach? I mean, we don't even have domestic terrorism laws. Soi, if a white supremacist is planning a plot against an
African-American church or a Jewish synagogue or a Muslim Mosque, we cannot use the tools that we have to stop al-Qaeda member, right, doing this kind
of plot. We don't have the domestic terrorism laws. So, the only thing they can do is probably charge them on something like violation of the
communication act. And only when you have bodies, only when they carry out the attack you can actually charge them with a crime.
We don't have material support charges. We don't have a lot of the charges that we use in international terrorism. All our terrorism law is tailored
for international terrorism, not for domestic terrorism. And in order to focus on the domestic terrorism threat, we have to give tools for law
enforcement. Very similar tools to the tools they use to stop al-Qaeda plot or to stop an ISIS plot, you know, to be carried in the United States. And
if we don't have that, unfortunately, we're going to only be reactive like we used to be before 9/11.
MARTIN: Ali Soufan, thank you so much for talking with us today.
SOUFAN: Thank you, Michel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A stark warning there from one who knows. And finally, tonight, we are going to for what many people has become a happy place with a tonic
really for these troubled times. It is the sleeper hit comedy "Ted Lasso" which burst onto the scene last year right in the midst of the height of
COVID. It follows the journey of an American college football coach whose hired by a struggling English premier league football team, that would be
real football, soccer to the Americans. The show has won a truckload of awards, 20 Emmy nominations and a legion of dedicated fans. The second
season is out now on Apple TV Plus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, do you have any favor this weekend? Do you think this will end your embarrassing streak of draws?
JASON SUDEIKIS, ACTOR, "TED LASSO": Lloyd, I've never been embarrassed about having streaks in my draws. You know, it's all part of growing up.
SUDEIKIS: I got a question for you. As team -- unless everyone, the whole chimichanga.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not for 40 years.
SUDEIKIS: Coming through here. That's fine. Yes, I got you. It's like dukes of hazard. You all probably call it the earls of risk over here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: One of the shows main stars, Nick Mohammed, is joining me now. He's nominated for an Emmy for playing assistant coach, Nate the Great.
So, welcome to the program, Nick Mohammed.
When you started this, did you have any idea that for so many it would become such a bomb for these troubled times that we find ourselves in?
NICK MOHAMMED, ACTOR, "TED LASSO": Yes and no. I mean, I think that, you know, when you are making a show, you always want, you know, the best for
it. You want it to, you know, find its audience. But I don't think, you know, anyone could have anticipated the fact that it would connect with so
many people in such a, you know, genuinely lovely and positive way. I think, you know, the timing certainly helped.
Not saying that the pandemic, obviously, but the timing was good and then, I think that the themes of the show, the positive message, the hope and
optimism that pervades it, you know, was definitely welcomed at time when, you know, people were at home and I think, you know, needed a bit of light
relief to everything that was going on.
But, you know, I think the show would have been, you know, the show, irrespective of the pandemic, I think it, you know, also managed to buck
the trend in the sense that I think the market had become the kind of comedy market had become quite saturated with, you know, quite snarky sort
of dark or cynical comedies, at which I'm a big fan, to be honest. But this really buck the trend and it felt very refreshing to have is a positive
character here who had a real positive message and didn't really have an ounce of cynicism in him.
So, yes, I think it, you know, it is -- it really has, you know, kind of gone crazy well. But, you know, I don't think anyone would have anticipated
which is also sort of grateful for it.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, I'm sure it's -- I mean, it is great for you to be nominate and we wish you good luck for an Emmy. But just on the snarky
thing. I read that Jason Sudeikis who's obviously the star and who obviously created this with his colleagues, said that they based it on the
British -- you know, "The Office." Obviously, you know "The Office." But they couldn't really use that arc where Ricky Gervais crushed the idea of a
bit of -- I don't know how to -- you know, someone who is not so, you know, altruistic becoming.
So, he decided, Jason, we'll just start with the idea that the central character or the central story is relentlessly optimistic from beginning to
end. That is an interesting device. It is not like it is a change of characters.
MOHAMMED: Yes. It's -- but I think the -- but then, I think the thing with "Ted Lasso" is that, Ted, he sort of changes everyone that he interacts
with for the good. So, even though, yes, he remains this, you know, incredible positive force, I mean, he has his demons as well, let it be
said. You know, he's got his -- you know, his marriage is falling apart and, you know, and sort of like this relationship with his son and, you
know, obviously, he's in England, he's a fish it of water. But, you know, he's such a catalyst for good and everyone he interacts with ends up sort
of realizing something about themselves or literally becoming a better person.
And particularly. in season one, Rebecca played by Hanna Waddingham, you know, starts off as this, you know, almost kind of archetypal villain of
the show, but through her interactions with Ted, you know, she absolutely sort of, you know, grows as a character and sees this goodness in herself
and, you know, is one of the sort of the best stories in season one, I think, sort of seeing her transformation. But Ted -- you know, Ted just
does that to everyone he interacts with. He sort of ekes out this positivity and then, sort of finds this is inner strength.
AMANPOUR: Just a couple of -- to that point, a couple of reviews, they call him a road map for men, an emotional lifeboat, the antidote to
everything wrong with America and also, the perfect counter to the enduring prevalence of toxic masculinity on screen and off. That's, you know, the
bulk of what people are saying about his character.
You are Nate the Great in the show. You are Nate Shelley. You are sort of the underdog character. You are the kit man in the -- you know, in the,
whatever it's called, the locker room. And then you become wonder kid sort of assistant coach. So, again, even your story has this amazing arc of
triumph. And yet, I wonder if you will agree, this seems to be a little more darkness entering the show and your character, but really your
character, as he takes on this promotion.
And I'm going to play a clip and have you talk about why it is going this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I leave a little early today?
MOHAMMED: Part of your job is stay until the whole team is gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course. It is just my mom's 50th birthday.
MELVIN: Oh, and what position does your mom play on the team again?
SUDEIKIS: It's OK, Will. Tell your mom happy birthday from all of us. And hey, if she ever wants to try out for the team, she's more than welcome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, lovely.
MELVIN: You got to stay on them. Pressure makes pearls, right? Wait, that's wrong it's diamonds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Nick, tell us about the story arc. Why are you becoming more bossy? Why are you sort, I don't know, falling into the trap of, I don't
know, maybe not being able to deal with your success?
MOHAMMED: I think that's exactly it. I think, you know, that the season one story was something we could all, I think, get behind as an audience
and that it was the underdog who sort of does good through his interactions with Ted. And, you know, he is promoted by the end of the season and
becomes an assistant coach. And, you know, it is a story we can all relate to.
I think what's interesting about season two is that it -- you know, it takes the same guy with all his sort of inner demons and insecurities and
lack of confidence. But, you know, he's got this slightly sort of raised position of power. He's in a position of responsibility. He has somebody
beneath him doing his job. And yes, he just can't really deal with it. He's never really been in that position before. And I think he's mistaking, you
know, what it takes to be sort of heard and to be sort of a powerful kind of presence in the room. He's making a few wrong turns.
And yes, this season, season two, definitely sees a slightly more, yes, like a darker trajectory for Nate. And it all stems from -- I think, we can
sort of say now, because these excerpts have been out, but it definitely -- you can see that it is stemming from his toxic relationship with his dad
who he's never been able to do well in his dad's eyes regardless of his achievements.
And, you know, there is that saying, and I think it's even said in the show, that hurt people, hurt people. And so, you know, Nate was once
bullied by former players -- well, by players on the team in the early season. And now, he's got this -- he's got slightly more control, he's got
slightly more responsibility. He's sort of taking it out on those players the only way he now --
AMANPOUR: Well, it's marvelous, and I wish we had more time, Nick. I'm sorry to interrupt you, but it is so good with all those issues and we wish
you really good luck at the Emmy's and for your nomination as well for this season. And there is one more season coming up, apparently.
Thanks for watching, everyone, and good-bye from London.