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Fareed Zakaria GPS

America's War In Afghanistan Finally Has An Expiration Date; Interview With Afghan President Ashraf Ghani About U.S. Troop Withdrawal; Violence And Brutality In Myanmar. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired April 18, 2021 - 10:00   ET



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 coming to you live from New York.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today on the show, after nearly 20 years and 2500 U.S. lives lost, America's war in Afghanistan finally has an expiration date.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is time to end America's longest war.

ZAKARIA: But what happens after the U.S. and NATO troops pull out? After all of that blood and treasure, will Afghanistan return to Taliban control? Will it become a terrorist haven once again?

I'll have an exclusive interview with the president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, and then I will talk to two former National Security advisers, Tom Donilon and H.R. McMaster.

I'll also ask them about Russia as its military drills and masses on its border with Ukraine. Are they preparing for another invasion?

Also, is Myanmar the new Syria? The U.N. Human Rights chief says it may get just as bad. Clarissa Ward has logged many days in Syria and is just back from Myanmar. She will describe what she saw in the closed off country.


ZAKARIA: But first, here is my take. To govern is to choose, a French prime minister once said, and this week President Biden made a difficult strategic choice. He announced a timeline for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan 20 years after they arrived there. For several years, the U.S. has been unwilling to make a choice in Afghanistan, settling into a policy that was more a punt than a strategy.

Biden should be commended for actually making a hard choice and not kicking the can down the road one more time. Was it the right choice? I believe so. Let's recall that the United

States has tried virtually every possible approach in Afghanistan. Initially after 9/11, it went in with a light footprint allying with local forces. After a few years that strategy was seen as flawed because it gave the Taliban the opportunity to regroup.

Under President Obama, Washington expanded coalition forces so as at their peak they numbered around 130,000. They attempted a comprehensive counterinsurgency policy to provide safety and win the hearts and minds of the locals. But while the search produces gained, they proved temporary. As U.S. forces withdrew, the Taliban always bounced back.

Then Donald Trump announced a mini-surge of his own. Adding troops but claiming that American soldiers would only fight the enemy and do no nation building. Eventually he decided he'd enough and withdrew some of those troops bringing them down to the current level of 3500.

To understand why the United States couldn't win, we should remember the dictum coined by Henry Kissinger in 1969 when describing the war in Vietnam. The guerilla wins if he does not lose, the conventional army loses if it does not win.

The question we don't ask enough is not why America failed, but why the Taliban have succeeded. For the past 20 years, facing the world's most powerful army with the most advanced weaponry and intelligence in history, the ragtag Taliban has survived and often prevailed. We spend a lot of time condemning the Taliban for their fanatic ideology and their treatment of women, we call them terrorists, but we don't seem to ask despite all that why have they done so well?

Mao once said that gorillas can succeed only if they could move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea. The Taliban have managed to do that. Scholars on the ground have found that ethnic identity and solidarity are key to understanding Taliban success. Far more important than military prowess or economic aid or even good government.


Many people particularly Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in the country, identify with the Taliban. The Kabul government is often associated with the outsider, with foreigners. In his brilliant book, "The Accidental Guerilla," counterinsurgency expert, David Kilcullen recounts a battle in which local Afghans join the Taliban even though they were not ideologically aligned with the group.

They simply felt they had to join the fight and fight against the outsiders. And no matter how much money and services the United States may provide, it remains the outsider.

There are other reasons for Taliban successes as well. It's difficult to think of a single case in history in which an insurgency was defeated when it had a sanctuary across the border and the Taliban have enjoyed a haven in Pakistan and help from that country's military. They've also benefited from the massive corruption unleashed by the tens of billion dollars of American aid and military spending that has utterly distorted the Afghan economy.

The U.S. weakened the Kabul government by insisting that it fight opium production which for better or worse has been a staple agricultural product in provinces like Helmand for centuries. Ultimately, it comes down to a simple reality. An outside force that has an ambitious set of goals establishing a functioning democracy, ending the opium trade, ensuring success for women, cannot succeed without a powerful, competent and legitimate local partner.

People will claim that this withdrawal shows that the U.S. does not have the capacity to stay the course. They will say American troops should remain in Afghanistan as they have in South Korea and Germany. But those forces are stationed to deter a foreign invasion, not to hold the country together. American soldiers have stayed in Afghanistan twice as long as the Soviets stayed there and longer than the U.S. did in Vietnam. It is time for them to come home.

Go for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.

Let's get right to my exclusive interview with the president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani.

Welcome back to the show, Mr. President.

ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: It's a pleasure to be with you.

ZAKARIA: When we've talked in the past, you have said you would support a positive peace in Afghanistan but not what the Taliban you said sometimes seems to want which is the peace of the grave. Which one of these is likely following President Biden's announcement of a U.S. withdrawal?

GHANI: The announcement has been a game-changer because the unexpected for the region and for the Taliban is happened, the announcement was not unexpected for me. We have been deliberating about this for two years. Now it is time for recalculation.

For us it is a time of opportunity. For Taliban and for Pakistan, it's a moment of choice. Will they opt to become a credible international stakeholder, with rules of game for a peaceful part of Asia and connectivity, or for opting for chaos?

Equally for Taliban, the major excuse that this is a war to get the international forces out of Afghanistan is over. There is no religious justification left for the war. Political settlement is a must. But the ball clearly is in the court of Taliban and their supporters.

ZAKARIA: It sounds like, Mr. President, you support the president's announcement or at least you think that there can be a positive effect from that announcement?

GHANI: I respect the president's decision. I've always made clear on your show particularly that I never discussed numbers or whether the United States should stay long. A strategic decision has been made, the implications of this, the operational level, the tactical level and re-strategizing for the region for the Islamic world and for us at the national level is imperative. The context is radically changed.

My style of working is that when context changes, my entire energy is focused on working in the new context, and I am focused on the opportunities and I think the opportunities are real.


ZAKARIA: During the previous administration, during the Trump administration, when they were trying to reach a deal with the Taliban, it would often be leaked to members of the press that you were the obstacle, that you were unwilling to share power with the Taliban. Was that true and has that changed?

GHANI: It wasn't true because I ran on a peace platform. I think it should be remembered that it was I who secured the first ceasefire in our history in 2018. The question was who was going to own and lead the peace process? What we proposed to the Trump administration two years ago is that if you want to withdraw, deal with us, the legitimate government of Afghanistan, not with the Taliban on that issue.

They made choices and because of that they needed a figure to blame things upon. I was never the obstacle, and again, in preparation for the Istanbul conference I went to my nation and clearly indicated that I was willing to reduce my elected terms of office but my condition was that a democratic succession where the people of Afghanistan would decide on the succession. For me, it is the principle, not power. Power is an instrument of service, not something personal.

ZAKARIA: When you think about the Taliban, going forward, do you imagine a national unity government? Do you imagine that they are simply going to seek a military conquest of Kabul? What is your sense of what -- where will the Taliban go from this?

GHANI: Well, what I hope they will go for and what they're likely to go for are likely to be different things. What I'd like to -- is for them to seek -- seize the new context where a true national political settlement is made, that integrates them within the government, within the society, within the economy, and that we form a government of peace for a brief period culminating in an election that is internationally supervised and monitored.

And in order to make sure that the wounds of the past 42 years, particularly past 20 years, we will need a discussion of a national compact and the preparation that, the justification and approval of any peace deal should take place in the Loya Jirga, our historical institution. where all walks of life are brought and it's imperative that the Taliban sit with their Afghan sisters and brothers if that is what they consider us.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, when we come back, I will ask President Ghani about the future of women in Afghanistan who had essentially no rights when American forces arrived in 2001. What happens when those troops leave?


ZAKARIA: And we are back here on GPS where the president of Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani, is joining me exclusively.

Mr. President, let me ask you a question that is on the minds of many people in the event, you know, given U.S. forces withdrawing, given potential Taliban resurgence, which is what happens to women in Afghanistan? Twenty years ago under the Taliban they couldn't go to school, they could barely leave their houses, they couldn't work. Women in Afghanistan today is in completely different position. There have been massive strides. Is there a danger of all of that being reversed?

GHANI: Well, of course, there is a risk but the women of Afghanistan, I'm very proud of, now speak for themselves, organize for themselves and have nation -- and have turned into a nationwide movement. If the Taliban wants to be stakeholders in the future, they need to recognize that women of Afghanistan aspire to the type of freedom that existed during the time of the prophet peace be upon him.

Don't forget, Khadija, the wife of the prophet, was one of the richest women on earth at that time. There is a culture of participation in commerce, in learning and literacy and others. So it's crucial that this game end as long as I have the honor of serving Afghanistan, every week, every day, you will see further steps for enhancing the role of the woman, in particularly the education of the girls and their vocational capabilities.

The women of Afghanistan, the young children whom I see regularly on presidential grounds, aspire to be presidents.


They're pilots, they're ambassadors, they're ministers, the horizon is open to them. This would be one of the greatest injustices in terms of human rights in history if we don't respect this and consolidate it.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the regional dynamic with U.S. forces withdrawing. Reports suggest that Pakistan has never really stopped supporting the Taliban, that the Taliban in fact during the negotiations in Doha, the Taliban representatives flew back and forth to Doha directly from Pakistan, not even bothering to pretend that they were as they used to do in the past.

Is Pakistan going to allow an independent neutral Afghanistan or are they likely to interfere and is that interference likely to be solidified by a very strong Chinese support?

GHANI: Well, first of all, it's a moment of choice for Pakistan. All its calculations have been wrong. Verbally the leaders of Pakistan all fortunately acknowledge that they do not want the Taliban government in Afghanistan, that they would like to see a peaceful, stable, democratic government in Afghanistan. We are key to their prosperity. You know, the rate of growth in Afghanistan could enhance by 2 percent in a stable and connected Afghanistan, we have to work together. So there are two options. When, when, when. Connect to Central Asia

through us, share in the joint prosperity through the partnership for peace, gain international credibility and support that they're all in need of, or opt for chaos. The country that would be most damaged by insecurity or a renewed civil war in Afghanistan is Pakistan. And in that case, it'd be a lose, lose, lose proposition.

ZAKARIA: It seems to be clear that Pakistan has chosen to ally with China in the emerging bipolar order. Has China decided that it will support Pakistan unyieldingly? Would China support a Taliban offensive of the kind you just described?

GHANI: No. China is going to have 16 -- estimated over 16 percent rate of growth. China, I believe, is not an interventionist power. It does not want to get engaged with military or proxy wars, and Pakistan in terms of its foreign policy obviously is hedging between China and other countries, because it is still, its reliance on the rest of the region is quite significant. Pakistan can become an anchor of regional stability if it opts for peace in regional cooperation.

The discourse of Pakistan has changed. There was a security conference in Islamabad where the talk is really significantly about harmony and cooperation. To expect that China, after the great COVID reset and the significant adverse impact will get involved in regional conflicts directly, I think is remote. Furthermore, we have a lot of positive relationship with China and the growth of China now is going to be the factor as growth of India for regional prosperity.

All of us, I think, are strong stakeholders not to get involved. And for Afghanistan, we do not want a replacement in terms of seeking to replace the United States and NATO with some form of patronage. We want to have multi-aligned policy where we are friends with everybody and not part of their quarrels, and hence our agenda of permanent neutrality that will benefit everybody.

ZAKARIA: Thank you, President Ghani, for that important conversation.

For more of it go to where you will hear President Ghani's eloquent message to America and specifically to the Americans who have served in Afghanistan over the last two decades.

Next on GPS, Donald Trump's National Security adviser H.R. McMaster and Barack Obama's National Security adviser Tom Donilon who disagree on Afghanistan and will also talk about Russia and more.



ZAKARIA: Moscow has amassed what Secretary of State Tony Blinken this week called the largest concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine's border since 2014. That was the year when Russia invaded Ukraine and took Crimea. The U.S. and its allies worry about what Moscow might be up to this time.

U.S. Army retired Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster joins me now. [10:30:00]

He was Donald Trump's second National Security adviser. He is the author of "Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World."

General McMaster, pleasure to have you on. Let me start with Afghanistan and ask, "You have been skeptical of attempts to make peace with the Taliban. You referred to them, when Donald Trump tried to do it after you left, as "a Munich-style appeasement."

What do you think of President Biden's plan for withdrawal?

H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. ARMY RETIRED LIEUTENANT GENERAL: Well, I think it's an utter disaster, Fareed. And I think what's worth pointing out is that we're engaged in an extraordinary degree of self-delusion, what I call on battlegrounds "strategic narcissism," the tendency to define the world only in relation to us and assume that what we do is decisive toward achieving a favorable outcome.

And this self-delusion about the Taliban includes this idea, you know, that the Taliban really wants to share power.

The Taliban, Fareed, is determined to re-impose the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. And we know the hell that would be for the Afghan people and the world because they did it between 1996 and 2001.

The second element of the self-delusion is that there is this bold line between the Taliban and other terrorist organizations. I mean, the Taliban operates in an area that is really a terrorist ecosystem that spans the Afghanistan and Pakistan border, which is what makes it the geostrategic as well as one of the ideological centers of the fight against jihadist terrorists.

And then, finally, there's this -- this idea that, if -- this narcissistic idea that if we -- if we disengage from a war, the war ends, as if the Taliban's going to look around and say, "Well, the Americans aren't here, you know, let's stop fighting."

It's worth pointing out, Fareed, that we have lost no soldiers over the last 12 months. The Afghans have lost over 4,000 of courageous soldiers and policemen trying to protect the freedoms that they've enjoyed since 2001.

I think that should count for something. And I think what's astounding and is a moral travesty as well as a strategic failure is that we're throwing them under the bus on the way out.

I mean, we made concession after concession. You know, we didn't -- we didn't insist on a cease-fire. We forced the Afghan government to release 5,000 of some of the most heinous people on earth. And -- and we've --we keep talking about, "Well, what more can the Afghan government do for peace?"

Well, hey, how about Haibatullah Akhunzada and The Taliban, who have stepped up assassinations and mass murder attacks across the country?

I mean, what about the Taliban's role in effecting peace?

It is an extraordinary reversal of morality, is what we're watching. And I think we saw it in the president's speech. Frankly, Fareed, I think I saw it in your opening as well. And, you know, when we -- we know already, in areas where the Taliban has been able to regain control, that they're closing girls' schools. They're flogging women publicly, you know, and how long is it before, you know, they start mass executions in the soccer stadiums again?

So I think it's a -- it is a -- it's a travesty, Fareed, that we're going to look back on with -- with shame.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, General, I asked President Ghani whether he thought the Taliban could take control of the country. And this is -- this is in the Web extra part of the interview.

But -- but his response, if I can summarize, was, "No, the Afghan National Army has been fighting 95 percent of the battle for the last few years, where, you know, we have a lot of support in the country; the Taliban is not that popular. And most importantly, unlike South Vietnam, the U.S. and NATO are not -- are not saying good-bye. They're going to continue to give us aid. They're going to continue to give us intelligence support.

So he seemed pretty confident that the Kabul government could hold. You seem more skeptical.

MCMASTER: Well, I think, if we do maintain that support, the Kabul government can hold, because people don't want to return to the Taliban.

I mean, think about what's happened in Afghanistan, Fareed, since 2001. This is another part of the story that I wish would receive more coverage.

Afghanistan has transformed since 2001. You know, Kabul has grown by -- by orders of magnitude. In a country where maybe there -- you know, where there were just a few phones because communication was so limited, everybody has a cell phone. It is the most open society in terms of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Now, of course, the Taliban hates this idea, right? This is why they're murdering journalists. This is why they attacked the American University of Afghanistan and gunned down young men and women who were trying to build a better future for their country.

So of course they deserve our support. If we provide that support, I believe that they can hold on. But of course, what we will see, at the very least, with the disengagement of some of our very important combat support to Afghans, is an intensification of the war and a return to violence, potentially on the scale of the civil war from '92 to '96, which, as you know, was devastating and created a refugee crisis of colossal scale.


It destabilized Pakistan as well, the country which, by the way, has nuclear weapons.

So the stakes, I think, are extremely high, Fareed. And -- and we're really not talking about the -- the war in a meaningful, accurate way. We are engaging in this strategic narcissism and self-delusion.

ZAKARIA: General McMaster, thank you for that powerful, intelligent critique.

From Donald Trump's national security adviser to Barack Obama's, I'll talk to Tom Donilon on why he disagrees with General McMaster on Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal.


ZAKARIA: My next guest is Tom Donilon. He was President Obama's national security adviser.

Tom, welcome. Let me ask you...


ZAKARIA: We've heard a lot about -- about Afghanistan from the point of view of national security, that the president has to think about. Is what is going on in Afghanistan worth the continuation of American military presence there?


Or is President Biden's decision correct?

DONILON: I think the decision is correct, Fareed. I listened carefully to my friend's H.R. McMaster's analysis, and I think what it would be, essentially, is a prescription for being at war with the Taliban without end, with no end point.

I think, if you step back and you sit with -- take the perspective of the president and you look at the global threat picture faced by the United States today, as it is today, not 20 years ago, and you take into account what we have accomplished in Afghanistan to address the Al Qaida and ISIS threat, you would not have a significant military presence continue in -- in -- in Afghanistan.

The threat, the terror threat, which is very real, and the -- Al Qaida and ISIS are the principle Sunni threats that we face in the world. They've dispersed geographically. It's not contained in just a single geographic area.

Additionally, Fareed, you know, the president uniquely is charged with making decisions about where men and women of the United States military forces are to be put at risk. And I think, in this case, to enter into a -- a conflict without end, to continue to try to find an elusive set of conditions for a full withdrawal, I don't think is in the United States' interest.

And it won't remain static. You know, H.R. -- General McMaster cited the fact that there hasn't been a U.S. troop kill since February of 2020. That's during the course of this negotiation between the Taliban, the United States and including the Afghan government.

That won't remain static, though. In fact, I think, if the United States made a decision and announced a decision to remain in a combat role in a military-deployed role in Afghanistan, you'd see an escalation.

And last I'd say, Fareed, we have the capability to deal with the threats that emerge from Afghanistan, or might emerge from Afghanistan. We have -- the capabilities that we've developed over the last 20 years are extraordinary with respect to intelligence and Over the Horizon military capabilities doctrine and weaponry. And I think we have the capability to deal with it should it arise.

At this point, you know, the intelligence assessment is, of course, that Al Qaida does not have the capability at this point to execute an external threat against the United States, but should that arise, the United States has the capability to do that.

You know, Bill Burns said the other day in front of the Congress that the United States would develop and we had the ability to develop the intelligence outlook to anticipate and contest Al Qaida if it should -- if it should try to reconstitute.

And the mission, I think, has changed in terms of its focus to a diplomatic humanitarian economic mission. There is leverage in that -- in that case.

So I think it's a -- it's the right decision, after 20 years of military operations. You know, there are limits, at the end of the day, that we've discovered with respect to what the United States military can accomplish with respect to the internal dynamics and conflicts and political challenges inside Afghanistan.

So I think it's -- it's a -- it's a realistic decision. I think it's the right decision. And again, to start -- to end where I started, if you take the lens back and you look at world; you look at the opportunities and challenges the United States has in the world today, you would not have -- you would not continue a military mission in -- in Afghanistan because you do have the capabilities to deal with the threat.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, Tom, about another thing that -- a big thing that has happened this week, which is the Russian amassing of forces on Ukraine, which happened at the same time that the United States has announced these sanctions against Russia.

Is -- are we spiraling downwards to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine? What do you think is going on?

DONILON: Well, as you said at the top of the segment, the Russians have, on the Crimea and Ukraine border, amassed as large a force as it had in 2014. The scale and the scope is -- is quite -- is quite similar.

Now, unlike 2014, they've made no effort to hide this build-up. Indeed they have in many ways, kind of, promoted this build-up. It's not clear what the -- what Russia's intentions are, whether it is to try to intimidate; whether it's to try to extract concessions from the Zelensky government with respect to Ukraine, whether it's to -- a show of force, whether it's an exercise.

It doesn't -- it's not routine, that's for certain, but it's not clear ultimately what the -- what the purpose is of the build-up or whether it's a preparation for a military action. Again, they're not -- they're not in any way trying to hide their build-up. So that would be -- I think you'd probably bet against that at this point, but it's not -- it's just not clear at this point.

But what I will say is this, Fareed, which is why it does -- it deserves close attention, because of its scale, but also because the fact is that Putin has shown a high tolerance for reckless behavior and risky behavior, you know, whether -- whether it be the invasion of Ukraine and the takeover of Crimea or interventions in the Middle East or 2020 election interference.


Putin has shown a high tolerance for risky behavior. And so I think it bears close watching. And we need to be clear about what the response would be by the United States and the world if in fact he engaged in a military action in and against Ukraine, which -- which would include, I think, a number of -- a number of, kind of, expanded sanctions, I think continued and expanded support of defensive military weaponry for the Ukrainians and other things.

But it bears close watching, for sure.

ZAKARIA: Tom Donilon, a pleasure to have you on. Thank you, sir.

Next on "GPS," will the world do anything about the spiraling violence and brutality in Myanmar, which is only getting worse?

I will talk to CNN's Clarissa Ward, who is in that country, when we come back.


ZAKARIA: Michelle Bachelet, the U.N.'s human rights chief, warned this week that Myanmar today reminds her of Syria at the beginning of its own horrific civil war.


She points to the brutality, the spiraling violence, and most importantly perhaps the world community's feeble response to both conflicts.

Is it a fair comparison? Will Myanmar become the next Syria?

Clarissa Ward is CNN's chief international correspondent and the author of "On All Fronts." She's a veteran Syria reporter who is recently back from Myanmar. She was granted access by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar's military, which seized power on February the 1st in a coup. Welcome, Clarissa.


ZAKARIA: So I know, you know, when you go into these kinds of circumstances, it's extraordinarily heroic, but you are often surrounded by government minders and security.

Were you able to get -- was there any point at which you felt as though you were able to get a sense of how people on the ground in Myanmar are reacting to this fairly brutal crackdown?

WARD: Well, our expectations were very limited for exactly the reasons you say. We were surrounded by minders, a convey of soldiers. We had plain-clothes security officers filming our every move. We had translators. You name it, we had it.

And so we didn't anticipate that we would be able to really interact with ordinary people. But we had this extraordinary moment where we finally were given permission just to shoot some video in a market, a simple ordinary market, simple ordinary people.

And within minutes of us taking out our camera, even though we were so clearly surrounded by security forces, one man flashed the three- finger "Hunger Games" salute. That salute has become the symbol of defiance against the military coup.

And then he came up to us. I asked him, "Why did you show us that gesture?" He said, "Because we want justice."

And then another man came up and said "We're not frightened."

And then another woman came up and said, "We want democracy. We don't want to go back to the dark age."

And there was this profoundly humbling and moving moment where I suddenly heard the entire market was galvanized with the sound of people banging pots and pans. That's of course a, sort of, old tradition to ward off evil spirits, but it's become the signature sound of resistance in Myanmar.

And I was so struck by the extraordinary courage of people who were able to demand democracy and dignity, even standing right in front of our junta minders and guards.

ZAKARIA: Now, we do know that the Chinese and the Russians have supported the military. What's striking to me is, even the -- the neighboring democracies like India and Indonesia have not raised any protests. It seems as though the -- the military has the external support that they need, or certainly no -- no real external pressure.

WARD: And that's why people were so desperate to talk to us. Because there is a sense of crushing disappointment from the people in Myanmar that the international community is not able to act in concert and condemn universally what's happening and essentially put a stop to it. This is to be expected, many would say, of China and Russia. We've

seen them adopt this kind of a stance to hamstring the U.N. Security Council before. But as you said, it's those Southeast nations -- Southeast Asian nations that I think have also generated a huge amount of disappointment, people really wanting to see them come out and condemn the violence, condemn the coup.

They're not seeing that. And that's exactly why they're losing hope in the process of the international community being able to do anything to remedy this situation.

ZAKARIA: So I want to ask you about that comparison to Syria, because one of the reasons that Syria became so very bloody was that the regime and others exploited the many deep cleavages within Syrian society between the Allawites and the Sunnis, between the Islamists and ISIS and the secularists.

Myanmar has lots of ethnic diversity, lots of different groups, and of course the Rohingya. Is it likely -- do you -- can you imagine a kind of downward spiral where these -- where it becomes, you know, really a kind of all-against-all civil war?

WARD: I can, but not exactly for the reasons that you're describing. And there's no question that actually the Tatmadaw tried to exploit some of those divisions and tried to woo some of these ethnic groups. That appears to have backfired, and they're not playing ball.

But when I look at the scenes that I saw of ordinary people who are basically willing to risk everything, march into a hail of bullets, to demand democracy and to demand dignity, and when I look at a regime that is essentially willing to kill its way into victory, to destroy its own country to protect its own interests.


And then you also have the complexity of many different ethnic groups -- and on top of that, the sort of ineffectiveness of the international community standing on the sidelines ringing its hands, issuing statements and condemnations but not really being able to effect any forceful kind of robust action, that is what makes my stomach drop and my heart ache, when I think of the potential for Myanmar to devolve into a bloody civil war along the lines of Syria.

ZAKARIA: Powerful and courageous reporting. Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.

WARD: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.