An important discussion with Steve Coll about his new book Directorate S at the Cato Institute in Washington DC on 20 March 2018.
Aired on Aaj TV Pakistan February 2, 2018.
Commenting on a BBC study, which claimed that the Taliban is still openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan, Shuja Nawaz, Distinguished Fellow at the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, told Sputnik about the chances of beating this militant group.
NOTE; SERIOUS TRANSCRIPTION ERRORS! LISTEN TO ACTUAL RECORDING BELOW! SHUJA NAWAZ
Sputnik: Some experts have said that Trump’s comments suggest that he sees a military victory over the Taliban, do you think this is likely?
Shuja Nawaz: The military doctrine has not been defined by anyone so we don’t know what the criteria will be that will be applied to victory in Afghanistan.
We had much reduced the US presence and even with the mini-surge, it’s not going to be more than a fraction of what a total of 150,000-odd US and coalition forces were at the peak.
So it’s not clear what it is meant by a military victory. The only change that has occurred is the fact that for the first time the United States is not declaring any date for exiting the country.
That is what deepened the Taliban engaged in the fight because the principal demand is that the United States and coalition forces should leave Afghanistan and that demand has been satisfied with the fact that the US is now staying there indefinitely.
Sputnik: What can you say about the effectiveness of the US policies and what do you think is their aim in currently keeping their presence in the country?
Shuja Nawaz: This has been the issue of the US war in Afghanistan, the so-called forever war. The aims have been shifting overtime and it’s not clear what the aim is this time.
If the aim is to restore the sovereignty of the Afghan government and to assist in providing governance of overall territory, then that it can only be done by working with the Afghan government and the regional governments.
And the regional part of the American strategy is not yet fully articulated. There is very little effort, for instance, to draw Iran into the process because if you look at the map, a substantial proportion of the territory Taliban controlled and even the ISIS (Daesh) is in the Iranian sphere of influence. It is not bordering Pakistan.
So there’s a need to bring Iran into the process and Iran would want a stable Afghanistan on its border so it can also prevent the outflow of narcotics into Iran which has been initially prevented.
Russia needs to be involved [because] it has expressed its desire to be a partner in this process and it has actually hosted some meetings [on the matter]. China needs to be involved because it has huge investments in Afghanistan and also has partnership relationship with Pakistan.
The views and opinions expressed by Shuja Nawaz are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik’s position.
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