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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview with Iranian Foreign Minister; Examining Kurdish Statehood Referendum; Interview with President of Afghanstan. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired September 24, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:06] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world, I'm Fareed Zakaria.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy.
ZAKARIA: On today's show, Iran's response to Donald Trump.
President Trump threatened to tear up the nuclear deal. I will ask Javad Zarif, the man who negotiated that deal, Iran's Foreign minister, how his country will react.
Then, Afghanistan. Donald Trump has expanded America's involvement in what is now its longest war. I ask Afghan President Ashraf Ghani if the fighting will ever end and about his somewhat surprising friendship with President Trump.
(On camera): You are one of the few world leaders I think who has generally been happy with the Trump administration.
PRES. ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHANISTAN: I am.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): All that and much more on GPS today.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. President Trump's speech to the United Nations was well delivered but it was a strange mishmash of topics and tones. There was one overriding theme -- the embrace of nationalism. And in striking that chord, Donald Trump did something unusual, perhaps unique for a U.S. American president. He encouraged, even embraced the rise of a post-American world.
First, the mishmash. Early in his speech, Trump asserted --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In America we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAKARIA: But then a few minutes alert Trump proceeded to castigate North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba for their un-democratic political systems, virtually demanding that they all become Western- style liberal democracies.
The main thrust of Trump's speech was about nationalism. He celebrated sovereignty and nationalism, choosing an odd example, latching on to a few words by President Harry Truman in support of the Marshall plan. Trump described that approach to international relations as beautiful and noble. But can anyone imagine Donald Trump actually supporting the Marshall plan?
That was a massive foreign aid program, administered by government bureaucrats to help foreigners revive their industries which then became competitors to American firms. The most significant line in Trump's speech was this one delivered dramatically.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As president of the United States, I will always put America first. Just like you as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: But this is what countries like Russia and China have been saying for decades. For the last 70 years the great debate among nations has been between those who argued for narrow national interests and those who believe that lasting peace and prosperity depended on promoting broader common interests.
That latter approach, conceived by FDR and supported by every U.S. president since, is what produced the United Nations and all the organizations that monitor and assist with trade, economics, travel, disease, crime, and weather, among a host of other issues that spill over borders and can only be handled at a regional or global level.
But Donald Trump is tired of being the world's leader. He whined in his speech that other countries are unfair in their dealings with the United States and that somehow the most powerful country in the history of the world, which dominates almost every international forum, is being had.
His solution? A return to nationalism. And it would be warmly welcomed by most of the world's major players, Russia and China, but also countries like India and Turkey, which all tend to act on the basis of their narrow self-interest.
Of course that would mean a dramatic acceleration of the post-American world, one in which these countries would shape policies and institutions unashamedly to their benefit, rather than any broader one, let alone one influenced by the United States.
Trump grumbled about the fact that the United States pays 22 percent of the U.N.'s budget, which is actually appropriate, because it's about America's share of global GDP. Were he to actually scale back America's support, he might be surprised how fast a country like China would leap in to fill the gap.
And once it does, China will dominate and shape the U.N. and the global agenda just as America has for seven decades. Perhaps the Chinese would suggest that the organization's headquarters be moved to Beijing. Come to think of it, that would free up acres of land on the East River of Manhattan where Donald Trump could build a few more condominiums.
[10:05:06] For more, go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
In his speech to the United Nations, one of the nations Trump singled out was Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest suffering victims of Iran's leaders are in fact its own people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: He went on to call the nuclear deal with Iran one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the U.S. has ever entered into. And he said --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States. And I don't think you've heard the last of it, believe me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: By October 15th, President Trump will have to decide whether to recertify that Iran is in compliance with the deal. He has suggested he will not do so.
So how would Iran respond to all this? I spoke to the nation's Foreign minister, Javad Zarif.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Foreign Minister, welcome. Pleasure to have you on the show.
JAVAD ZARIF, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Good morning, and it's good to be with you again.
ZAKARIA: Donald Trump says that the Iran deal was the most one-sided deal the United States has ever agreed to. You negotiated that deal. Do you take that as a compliment?
ZARIF: Not really because I never believed in zero-sum games. I believe that we were successful in reaching that deal once we decided to define the objective in a way that was achievable. Instead of having two diametrically opposed objectives, we decided to have a singular objective, and that is that Iran should have a nuclear program that will never produce nuclear weapons.
This was the objective that we decided, both of us, both sides. That is Iran and P5 Plus 1 to work towards. And we reached a deal that nobody likes. And it's good, because no good deal is a perfect deal because you cannot have a perfect deal for both sides. You need to have a deal that is less than perfect so that the two sides can reach an understanding, can bargain over. And that is why I believe that statement is ill-informed and it doesn't reflect the reality.
It's a deal that was negotiated and therefore it doesn't have other things that we wanted in the deal. It certainly doesn't have all the things that the United States wanted in the deal.
ZAKARIA: President Trump now says that he might well withdraw from the deal or de-certify Iran. What would be Iran's reaction if the president did that?
ZARIF: Well, certification is not a part of the deal. It's a U.S. internal procedure. It doesn't absolve President Trump and the administration of the responsibility because the only authority that has been recognized in the nuclear deal to verify is the IAEA.
Iran will look at the outcome of this process and will consider its options. Iran has a number of options which include walking away from the deal and going back with greater speed with its nuclear program, which will remain peaceful, but which will not address and accept the limitations that we voluntarily accepted over our nuclear program.
Let me stress one thing that is -- has been a myth here in the United States, and we need to dispel that myth. They say there is a sunset clause in the deal. There is no sunset clause. Iran has committed itself never to develop nuclear weapons, both as a member of the MPT and in the deal itself.
ZAKARIA: But the inspections have a sunset clause.
ZARIF: No, no, no. The inspections don't have a sunset clause either because Iran has accepted the most intrusive inspections through the additional protocol. And if the United States behaves in the way it's supposed to behave, in eight years after the signing of the deal that is in six years from now, Iran will ratify the additional protocol, meaning that it will have permanent monitoring of its facilities by the IAEA.
What is the limitation, the duration? Is the duration of limitations on Iran?
[10:10:02] Because Iran was under Security Council sanctions, there is a period of time and a lot of fear-mongering has gone over this in the United States. During this period of time, Iran will observe certain restrictions. After that, Iran will behave like any other non-nuclear weapons state member of the MPT. There are a lot of countries with an enrichment program. And Iran
will have an enrichment program, will continue to have an enrichment program. And that enrichment program will be strictly under IAEA surveillance.
ZARIF: Permanently. So there is a lot of fear-mongering going on. The time limits in the deal, which in fact they're the subject of very long negotiations because we believed that there shouldn't be any limitations on Iran's rights, because if we accept all the monitoring mechanisms, which we accepted, then Iran should be like any other members of the MPT. But the other side believed that there needs to be a longer period. And we agreed to the middle, and that is the 10- year that is being talked about.
ZAKARIA: The other option I assume from -- other than walking away from the deal is to essentially isolate America, which is to say continue to near to the deal, don't do business with American firms, because presumably they would be restricted.
Have European countries told you that they will adhere to the deal no matter what?
ZARIF: Well, that has been what has been stated by Europe. We will need to determine for ourselves, at the appropriate time what are our national interests, and we will act according to our national interests. It is important to be able to have a predictable international environment.
I think what the United States is doing, in addition to being unpredictable, which might sometimes work, is proving that it is unreliable because the United States needs to participate in many international agreements.
It's a big power, a major power. And obviously it engages in international negotiations, becomes party to international agreements, either through bilateral accords or through multilateral accords or through Security Council resolutions.
This deal is not a bilateral agreement. It's not even a multilateral treaty. It's a Security Council resolution and the United States is a permanent member of the Security Council.
What is important for the international community is to be able to rely on the words of the United States as a negotiating partner. If the world cannot rely on the words of the United States as a negotiating partner then nobody will negotiate with the United States because they know that the United States, at the end of the day, would use this famous expression, what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable, because in any negotiations there's give and take.
In the nuclear negotiation there was give and take. We accepted certain concessions and the United States accepted certain concessions. And it is important at this stage. In addition to the fact that Iran should draw economic benefits from this deal, but it is from a global perspective, because all of us live in an intertwined, interconnected world.
From global perspective, with all these crises, the crisis in North Korea, the crisis in our region, it is important to be able to rely upon the promises, the commitments, of important players in the global community.
Iran has proven that it is a reliable partner. Seven IAEA reports have shown that Iran is a reliable partner. I hope the United States would review its posture and prove to the world that it is also a reliable partner.
ZAKARIA: When we come back, I got a chance to spend some time this week with France's new president, Emmanuel Macron. He told me he had a way to break the logjam over Iran. I will ask Iran's Foreign minister, Javad Zarif, for his response to the Macron plan.
[10:18:11] ZAKARIA: We're back with our special edition of GPS as world leaders gathered this week for U.N. General Assembly. Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made time in his busy schedule to talk with me.
ZAKARIA: President Macron of France says he has a way out of the logjam between the Trump administration and Iran which is adhere to the nuclear agreement, do not in any way withdraw from it, but begin negotiations on additional protocols or planks, and he wants to talk about your ballistic missiles. You just tested another ballistic missile. He wants to talk about your support for militias in the region, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen.
He wants to talk about, you know, a host of other real issues which he agrees are not part of the Iran deal but are also destabilizing the region.
ZARIF: Well, you see, we made a decision, jointly, all of us, to limit this deal to the nuclear issue, because the rest, they're complicated. It doesn't mean that Iran is afraid of talking about them. Iran has serious grievances going back to -- I mean, some people just would like to look at one side of the picture.
The fact is Iran has been the force that has consistently fought extremism and terrorism in our region, be it the Taliban against Afghanistan, be it Daesh, be it al Qaeda in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Iran was always on the right side. Unfortunately the United States and its allies don't have such a bright record. So if you want to talk about those issues, there is a lot to be said about those issues. You talked about missiles. Iran has defensive needs.
[10:20:04] Iran is not buying $400 billion of so-called beautiful military equipment from the United States. Iran needs to develop its own defenses. We have said time and again, and we have proven, that our missiles are for defense.
You know, we go back to a history where our cities were being showered with missiles from Saddam Hussein. But at that time, Saddam Hussein was a sweetheart for the United States and some Western countries. Nobody turned any eyebrow against Saddam Hussein for its -- for his use of all these missiles.
And Iran did not have a single missile to work as a deterrent against its citizens, its civilians being target of almost daily missile attacks even against the capital.
ZAKARIA: But what about the Arabs say you are spreading a kind of Shiite crescent of influence from Bahrain to Yemen to Lebanon, Iraq, Syria. They see a growing presence of Iran that has to be countered.
ZARIF: The problem is, they have made the wrong choices. They have -- they supported Saddam Hussein. Let's start where it started. They supported Saddam Hussein during eight years of war against Iran. After the war, Iran resisted that aggression and Saddam Hussein immediately turned his weapons against them.
We came to their support. They have forgotten that. We neglected all the history, we forgot all the history, and we came to the -- we went to the support of the Kuwaitis. After that, they supported al Qaeda in Afghanistan. They shouldn't -- they shouldn't forget that.
They have made all the wrong choices. They tried to undermine the democratically elected government of Iraq. They were on the right side -- wrong side of history. All through. And Iran was on the right side.
It's not that we want to spread our influence. We believe in stability of the region. We believe also in stability of every single government in the region. It is in our interest. We have offered to our Arab neighbors to engage in confidence building measures, in security structures for our region.
We've been saying that time and again. Unfortunately, some seek their interests through tension and through conflict and I believe they have not made a lot of progress. They have not served their own interests.
Look at the situation in Yemen. We were prepared to help our Saudi neighbors, our UAE neighbors to end this conflict before it started. And immediate after it started. Look at it now. 13 months of continuous bombardment of innocent civilians in Yemen. We have about 700,000 cases of cholera in Yemen.
This is unheard of in modern history. And what do they gain out of it? Are they more secure from it? We are prepared to help end the conflict in Yemen. We can help, we cannot make decisions for others. We can help end the conflict in Yemen. We can help end the conflict in Syria. And we are prepared to work with all regional countries who are prepared to work with Iran.
ZAKARIA: Final 30-second thought. What is your message to Donald Trump? ZARIF: I think it is in the interest of the United States to look at
the realities. There are no alternative realities. The realities in our region are crystal clear. They have been for the last 40 years. And the United States unfortunately decided to neglect those realities and has not fared well by doing that.
ZAKARIA: Javad Zarif, a pleasure to have you on, sir.
ZARIF: Good to be with you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, from Iran to Iraq. This week, the people of Iraq's northern region of Kurdistan will vote on whether to seek independence from Baghdad. Iran opposes the Kurdish referendum. So does the United States. In fact the only country that openly supports it is Israel.
"What in the World?" When we come back.
[10:28:44] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World?" segment.
On September 25th, the people of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq will vote in a nonbinding referendum. The issue at hand, whether or not they should begin the process of independence from Iraq. This decision and the Kurds' desire for independence has been met with nothing but opposition from almost all quarters.
Of the world's nations, only Israel has publicly come out in favor of Kurdish aspirations for independence.
Why? Well, let's look at the map. Iraq, for its part, doesn't want to give up sovereignty over the lucrative oil and gas fields in the Kurdish region and Kurdish-occupied Kirkuk. Iraq's Supreme Court went so far as ordering the referendum suspended. And there is a Kurdish population in many of the neighboring countries as well. The Kirks who have historically supported Kurdish autonomy within Iraq fear an independent sovereign Kurdistan would embolden their own rest of Kurdish minority.
The Syrians too would likely be concerned by such a precedent. The Iranians don't want a new Kurdish state along their border that they assume would be a staunch ally of the United States, perhaps even of Israel. And yet, the State Department issued a statement saying the United States strongly opposes the referendum which it claims is negatively impacting the fight against ISIS.
Is that the right call?
[10:30:00] Well, first, a little background. The Kurds, numbering between 25 million and 30 million, are said to be one of the world's largest ethnic peoples without a state. They are Sunni Muslims, historically moderate, with their own language, customs, traditions. Indeed they are primarily spread across four sovereign nations, Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.
About 100 years ago, in the ashes of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, a Kurdish delegation went to Versailles seeking international recognition for a new nation. The effort had its ups and downs and its shared of supporters and detractors over the next handful of years.
In 1923 the Treaty of Lausanne created modern Turkey, but it did not create a Kurdish state. For the next 80-plus years, the Kurds continued to find themselves a minority, discriminated against wherever they lived.
Often it was more than discrimination. In March of 1988, a chemical weapons attack on a Kurdish village in Iraq killed an estimated 6,800 Kurdish men, women and children. It was part of a ruthless military campaign by Saddam Hussein's military, which eventually led to the deaths of at least 50,000 Kurds. That atrocity in part influenced the decision in 1991 by the U.S. to create a no-fly zone over northern Iraq, giving the Kurds the protection they needed and planting the seeds for a future independent nation.
Since then, the Kurds have prospered and proved themselves to be one of the most tolerant societies in the Middle East, respecting minorities and affording a limited degree of political opposition and free speech.
They have also been a reliable, strong friend to the United States. Most recently, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have led the fight to defeat ISIS forces in the region. This week's referendum on independence might not lead directly to a new nation-state; it might be a way for the Kurds to bargain for greater autonomy within Iraq.
And Washington can push for that kind of outcome. But the United States should signal that it supports the long-suppressed aspirations and dreams of its friends and allies. There are few good guys in the Middle East, but the Kurds really do fit that description.
Next on "GPS," the president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, on whether American troops will ever be ready to leave his country.
ZAKARIA: The war in Afghanistan has now bedeviled three U.S. presidents. The Central Asian nation has been called "the graveyard of empires" perhaps for a reason. Then private citizen Trump was deeply critical of America's war there. On Twitter he called it "a complete waste," saying "We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan and we should leave immediately."
But governing is of course harder than tweeting. And late last month President Trump announced a new plan for Afghanistan that gave the U.S. military more autonomy there. In his speech, Trump threatened to cut off aid to neighboring Pakistan if it didn't stop harboring terrorists.
He also said the end game was no longer nation-building and that eventual talks with the Taliban would be the way for America to exit its now 16-year-old war.
ZAKARIA (voice over): This week at a forum organized and hosted by the Asia Society, I had the opportunity to talk to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about the war, the plan and his own unique relationship with President Trump.
(on camera): Welcome, President Ghani.
GHANI: Well, it's a pleasure to be with you.
ZAKARIA: You are one of the few world leaders, I think, who has generally been happy with the Trump administration?
GHANI: I am.
ZAKARIA: And have you had any personal interactions with the president?
GHANI: Yes, absolutely.
ZAKARIA: How does he strike you?
GHANI: We have had wonderful conversations, flowing (ph).
ZAKARIA: And he seems -- just give me a sense of your perception of him from those phone conversations?
GHANI: Engaged, informed and determined to see and hear. But it requires immense preparation. If you want to keep him engaged, you better be informed and communicate everything significant in two minutes. It's the standard thing that you -- when one comes on your program, you know...
... the first training that I got when I interacted with Fareed Zakaria was that, if you have a message, don't take more than two minutes to deliver it.
It's the same with President Trump.
ZAKARIA: I will -- I will take that as a compliment.
GHANI: It is -- it's meant as one. ZAKARIA: Is his strategy significantly different from President
After all, the number of troops that seem to be increased is not very significant.
GHANI: How is it different?
I would -- it's different in the sense that it focuses on the fundamental political regional approach (ph). The examination of Pakistan has never been as thorough, and the message for the need for Pakistan to engage and become a responsible stakeholder in the region and in the fight against terrorism has never been this clear.
ZAKARIA: And the key here is, just so our viewers understand, that, right now, you have many forces that fight, Afghan National Army and Americans, in the old days, and then would retreat to Pakistan, where they had safe havens, where they were essentially protected by the Pakistani military.
You really think this will change after, you know, really 40 years?
GHANI: Well, this is the fundamental issue. If we want to indulge in the past, you know, a test of leadership is, when context changes, do you repeat the past or do you move forward and seize the present?
What I'm offering the Pakistan government, the Pakistan security apparatus, is the invitation to a comprehensive dialogue. Afghans are determined to fight. No one should underestimate our wish for a secure region. Afghanistan is -- our tragedy is we are potentially one of the richest countries on earth, given our size and population, with our natural resources, natural capital, you know, mining, and potentially oil and gas, et cetera. But the cost of war is intense and immense.
You know, every day I put a piece of stone in my heart. Because when I get the casualty figures, and particularly the destruction of our civilian life, Kabul under attack itself. So here is the opportunity. If Pakistan does not take this opportunity, I think there will be -- they will pay a high price. So I hope that it's their interest to engage.
ZAKARIA: What should we make of the reports we get that 46 percent of the country is under Taliban control?
Or you see a report that says every time American forces and Afghan national forces withdraw from some village or area, it is taken over by the Taliban?
It seems to give a sense of hopelessness to those who want to support Afghanistan.
GHANI: But they don't report back on when territory is taken back. The Taliban has not been able to take a single province. They have not succeeded in this. Has fighting been hard? Absolutely. But if you look at the fighting in 2015, 2016 and 2017, our armed forces today are in the best position they've been in the last years. Additionally, 100,000 American and international troops with hundreds
of planes, helicopters, et cetera, were fighting, and between 2009 and 2014, they all left. We filled the gap. The strength is that the Afghan army, particularly the commander force, that are second to none in the region, are able to take every single location in the country. We've not had the police forces with the capability to hold. So our next phase of reform is precisely oriented towards the police.
ZAKARIA: But it's not that the Taliban have political support in these areas?
GHANI: They don't. No, they don't.
ZAKARIA: They don't?
GHANI: On the contrary, Taliban are becoming less and less popular. They've gone -- it's a sign of weakness to attack a mosque. It's a sign of weakness, not strength, to kill people, soldiers who are praying. It's a sign of weakness to attack civilians in broad daylight. Blowing bombs, track bombs particularly, does not make you popular. They need to understand that society does not support violence, particularly a society that has suffered 40 years of violence.
ZAKARIA: When Americans heard President Trump's decision to expand both the number of troops and also the rules of engagement, I think many of them thought, "Will this ever end?"
You know, what is your message? What are the conditions under which you imagine American troops can withdraw?
And do you think that that will happen anytime soon?
GHANI: I think we are not talking decade or longer. We are talking some limited years.
ZAKARIA: We'll be back in a moment and we'll have more with President Ghani.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GHANI: I say their sacrifices are not going to be in vain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: We're back now with a special edition of "GPS" on the heels of a flurry of international activity this week at the U.N. General Assembly. On Thursday President Trump met with Afghan President Ghani.
I too met with Ashraf Ghani and we talked about his long and strange trip to the top of Afghan politics.
ZAKARIA: You're an academic by training. You worked in the development field at the World Bank. You've lived as a scholar in the United States. Here you are, the president of one of the most difficult, war-torn countries in the world, with incredibly complex tribal politics, corruption, international politics with the United States, Russia, China.
How difficult was that transition?
GHANI: It wasn't difficult. It was close to impossible.
No, seriously, I'm an accidental president. Because my life has been a preparation for this job. I spent 14 years of my life looking at the last 600 years of Afghan history. I've traveled to every single province of Afghanistan during the security transition. I know the history, the feelings, I hope, of each segment, each (inaudible) of the Afghan population.
We've always won in the battlefield, but we've not been able to represent ourselves and speak for ourselves politically. So to win the world for those who do not have a voice, which is the absolute majority of the Afghans -- 40 percent of our people live below $1.35 -- but to deliver on the aspiration is an inspiration that keeps me going.
ZAKARIA: So people would look at a place like Afghanistan and think, "You'd need to be some kind of tribal chief" -- and after all your predecessor did come from a very important family from an important tribe -- "you'd need to have the ability to arm-wrestle people in various ways," as I said, "perhaps give them some patronage money." Did you find that you had to develop some skills like that which, surely at Johns Hopkins and the World Bank, you didn't need?
GHANI: Well, look, I -- I was raised on the knees of my grandfather. He came from one of the largest clans in this country -- and the mediation skills that were required. There was an Afghan political elite prior to the (inaudible) was linked; it was networked; it had an ethos that had been formed during centuries, a sense of justice, sense of fair play, et cetera. So one part comes from that. Everything...
GHANI: But here I guess the point is, are you tough enough? Do you have -- do you have, you know -- do you have the ability to drag dead bodies across the room to show people in Afghanistan that you can do business?
GHANI: You don't need to drag dead bodies. You need to implement rules.
We have had enough of death and destruction.
(LAUGHTER) No, seriously. I mean, my problem was the opposite. I had the reputation as finance minister of being so tough that people thought they would vote for me but they were afraid that I would be so tough that I would break the system. What has pleasantly surprised them is flexibility.
ZAKARIA: Everybody knows you are spotless. Even your worst enemies don't accuse you of corruption. But you preside over what is regularly regarded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
How do you change that and how do you function effectively without being corrupt? If the corruption has been the grease that made Afghanistan work, aren't you handicapped by your honesty?
GHANI: No. Because corruption has not made Afghanistan work. Corruption robbed us of two chances. The first was after 9/11. The people of Afghanistan had hope. I traveled all across Afghanistan. I went after 24 years, on 26 of December, 2001. I traveled 10 provinces of Afghanistan (inaudible). It's corruption that took away the hope.
And second, one of the largest interventions in history, under President Obama's first term, took place in Afghanistan. But again, the Afghan elite did not do its job. So to make the argument that corruption greases the wheels and makes it function, no, it's the opposite.
Why did the people vote for me? Precisely because I had an anti- corruption agenda. We've created a Center for Justice. And for the first time, high-ranking officials, civilian and military, are being indicted.
ZAKARIA: Why is it not reflected in the rankings of, say, Transparency International, where you are still...
GHANI: Because it takes time. It takes time, I think, in two years, you will see, hopefully, a very significant shift.
ZAKARIA: What do you say to the 1-million-plus Americans who have now served at some point in Afghanistan?
GHANI: Well, first I'm saying thank you. I've always said thank you to them. And we are extraordinarily grateful to these men and women.
Second, I say their sacrifices are not going to be in vain. People like the son of General Kelly, who stepped on a mine in Helmand -- we are saying that what you sacrificed for is now bearing fruit. The Afghan army is not going to collapse. The Afghan society is not going to collapse.
Third, we are saying what you provided in the way of training and advice is now being institutionalized. A generation -- our non- commissioned officers are all products of post-9/11. All our soldiers are products of post-9/11. And this is a generation that really is in the 21st Century and coming together.
So my message to the veterans is, thank you for your support; we need your moral support; and we are looking forward to receiving you, with your families, any time. Our hearts have a very big space for you and you would always be welcome to interact with us.
ZAKARIA: President Ghani, thank you so much.
GHANI: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: This week's book of the week is "27 Articles" by T.E. Lawrence, otherwise known as "Lawrence of Arabia." This slim, very slim book was a short set of guidelines on guerrilla warfare written in 1917 by Lawrence, a quirky British army officer who ended up organizing and leading the Arabs to revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It is clever, commonsensical and surprisingly current.
As David Rhodes, the head of CBS News, notes in an afterword, it's a very valuable way of thinking about asymmetric warfare and operating in alien cultures, modern problems indeed.
That's all for our show this week. Thank you for joining us. We'll see you next week.