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Investigating the Deadly U.S. Drone Strike in Afghanistan; Afghanistan in Dire Need of Humanitarian Assistance; Interview with Imran Khan, Pakistani Prime Minister, on Its Future with Neighbor Afghanistan; Future of Women's Rights under Taliban Rule. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired September 15, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IMRAN KHAN, PAKISTAN PRIME MINISTER: Afghanistan is on a historic crossroads.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): In an exclusive interview, Pakistan's prime minister tells me American politicians are simply ignorant
about what goes on in neighboring Afghanistan and the world should incentivize the Taliban government, push them in the right direction and
give them time to deal with the current problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON (voice-over): Also tonight, our big conflicting reports behind the U.S. drone strike that killed 10 people in Kabul. CNN launches an
investigation, raising serious questions about what really happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Welcome to this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson. I'm coming to you today from the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad.
This country shares a long border and a complicated history with Afghanistan.
And you can't understand what's going on in Afghanistan without understanding what happens here in Pakistan. Over the decades, the
governments of these two countries have often been at odds with each other over issues like trade and security.
There's also widespread belief that Pakistan has supported the Taliban from its rule over Afghanistan in the 1990s to the present day. Today marks one
month since the Taliban took over Kabul, effectively sealing their grip on power.
Taliban critics say Pakistan's intelligence service, ISI, has provided financial and military support to the group to fight the Afghan resistance.
That's sparked anger, seen on the streets of Kabul just last week. Protesters chanting, "Death to Pakistan.
And yet, the huge border the two countries share also creates an escape route. We have seen these scenes of Afghans gathered at border crossings,
hoping to get into Pakistan. The U.N. estimates nearly 2.5 million Afghans, 1 million of them unregistered, are now refugees here in Pakistan.
So a lot to unpack here. And that's why I am here. Earlier today, I sat down with Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, for his first media
interview since the Taliban took power.
We covered a range of topics, from women's rights -- or lack thereof -- in Afghanistan to Pakistan's national security and its current relations with
the U.S., which you may find surprising, given the prime minister's very strong comments about what he perceives to be American ignorance about this
We started by talking about the current situation in Afghanistan.
ANDERSON: Prime minister Imran Khan, thank you very much for joining us today. We speak a month after the collapse of the Afghan government and the
takeover of the Taliban.
How would you describe the situation in Afghanistan today?
KHAN: I think it's worrying. Afghanistan is on an historic crossroads. One, if it goes well -- and we pray that it -- this works in the direction
of peace after 40 years in Afghanistan, if this -- if the Taliban hold over Afghanistan and if they can sort of now work with an inclusive government,
get all the factions together, Afghanistan could have peace after 40 years.
But if it goes wrong -- and which is what we're really worried about -- it could go to chaos, the biggest humanitarian crisis, a huge refugee problem,
unstable Afghanistan. And the reason why the U.S. came in was to fight terrorism or international terrorists.
So unstable Afghanistan, refugee crisis and the possibility of, again, terrorism from Afghanistan soil.
ANDERSON: This interim government is not an inclusive government. The concerns of so many around the world are for the future of affecting and
its people under a Taliban government, which is notorious for its misogyny and its violence against women.
There is no evidence to date of any interest in providing basic human rights, particularly for women and children.
ANDERSON: How concerned are you about that?
KHAN: Where Afghanistan goes from here, I'm afraid, none of us can predict. We can hope and pray that there's peace after 40 years, that the
Taliban, what they have said that they want, an inclusive government, they want women rights in their own context. They want human rights.
They've given amnesty. So, so far, what they have said, clearly they want international acceptability. But there's another fallacy. Afghanistan
cannot be controlled by outside. They have a history. No puppet government in Afghanistan is supported by the people. It gets discredited amongst the
So rather than sitting here and thinking that we can sort of control them, we should incentivize them. Because Afghanistan, this current government
clearly feels that, without international aid and help, they will not be able to stop this crisis. So we should incentivize them, push them in the
ANDERSON: If it seeks legitimacy, it will need to show evidence that it shares the values of those that it is seeking legitimacy for; that being
the West, for example. I grew up watching you as a star of Pakistan's cricket team. The Taliban has said that women shouldn't play cricket.
In fact, they said women shouldn't be involved in sport at all. This is the sort of Taliban that we are seeing today.
Do you support that?
I mean, women have been protesting about more inclusivity, about their rights. We know women -- firsthand experience that women are too frightened
to come out of their homes, to go to the workplace, if they're allowed at all.
Do you support their cause?
KHAN: I feel very strongly that it's a mistake to think that someone from outside will give Afghan women rights. Afghan women are strong. Give them
time. They will get their rights.
ANDERSON: Should women have access to the same roles in public and in private life?
KHAN: Of course, women should have the ability in a society to fulfill their potential in life.
ANDERSON: -- won't be able to support a Taliban government that doesn't allow that.
Is that what you're telling me?
KHAN: No, no. What I'm saying is that you cannot impose women's rights from abroad.
ANDERSON: That just the beginning of my interview with the prime minister, Imran Khan. And a lot more to come over the next two hours. We also discuss
in depth Pakistan's relations with the United States.
Secretary of state Anthony Blinken saying Washington is reassessing that relationship in light of accusations that Islamabad has supported
terrorists and insurgents over the two-decade war in Afghanistan, a role that lawmakers have described as duplicitous.
We get the prime minister's response on that and a lot more, ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD.
Right now, I want to bring in our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, who has been reporting this past week from Kabul.
And, Nic, a lot more to come but I did want to get your perspective early on, on the ground, as you are in Kabul, of what we just heard from the
prime minister and what he says is a need for engagement, incentivization with the Taliban and his views on women's rights.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, listening to prime minister Imran Khan, he is accurately describing the situation
here. He is accurately describing the mood here.
There's so much at stake for his country, he has to hope, as he said, that the Taliban get it right. And I think it has to be understood, that the
Taliban don't necessarily listen to Pakistan's prime minister or their diplomats.
They can certainly stand in the wings and they can certainly whisper in the ears of those that they hope can be influential.
But I think it really has to be understood that, at this stage and at this moment, the toughest things that are going on in Kabul right now are within
the Taliban's own makeup and its structure. The differences that exists there, that they have to hammer out, that they have to feel they've got on
top of the internal security in the country, before they can orient themselves and begin to engage with the international community.
They welcome the aid. They know that they need it. They know they need the engagement. But it's not their current priority. And I think, for this
reason, the prime minister accurately describes being concerned.
ROBERTSON: Because that delay in the Taliban getting their grip on power, establishing themselves and engaging with the international community is
the window where things start to go wrong, where the economy doesn't succeed and where resistance and opposition groups can begin to take root
and spring up.
So in terms of women's rights there, again, this is something he says that the Afghans will have to determine for themselves.
But really, on this issue, without the international community standing up and telling the Taliban absolutely clearly, you will not get what you need
and want for the international community without coming toward the international view and the rights of women in the country, without even
listening to them, I think that that point of the women here getting their voice and getting heard, that is going to need a lot more of the Taliban
hearing what the international community want.
It's not going to happen by itself or easily -- Becky.
ANDERSON: What's the atmosphere like in Kabul?
ROBERTSON: You know, I think it's sort of calm. It's perhaps been a little more tense over these past few days, because people on the streets are
beginning to hear the rumors that there are tensions within the government, that different factions are infighting, that Mullah Baradar might have been
injured, the deputy prime minister.
That's been denied. He released an audio message, released a written message. But I think people here are uneasy, because they know if,
internally, the Taliban factions collide, that fight will erupt on the streets here. They will feel the impact of it.
I think there are also concerns and tensions in this city. And it really has to be said, the Taliban feel under threat from elements that they would
associate with the former government, particularly in the Panjshir, the last area that they have taken control of.
So in districts in this city, the capital of Kabul, where there are Panjshiri majority populations, in those districts, security in that area,
Taliban presence is high. There are rumors and talks about people being disappeared and taken away.
So all of that adds to this uncertainty, this unease, this background tension. Go in the markets here; cars are getting repaired, shops are open.
That level, the city is functioning but it has got this unease. There's something -- you see the ripples on the surface here. But you don't quite
see what's happening beneath the water. But things certainly are happening.
ANDERSON: Earlier on this week, the international community pledging, at least -- they will still have to actually come good on these pledges -- but
pledging over $1 billion. And that doesn't even scratch the surface, given what this Afghan economy needs to support it, given that its finances,
which are all mostly aid related, are frozen at present.
But certainly, when we have been talking to the U.N. agency heads, who have been working in Afghanistan for years now and having to do business with
the Taliban, where the Taliban have been in control, they say that that business is a relationship of pragmatism.
And is that something that the international community might learn?
Is that something that they might take advantage of, to a certain extent?
ROBERTSON: You know, I think the international community, like everyone, is going to tread very, very carefully until they see the Taliban bed down
their internal differences and be able, as a central government, to extend, realistically, extend with confidence and effect on the ground that
security and stability for all over the country, for aid agencies to work.
The U.N.'s point person on safety and security and the U.N.'s point person on Afghanistan were meeting with Taliban officials today specifically on
that issue. And it was spelt out to those officials, it is only when the safety and security of aid workers -- and here, we're talking about
internationals but obviously many, many thousands of Afghan aid workers -- only when that's secure can the aid effectively get to work here.
But also, we should remember as well the huge amount of money that the international community has essentially frozen; 75 percent of Afghanistan's
running budget, the budget that the last government was using to run the country, 75 percent of it is controlled by the international community. And
it is frozen at the moment.
ROBERTSON: The sort of hard currency reserves overseas held in the United States, $9 billion of that, its totality in the U.S. frozen.
These are big, big economic issues that are going to underscore whether or not security can be established here.
ANDERSON: Nic Robertson is on the ground for you in Kabul. I am here in Islamabad. A lot more to come from this country's prime minister.
Plus the U.S. military claims it has thwarted an ISIS attack on the Kabul airport but new evidence suggests the deadly drone strike targeted the
wrong person. That CNN investigation is next.
ANDERSON: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson, live from Islamabad.
U.S. drone strikes have long been controversial here in Pakistan, with some living along the Afghanistan border, accusing the U.S. of hitting civilians
inside Pakistan. Now the U.S. has denied these claims.
Pakistan says American drone strikes within its borders continued into 2018. Now there are questions about one last month in Afghanistan.
For the last two weeks, CNN has been investigating the U.S. military's final drone strike on a car in Kabul in Afghanistan, just hours before U.S.
troops were withdrawn. You may remember that story.
The U.S. military claims it hit a legitimate terrorist target. But CNN's investigation raises some very serious questions about the U.S.
government's accounts on what happened that day. CNN's Anna Coren has our story. But first, I do want to warn you this report contains scenes that
are graphic and may be hard to watch.
ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Screams of horror in a Kabul neighborhood on the last Sunday afternoon of August, as
residents desperately try in vain to extinguish the fireball called by a Hellfire missile airstrike.
"Yes, I thought this is an attack on the whole of Afghanistan. I did not know the attack was only on our house."
The target, a white sedan that had been under U.S. military surveillance for the past eight hours, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of
the operation. It had just driven into the residential compound with father of seven and NGO worker Zamarai Ahmadi behind the wheel.
"I saw my father lying in the car. There was shrapnel in his chest, throat, everywhere. Blood was flowing from his ears."
But the strike didn't just take out the 43-year-old father.
COREN (voice-over): According to the family, two other men were also killed, along with seven children, three of whom were toddlers.
"Our children were in such a state that we tried to identify them from their hands, ears or nose," says Zamarai's cousin.
"None of them had their hands and feet intact any one place. They were all in pieces."
Charred body parts, pieces of skull with chunks of hair and a foot melted into a sandal were among the remains taken to the morgue.
Zamarai's 2-year-old nephew lies on a gurney as a relative gently strokes his face.
Ten coffins filled with only partial remains; their names written in black marker, the only distinguishable feature.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, U.S. JOINT CHIEFS: We had very good intelligence.
COREN (voice-over): U.S. claims to have intelligence, there was explosive material inside the car that was to be used in an imminent attack on Hamid
Karzai International Airport by ISIS-K.
Just days before, an ISIS-K suicide bomber had blown himself up at Abbey Gate; 13 U.S. service members and more than 170 Afghans were killed.
But for the past two weeks, CNN has been investigating the U.S. military's claims about the drone strike, interviewing more than 2 dozen people,
family members, neighbors, NGO staff and multiple bomb experts, that paint a very different version of events.
We have also been given access to the CCTV hard drive of the NGO office that day and reviewed all the footage.
For 15 years, Zamarai worked a as a technical engineer for Nutrition Education International, a U.S.-based NGO that introduced soybeans to
Afghanistan in 2003 to help feed the poor and reduce malnutrition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): He is always caring for the people who are in need and has a compassionate heart.
COREN (voice-over): The organization's founder says the Toyota Corolla Zamarai was driving belonged to the NGO and he was responsible for picking
up colleagues, distancing soybeans to Afghans in refugee camps and running operations.
U.S. military officials have told CNN they had been monitoring chatter from an ISIS safe house in Kabul for 36 hours when the car pulled out of the
compound around 9:00 am on Sunday morning.
It was from that moment U.S. surveillance aircraft began following the car, not knowing who the driver was. But in an interview with one of Zamarai's
colleagues, who was with him all day, he claims Zamarai picked him up at about 8:45 am. And around 9:00 am, they stopped at the country director's
house to collect a laptop to take to work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): Because he forgot his laptop bag there and we took his laptop bag.
COREN (voice-over): The U.S. has told CNN there was intelligence that the car was being directed from the safe house on a route around the city,
instructing the driver to meet a motorcyclist, and that it did (ph).
Zamarai's colleague says, after collecting the laptop, they picked up another colleague and then stopped at a busy cafe to get breakfast,
claiming they did not come into contact with any motorcyclists on their journey to the office.
The only motorcyclist they did talk to was the security guard at the NGO office, seen here with his bike on CCTV. For the next few hours, Zamarai
and his colleagues carry out various tasks, visiting Taliban security stations for permission to resume operations since the Taliban takeover.
They also visit a bank and return to work for lunch at 2:00 pm. Around 2:30 pm, Zamarai begins filling water containers to take back home to his
family, who have no access to running water, a task he had been doing for months, according to his colleagues.
They say they then helped load the containers into the car before leaving around 4:00 pm. The U.S. military says, around the same time, drone footage
showed the driver loading heavy packages with other men into the car, which they suspected were explosives, possibly for the imminent attack.
Colleagues say Zamarai dropped them off before he drove to his family compound, also home to his three brothers and their families.
Around 4:45 pm, the U.S. says the car arrived at a residential location and another male approached the car. The military claims it had reasonable
certainty that they had a legitimate ISIS-K target and took the shot.
It was only afterwards that the U.S. realized there were three children within the vicinity of the car. The family says there were actually seven.
A U.S. official tells CNN there was a significant secondary explosion, possibly caused by a suicide vest or explosives in the car that may have
killed the children.
COREN (voice-over): Two bomb experts we spoke to, who both viewed the same footage CNN filmed from the scene, say there's no evidence of a significant
secondary explosion, stating there would have been major structural damage to surrounding buildings and the vegetation and that the nearby SUV would
One of them noted, if a secondary blast was seen from U.S. surveillance, it most likely was the vehicle gas tank exploding.
BRIAN CASTNER, SENIOR CRISIS ADVISER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: This over the horizon, having incomplete information but conducting the airstrike anyway,
this is the modus operandi for the U.S. military now. And there's just so many risks and harm to civilians that comes with that.
COREN (voice-over): A U.S. military investigation into the drone strike is underway.
MILLEY: At least one of those people killed was an ISIS facilitator.
So were there others killed?
Yes, there are others killed. Who they are, we don't know. But, at this point, we think that the procedures were correctly followed and it was a
COREN (voice-over): A Pentagon statement released over the weekend defended the strike, based on good intelligence, preventing an imminent
threat and that "no other military works harder than we do to prevent civilian casualties."
But many questions are being raised as to whether they got the wrong target.
"How do you know from the sky what is here?" says Zamarai's brother.
"There were children in and around the car and you targeted them.
"Isn't it a crime?
"You came here and shattered our hearts into pieces."
The following day, ISIS-K launched a rocket attack toward the airport from a Toyota Corolla. The attack was countered by the missile defense system.
That same day, Zamarai's family buried their dead, 10 graves on a desolate hillside overlooking Kabul, belonging to a family, demanding answers and
justice -- Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.
ANDERSON: You're watching a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson, from Islamabad.
No call from the U.S. president, not since the collapse of the Afghan government. In fact, no call at all. And Pakistan's prime minister has
plenty to say to Joe Biden. Up next, he tells me his views on the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan.
ANDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson and you're watching a special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD.
ANDERSON: I have been talking exclusively with Pakistan's prime minister today about what has unfolded in neighboring Afghanistan with the Taliban's
return to power.
The prime minister revealing that even he did not foresee the now former Afghan government would fold so quickly. The Afghan army evaporating in a
matter of days last month, after district after district finally fell with the capital.
He told me he hopes and prays that, when the Taliban say they want human rights, including rights for women in their own context, that it happens.
He warns no country can impose its version of women's rights on another nation and that includes on Afghanistan under the Taliban.
He also has plenty to say about the way the U.S. headed for the exits in Afghanistan. He tells me Islamabad would like what he calls "a normal
relationship" with Washington going forward. Take a listen.
ANDERSON: I want to come back to your very real concerns about the risks to Pakistan's national security in a moment. But bear with me. You have
criticized the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan, describing America as having messed it up in Afghanistan.
Is that something that you have told the U.S. President personally?
Have the two of you spoken since the collapse?
KHAN: No, I haven't. I have spoken to -- then he was Senator Joe Biden, way back in 2008.
ANDERSON: You haven't spoken to the President of the United States since the collapse of the country to the Taliban?
KHAN: No I haven't.
ANDERSON: He hasn't called you since coming into office, correct?
KHAN: He's a busy man.
ANDERSON: Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally and yet no call between you and the U.S. President.
Do you see this as punishment for supporting the Taliban while they were killing U.S. troops?
KHAN: You have to ask him why he's too busy to call. But let me say one thing.
I heard this Senate hearing going on, which Secretary Blinken was asked all these questions. I want to say this -- and I hope that the American
politicians would listen to this.
You know, Pakistan is the country; just because we sided with the U.S., we became an ally of the U.S. after 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan. The
suffering this country went through -- at one point there were 15 militant groups attacking our government.
In the '80s, Pakistan joined the U.S. against the Soviets. We trained the mujahidin to do jihad in Afghanistan. Amongst them was Al Qaeda, where
Taliban were part of the mujahidin groups. We trained them that foreign occupation, fighting against them, is a sacred duty, is jihad, is a holy
Fast forward to 9/11, U.S. needs us in Afghanistan. George Bush asked Pakistan to help. And he famously said, we will not abandon Pakistan again.
Pakistan joined the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Was I the prime minister, I would never have done that.
Firstly, the same mujahidin, now we are telling them, because U.S. has invaded Afghanistan, now it's terrorism. They turned against us. Then all
the tribal belt of Pashtuns on our side of the border, the Pashtun nationalism kicked in. So then they had also (INAUDIBLE) with the Taliban,
not because religious ideology, because of Pashtun ethnicity.
So you must understand what happened. Now I really want people to know, they turned against the Pakistan army as collaborators. So the jihadis
stand against us. The Pashtuns turned against us.
And the more we tried, the military operations in (INAUDIBLE) area, the more collateral damage, the more -- so we had 50 militant groups attacking
us. And on top of it, on top of it, they must also know, there were 480 drone attacks by the U.S. in Pakistan, only time a country has been
attacked by its ally.
ANDERSON: The fact is Washington, it seems, just for contrast, Pakistan, there are calls by lawmakers to reassess the relationship with Islamabad
now, to reassess its status as a major non-NATO ally.
This was the exchange during the U.S. secretary of state's congressional testimony on Afghanistan on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We used to always hear diplomatically that we have a complicated relationship with Afghanistan -- I mean with Pakistan. I would
say it's often duplicitous.
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think you're right to point at the role that Pakistan has played throughout the past 20 years and even
before. And it is one that has involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan. It's one that's involved harboring members of
the Taliban, including the Haqqanis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Is that true?
And what's your response?
KHAN: They are ignorant. I was listening to them. I have never heard such ignorance. They are absolutely clueless, number one, about what happened in
Afghanistan. They were all in a state of shock. The state of Pakistan was under attack for being an ally of the U.S.
KHAN: We were not supposed to take on also the Afghan Taliban.
ANDERSON: Let me -- I was asking you for your response to Blinken's words specifically. He said, "Pakistan's role has involved hedging its bets
constantly about the future of Afghanistan. It's one that involves harboring members of the Taliban, including the Haqqanis.
Over the past 20 years, sir, the Haqqani Network has been responsible for some of the deadliest terror attacks in Afghanistan's history. It has
killed hundreds of Western troops and thousands -- let me finish -- of Afghan -- of Afghan people.
In 2011, you will be aware that General Mike Mullen said the Haqqani Network acted as, quote, "a veritable arm of Pakistan's intelligence."
This is a group that now has four members in key roles in the Taliban government.
Is it any wonder that there is a trust deficit between the West and Pakistan?
KHAN: It is complete ignorance. The Americans did not understand what the Haqqani Network was.
ANDERSON: What was it?
KHAN: Haqqani is a tribe. It's a Pashtun tribe living in Afghanistan. The Haqqani tribe lives in Afghanistan. In 40 years ago, when the Afghan jihad
took place, we had 5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
Amongst them were a few of the Haqqanis. And the Haqqanis, mujahidin, were fighting the Soviets. They were born in Pakistan in a refugee camp. So what
they were asking us was that, in these refugee camps, 3 million people living in the refugee camps, we were supposed to check which one of them
was Taliban and which not.
ANDERSON: That doesn't deny the fact that the Pakistan intelligence agency has been funding and supporting the Taliban.
KHAN: -- funding, you know the total budget of Pakistan?
It's $50 billion for 220 million people, $50 billion. Americans were spending $300 million a day. They spent $2 trillion.
Was Pakistan -- did we have the capacity to fund another war?
We can barely meet our own expenses.
ANDERSON: You have admitted that Pakistan's intelligence agency has close ties to the Haqqani Network. You have said in the past that you're not sure
why the U.S. hasn't leveraged those connections to get the Taliban effectively to the negotiating table.
You have always supported dialogue with the Taliban.
How much do you, sir, support their ideology?
And what is your red line for strict interpretation of sharia law, as we are seeing it acted out in Afghanistan today?
KHAN: Becky, let's take two different things you have said. Pakistan's ties with the Taliban, Pakistan's intelligence agencies, intelligence
agencies' job is to have connections with everyone. They speak to everyone. The U.S. CIA would be speaking to Taliban. They have to. That's the job of
The question is was Pakistan in a position to take military action against the Afghan Taliban, when it was already being attacked from inside from the
Pakistani Taliban, who were attacking the state of Pakistan?
Let me just clarify about the Haqqani. Haqqani is -- Haqqani tribe isn't Afghanistan. It's a tribe there. Some of the Haqqani leadership was -- one
was born in a Pakistan refugee camp. So --
ANDERSON: And they go back-and-forth across the border.
KHAN: There is no border. There was never any border. But Becky, have we got any choice right now?
KHAN: Tell me, if you do not back this government and do not help the people of Afghanistan right now, it's not a question of people of
Afghanistan -- Taliban; it's people of Afghanistan.
If we were -- international community does not help them, what choice have we got?
ANDERSON: How would you qualify the U.S.-Pakistan relationship today?
And what sort of relationship do you want to see with the U.S.?
KHAN: Unfortunately, our relationship during this whole -- the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan was a terrible relationship because the U.S. said
we're paying Pakistan. And they paid us $9 billion for civilian aid and $11 billion for military aid.
And they said we're paying you. And so we were like a hired gun. In Pakistan, people are not talking about the leadership because I think we
were let down by our leadership. The people felt that, here, by joining the U.S., we had the bombs going on everywhere.
Benazir Bhutto was killed because of that. Our economy tanked. I mean, we had $150 billion plus we lost to the economy. What I would like a
relationship with the U.S. is now like the U.S. has a relationship with India, not one-dimensional relationship, where they are paying us to fight.
We want a normal relationship.
ANDERSON: I promised to ask you about the risks to Pakistan's national security if the situation in Afghanistan doesn't improve. So explain what
you believe those risks are and just how concerned you are at present.
KHAN: The biggest concern are refugees. The biggest concern are refugees. We already have 3 million (ph) refugees in Pakistan. We cannot -- our
country cannot afford more refugees. We have come out of a very difficult economic situation. We cannot ex to (ph) take more refugees.
The second worry is terrorism. We had three sets of terrorism -- terrorists in Afghanistan, using the soil (ph) to attack us, ISIS, Pakistani Taliban
and the Baloch terrorists.
So if there is chaos in Afghanistan, if there's no stability there, then we have these two major problems looming in front of us. We are the country
that is going to suffer the most.
ANDERSON: That is Pakistan's prime minister and there is more of that interview over the next hour or so.
My next guest says, quote, "At this juncture, Pakistan's own position needs to be fine tuned to be ably articulated. Pakistan's policymakers
occasionally demonstrate a tendency for bravado over sober articulation and for public venting often about genuine disappointments as opposed to
learning from bitter experiences in bilateral experiences to make better informed policy."
Pakistani journalist Nasim Zehra, also a national security expert and a fellow at the Harvard University Asia Center. She's with me now here in
I have to say, caveat, you wrote that article before I did that interview. So you were certainly not referring to the performance of the Pakistani
prime minister there.
What did you make, though, of what he said and his perception about U.S.- Pakistan relations at present?
And what happens next?
NASIM ZEHRA, PAKISTANI JOURNALIST: Well, I think the prime minister was essentially stating what the facts were. He was recalling it as a time for
recall all over.
Your own president, President Biden, has said, clearly, time for regime change is over. The U.S. has to move towards diplomacy. You look at Mike
Mullen, Admiral Mike Mullen, who said veritable arm of the ISIS, watch his interviews. He's now saying corruption was at the core, lack of governance
was at the core.
So I think that U.S. -- it's time for U.S. to do some learning. And I think it's time for U.S. to hear some candid views. And beyond that, obviously
the prime minister, like the rest of the country and the overall the government recognizes the importance of this relationship but it's time to
recall where we went wrong.
ANDERSON: Imran Khan has said, more than once -- and I'm just looking at these and I'm paraphrasing here -- that Pakistan will no longer, quote,
"compromise its sovereignty."
It really says, quote, "do no more."
Is that Islamabad closing the door on any further cooperation with the United States, do you think?
ZEHRA: No, that's out of the question.
ZEHRA: When he says take a decision on the basis of sovereignty, surely you don't mean that a country should say, we are not going to be sovereign
and that's when you become friends with the U.S.
But having said that, Pakistan has taken every decision on its own. It has made a decision so it must take responsibility. I mean, Pakistan is an
independent country and when decisions were taken, the choices were made.
Our calculations would have been drawn. And not so wrong in terms of the Taliban. Go back and look at the records last 10 years from General Kayani
to others. They kept saying, the prime minister Imran Khan wasn't in power and he kept saying, this is not going to work.
And let me just very quickly add, today's "The New York Times" carries the editorial boards for our stockman's (ph) article. I think everybody should
be reading that article, where she very clearly outlines the causes of the disaster.
So I think that's where U.S. needs to learn and Pakistan needs to be making its calculations wisely. And Pakistan has continuously said -- the prime
minister has said on the floor of the House, we will be partners with the United States, partners for peace.
And isn't that what your president is also saying?
That it's time for diplomacy.
ANDERSON: I'm British, by the way. But that's OK.
ZEHRA: I mean the U.S. President.
ANDERSON: Prime Minister Khan has said time and time again that he doesn't want to see and will not have Pakistan treated as a gun for hire. It has
its own problems when it comes to terrorism. We did discuss that today. We talked about it towards the end. We're talking about the Pakistani Taliban.
Just how concerned should the people of Pakistan and indeed the region be about the potential for further unrest, further terrorism, insurgency here
in Afghanistan and beyond?
ZEHRA: Yes, I think that -- let me just say that we don't become a hired gun until somebody pushes. We make choices. So it's a question on making
correct choices. You know that on the 11th of September, there was a meeting of heads of intelligence agencies from the eight countries in the
Pakistan basically initiated it. And China, Russia, Uzbekistan, et cetera, and all these countries recognized that terrorism is a real issue and is an
issue that needs to be tackled. It's a win-win for the region, including Afghanistan.
And so while the problem is there, the problem has to be addressed. And I think that's where we are as we speak. And troika plus, where U.S. is a
member as well, has the same view. So I think we would all -- everybody recognizes this must end.
ANDERSON: It's a pleasure having you on. We have got a very busy show tonight but let's speak again. It was very good to have you on. Thank you.
ZEHRA: Thank you.
ANDERSON: Coming up, she says fighting for Afghan women is a cause worth dying for. A prominent activist risking all to speak up. Hear some of her
issues, she says the Taliban could face -- some of the issues the Taliban could face if women are ignored.
ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson in Islamabad in Pakistan for you tonight.
The Taliban, since taking over neighboring Afghanistan, have insisted that they are a kinder, gentler group.
Many in the U.S. and around the world aren't buying that, saying their words don't always line up with their deeds. In my exclusive interview, you
heard this hour, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan explains why the international community, including the U.S., should give them a chance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHAN: If you do not back this government and do not help the people of Afghanistan right now, it's not a question of people of Afghanistan --
Taliban; it's people of Afghanistan.
If we, the world, the international community does not help them, what choice have we got?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: We're joined again by Nic Robertson, who is live in Kabul.
Nic, we heard the Pakistani prime minister say women should have the ability to fulfill their potential in Afghanistan. But that's something
that has to be carried out from inside the country, he said, not from abroad.
You have spoken to someone, who is deeply invested in fighting to uphold women's rights in Afghanistan. Tell us more about that.
ROBERTSON: Yes, she's the president and founder of the Afghan Women's Network. She came back to Afghanistan from the United States after the
Taliban fell. She is an Afghan; she has been in the business of trying to protect, project and improve women's rights for a long time, very
experienced here in Afghanistan, perhaps the foremost advocate for women's rights in Afghanistan.
But what she told me is, frankly, dismaying, because you hear that women just cannot even get face to face and be heard by the Taliban. We began by
talking about what's at stake for women here.
ROBERTSON: What is at stake now for this country?
MAHBOUBA SERAJ, WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Everything, everything that we knew, everything that we built, everything, especially the women,
everything is at stake right now because we are actually facing a situation that, we are so disliked by a group of people who are actually running this
country, they can't even look at us.
When there's a question we ask, often they will not answer us. They will answer the question to the man who's standing next to us.
ROBERTSON: How can you have any hope that this can get any better?
SERAJ: You know, particularly (ph) the honest truth, I really have no other choice. I honestly don't. None of us do. We have to, we have to
believe that something is going to give, something is going to change and we are going to be -- something is going to be better because, otherwise,
what does it mean?
ROBERTSON: Isn't it dangerous for you to speak up and be heard?
SERAJ: Well, you know, I -- whatever I've been saying and whatever I'm saying from now on also, I am never saying anything bad about the Taliban.
What I'm trying to say is about exactly what they are doing here.
So I mean, what they're going to do, kill all of us?
That's also (INAUDIBLE). But there's something in this world that is to me, in my eyes, is worth dying and living for and really standing by. And one
of them is the rights of the women of Afghanistan.
And what we have to do, our education, our place in society as mothers, as daughters, as wives, as the women that we are and, all of that, I want to
do it according to Islam.
ROBERTSON: And if the Taliban don't listen to you?
SERAJ: Well, what -- that's what I'm saying. They are going to be making mistakes because they will not hear from us women, from our point of view.
SERAJ: What we know, what we have learned, what kind of ideas we can give them to make things better.
ROBERTSON: But they don't care.
SERAJ: It's not possible for them not to care. They have to care because this is the country that you're going to be living in.
What do they want to do?
Do they want to go back to the mountains?
No. They want to live here and stay here. If they want to live here and stay here, they have to give us a chance to be able to live here and stay
ROBERTSON: In what way?
What do women need to have?
SERAJ: The women need to have their rights, be recognized according to Islam. We don't want anything more, honestly. I don't want to ask them
anything more. I want everything that is given to me, according to Islam. Islam has given me a lot of rights, honestly, a lot of rights. And if those
rights are given to me, I can live very finely in here.
ROBERTSON: Can the Taliban stay in power if they don't give women their rights here?
Can they survive as a government?
SERAJ: Can you imagine somebody being in this country and actually running Afghanistan and governing and half of the population -- is this not the
half of the population?
Only the women, because the men are going to join in as well. That I can guarantee you. They are unhappy with them.
How are you going to do that?
How are you going to do that?
It hasn't been done anywhere in the world. When you have a populace that they are not happy, when they are not happy, they won't (INAUDIBLE) that
government. They are going to make problems. They are going to raise their voices, they're going to start -- you know, they can -- the world is
becoming a very small place now.
ROBERTSON: These are brutal guys with guns, who turn them on crowds.
SERAJ: It's true.
But for how long?
They are going to be killing everybody?
Is that what they want to do?
Is this the name of the game here?
If they want to -- if they are going to turn against to a crowd and kill everybody, do you really think that everybody in the world is going to stay
quiet and say we're not going to say a thing and they can do that?
If that permission is given to them now and here, what kind of permission are we giving to the rest of the world?
ANDERSON: Nic Robertson reporting there from Kabul.
I'm in Islamabad in Pakistan. I'll be back with another hour of CONNECT THE WORLD, live from here. And more analysis on the interview I conducted with
the prime minister of Pakistan. Wherever you are watching in the world, do stay with us.