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  August 22, 2017

Is Trump Threatening Pakistan?


Junaid Ahmad of the Center for Global Dialogue and Paul Jay discuss Trump's speech on the war in Afghanistan
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biography

Junaid Ahmad is the Director of Center for Global Dialogue and Professor of Middle Eastern Politics at the University of Lahore, Pakistan. He is also the Secretary-General of the International Movement for a Just World based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and a Visiting Fellow at the Berkeley Center for Islamophobia and Ethnic Studies Graduate Center.


transcript

Is Trump Threatening Pakistan?PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. We're live on TheRealNews.com and Facebook and YouTube, and maybe some other places as well. We're going to continue the discussion we've been having today about President Trump's supposed new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. One of the things that I guess stood out most to me and I think the thing that was perhaps a little bit new, because the rest wasn't very new. The rest was a continuing war without end in Afghanistan. If the objective is a time when the Taliban are going to give up or be defeated, that is almost I think the same thing as saying endless war and Trump has committed himself to that.

What might be new is the rhetoric about Pakistan. Some very well direct threats to Pakistan, accusing it of creating safe havens for the Taliban and an added little notch of pressure on Pakistan, an invitation to India to come and invest and participate in economic development, which is something Pakistan would essentially consider bringing an enemy into the situation or further into the situation. Here's a couple of clips from Trump, so first of all, this clip four, guys. Let's start with that.

DONALD TRUMP: The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists. In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies.

The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices, but Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting, but that will have to change. That will change immediately.

PAUL JAY: So now joining us from Pakistan to talk about Trump's new strategy as he calls it, for Afghanistan, is Junaid Ahmad. He's the director of the Center for Global Dialogue and professor of Middle Eastern politics at the University of Lahore, Pakistan. He's also the secretary general of the International Movement for a Just World, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and a visiting fellow at the Berkeley Center for Islamophobia and Ethnic Studies Graduate Center. Thanks very much for joining us, Junaid.

JUNAID AHMAD: Great to be with you, Paul.

PAUL JAY: It's a little ironic that Trump can point all these things out about Pakistan, creating a safe haven and such and as far as I know it's true. I also think it's true that Pakistan's been very involved in nurturing and developing the Taliban. On the other hand, Pakistan's been doing this in collaboration with Saudi Arabia and Trump was just making love to the Saudis, so the whole thing is just riddled with kind of contradictions, but what did you make of it?

JUNAID AHMAD: Right, I think this is an old story being recycled once again. I mean I think we've now been hearing this for many years. It, of course, this mantra was repeated so many times during the Obama administration and when the Pentagon and the CIA would constantly be pressuring Obama to denounce the Pakistanis for not doing enough and then being in cahoots, which is probably all true, and would in some way or the other try to punish the Pakistanis, but the aid kept coming in to the Pakistani military.

I think that right now, there's geopolitically in the region, we are seeing the Trump administration, well I mean for all practical purposes, the military making a decision that now we're going to go in, in a big way, and the relationship with New Delhi, with India has deepened so significantly that they are really going to count on it as its principle ally, not only of course [inaudible] now against Pakistan and as its partner in crime in Afghanistan. I think the geopolitics of the region are very important in understanding this kind of dramatic re-escalation, recycling of the old threats against Pakistan.

PAUL JAY: Yeah, it's a very dangerous situation. Two nuclear powers, Pakistan and India, whose elites, I don't know so much about the peoples, but the elites are sworn enemies. Let me play, I'll play the clip from Trump where he invites India into the situation. I think this is new. Of course India's been playing a role in Afghanistan and has obviously been in a US-India, very closer cooperation over the years. It's not new, but this level of open rhetoric about India, it's a kind of pressure on Pakistan I don't think any administration has done before. Anyway, here's the clip from Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: We appreciate India's important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

PAUL JAY: Now just to add to the complication for people who don't follow this region, because it's one of the more complicated politics, geopolitics on the planet. Within hours of Trump's speech, the Chinese foreign minister announced there's continued support for Pakistan and then the two, the Chinese and the Pakistani foreign minister together reaffirmed their support for something called a trilateral committee, which is a Chinese mediated committee with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

China's a major player in Pakistan, so you got to wonder, is the military actually thinking, and Trump, about the whole geopolitics of this in the sense that at least with all these billions of dollars they give to the Pakistani military, Pakistan is dependent on the US. If you start threatening that money, then Pakistan gets even closer to China, and I'm reading in Dawn newspaper, people are even talking about, well Pakistan should use this moment, not only to strengthen the alliance with China and Russia, but should also build a stronger alliance with Iran.

JUNAID AHMAD: Absolutely. I think that, Paul, let's go back to the point you made earlier. Pakistan, the alliance with Saudi Arabia, now the important point for our listeners is this probably, there area couple of significant developments, which are marking various shifts in local geopolitics. I think it began, a very important point was in March 2015, when the Pakistani military, for the first time ever, had the courage to say no to the Saudis in being willing to, being willing to participate in their war against Yemen, which is an excellent decision they made to not participate in this murderous war.

Now you have to understand that the Pakistani military has in the past almost served as a mercenary army for many of these Gulf regimes and has been part of this axis of kind of the US, Saudi and before that the Cold War framework of non-Arab regimes in the region trying to maintain that architecture of control. Turkey, Pakistan, Iran before of course the Iranian revolution.

Now Pakistan is not longer the same Pakistan of the Cold War, and what we have seen post-9/11 is a strengthening of an old relationship that is with China, and now we're at a point where the Pakistani military literally is getting the type of basically money that it has been getting from Washington. It's no longer beholden to Washington in the way that it has been in the past.

These are interesting developments and I think that the Pentagon and the CIA realize this. This is why they're kind of going all out in making India their frontline state. We have been now witnessing border skirmishes between India and China, which are also reaching you know some dangerous levels, over the past few months. Now that on the one hand going on, and you're absolutely right to emphasize this kind of very complicated region. I'm half my time based in Malaysia and if you see it from there, where you have US naval ships and military bases encircling China, you understand fully well why the relationship with India right now is so crucial in the geopolitics of the region and why they want India to play that role in Afghanistan. It's the only kind of trusted ally. From China's part, one thing people fail to realize. The most powerful ally that China probably has in the world, closest ally, is Pakistan. It's a mutually dependent relationship.

PAUL JAY: Including a major naval and shipping base. It's becoming a big naval base.

JUNAID AHMAD: Absolutely. Absolutely. The billions being invested to build this port in Gwadar, in Pakistan would be a major accomplishment for the Chinese, especially in the case of a major conflict where they're choked in the South China Sea and elsewhere. These are all the geopolitics of the region that do explain why I think that Washington is becoming more bellicose, is more willing to kind of once again call out the Pakistanis but they're doing it now almost because the Pakistanis really at this point don't really care as much because they're getting the full backing of Beijing.

PAUL JAY: Well obviously the analysis we're doing here, they did in the Pentagon, and they did it around ...

JUNAID AHMAD: Right.

PAUL JAY: Trump. Given how close the relationship between Pakistan and China's getting, and clearly Pakistan is, we should say as far as, and correct me if I'm wrong, but in the broadest sense of the word, the Taliban, there's one that active in Pakistan that's actually fighting against the Pakistani government. Although even there, much of the military is actually, has connections and relationships with that section of the Taliban and even al Qaeda. Then you have what people are calling the Afghan Taliban, which has been more of less the tool of the Pakistani intelligence agencies and military. But this is nothing new. This goes back, back to 2001.

JUNAID AHMAD: This goes back a long way, but Paul, if you'll let me just make some slight friendly amendments to that.

PAUL JAY: Oh please.

JUNAID AHMAD: The current formation, what we can call the Afghan Taliban, it would more accurately be described, I mean including across the border. We always have to remind our listeners that these are very porous borders. These are very artificial divisions between the tribes on the both sides, which is essentially the same very large Pashtun tribe. That drawn line was an artificial line created by the British.

What we call the Taliban, it has taken on a religious vocabulary in its resistance, but it's for all matters, practical purposes, it's the ethnic Pashtun resistance to foreign occupation, which has expressed itself over centuries to whatever foreign occupier has come. We also have to be very careful in Afghanistan when we use the term Taliban in how we, what we mean by it because it's clearly a resistance that has spread beyond the frontiers, and the new forms of the Taliban are not entirely under the control of Islamabad.

I can tell you that. What we can say, certainly say is that elements of it, including the Haqqani network, which has been the most formidable part of its resistance, definitely received shelter across the border, a very porous border. If it was active support, the way that they received in the nineties to get them into power, you would see far more casualties in Afghanistan against the Afghan forces and foreign forces. It's not that level of support that the Pakistanis gave them in the nineties, and I'm not sure if the Pakistanis want another, that type of regime in Kabul. They can't handle that.

One can say that certainly shelter on the Pakistani side. As far as the Pakistani Taliban, I think it's also becoming very, very clear that the Pakistani state has certainly undertaken actions against many of these groups. Some of these groups, you are correct. They still maintain links with primarily not so much for Afghanistan, but actually for Kashmir and India, that they maintain some links with. The context is very important because of the level of infrastructural development, investment that the Chinese are doing in Pakistan.

The irony right now is that it's not been 10, 15 years of Washington's pressuring on Pakistan of going after some of these groups. It's more coming now from Beijing that really want the kind of the domestic train cleaned up from these characters so that meaningful development and infrastructure can be laid out.

PAUL JAY: Well do you think some of the between the lines threat to Pakistan is not just about Afghanistan in terms of fighting the Taliban, but is it you're going to play such footsie with China and defy what we want in this region we're really going to bring India into Afghanistan, which is what you were scared of in the first place, Pakistan. It's one of the reasons you brought the Taliban into being, was to make sure you could control the trade routes and such and not have too much Indian influence. Is Trump threatening this Indian alliance to kind of cut back Pakistan's relationship with China? Whether that's possible is another question.

JUNAID AHMAD: Right. Absolutely. Well, this is the dangerous game being played amongst all, I mean we have to remember all of these are nuclear powers. I think sometimes because of the level of chaos and violence and sheer, the extent of the brutality that's occurred indirectly in the Middle East and West Asia, Iraq, Syria and so on, we kind of forget that okay, now we're dealing with a region that all of these countries have nuclear powers. It can very quickly escalate into something completely catastrophic.

I think that this is part of the game, I mean that's been going on for a long time. I was listening to the interview with a good friend, Phyllis Bennis earlier, but this is, this is not, this is nothing new. This goes back to the eighties. This goes back to a relationship and even post eighties and in the 1990s. The way we see kind of the US arming to the teeth the Gulf countries, we've seen the same thing with India and Pakistan, more than willing to sell arms and so on. The nuclear program of Pakistan completely turned a blind eye toward-

PAUL JAY: I spent some time reading the defense military industrial complex newspapers where they kind of talk to each other, and they're just, what's the word? Salivating at the kind of arms sales that are going to be coming out of India.

JUNAID AHMAD: Yeah. Oh absolutely. Absolutely right. Yeah, I think that that's part of it. I think that if they can continue to also make India believe itself as the great local hegemonic power, that is their frontline state against China, Pakistan and its partner in Afghanistan, sort of its own ego boost, which has already been very big in the region against an even more boost. Therefore just like the idiotic Saudis and so on, they will then buy more American arms, and that's how this whole kind of cottage industry of the arms industry works.

PAUL JAY: Oh way beyond cottages, but I know what you mean.

JUNAID AHMAD: Right. Right.

PAUL JAY: What do you ... I mean maybe in Trump's view of the world cottages, but no. What is Pakistani public opinion reacting to Trump's speech. I've looked a little bit at the Dawn newspaper, a Pakistani paper, and pretty well every article is just outraged and saying, okay. The hell with the Americans.

JUNAID AHMAD: Yeah. I mean I think that ... I think that that sentiment, as Phyllis and others have noted, has been very high in Pakistan for a while. Since 2001, I mean, whether from the public, from the elite, from the military establishment and so on. The type of pressure that has been placed on Pakistan ... You know, for better or worse, I mean immense internal problems in this country but the level of suicide bombings and terrorist acts that actually arose in this country when the Pakistani military decided to actually go and undertake the operations in the northern areas, on behalf of the United States, I mean that was unprecedented in the country.

I mean there's no way one could not link the two developments. The Pakistani military going in and waging war on its own populations in the northwest and the rise in terrorism and suicide bombings and the emergence of more and more of these characters undertaking these actions.

This whole, the selling of the military solution to all of these problems has been detested by the vast majority of the Pakistanis, and which is why I think what Trump has suggested now will also be held quite in contempt by, I mean all sections of Pakistani society. As far as the Pakistani establishment, it is now finally getting the chance to say probably what it's wanted to say for a long time, and that is that to hell with this. We're going to do what we want to do. We've actually been doing it but not saying it, but now we probably will even say it publicly, because they really are not in that position that they are so beholden to Washington the way they were before.

PAUL JAY: In terms of the role of the generals in Afghanistan, I've seen the critique of the Pakistani generals, and the generals are not so beloved in Pakistan either. Maybe people hate the Americans more but it's not like the generals who more or less control power in Pakistan for decades are so popular. I heard one comment I thought was interesting, which is that our military men should be less interested in strategic depth in Afghanistan, which is the nice military term for supporting the Taliban and should be more interested in the defense of the people of Pakistan. That you don't need this big control of Afghanistan to deal with the real problems facing the people of Pakistan. What do you make of that?

JUNAID AHMAD: Well I mean this is of course an important point. The tragedy and the curse that's been on Pakistan, Paul, has been that every ... I mean the face of "liberal democracy," and civilian democracy in Pakistan has been abysmal. We've had a situation in which the two main political parties have just played a game of musical chairs over the past two decades in basically looting and plundering the country, so that when a general comes to power, people are not on the streets trying to defend civilian democracy. It doesn't really matter to them.

This is the problem we've confronted over the past few decades. Now you'll be familiar, just a few weeks ago, Narwaz Shareef, the Prime Minister was removed from power because of corruption charges. Again, there is a sentiment that we need to continue to deepen the democratic process, but clearly the politicians, civilian politicians are probably more detested right now than, than the army generals.

It's a question of who's hated more, but both are hated. They have been partners in crime rather than any sort of principled antagonist of each other. Particularly I'm talking about the politicians. The reason why the generals sometimes come out looking good is because the politicians are so horribly corrupt and often sell themselves so easily. I mean the late Benazir Bhutto, daughter, so called daughter of the East and beloved of the West, she was willing to go so far as to basically give access to Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Something very ... Whatever our position is on it, but within the Pakistani populace, I mean a very kind of unpopular position because it serves as a deterrent factor.

This is the situation we're confronted with, in which one can certainly imagine in the heightened, dangerous geopolitical situation in the area, the generals in Pakistan could very easily shore up support for why the national security imperatives of the moment require them to be in charge. Now that doesn't mean directly in charge, but just kind of on matters of defense and foreign policy and so on, be completely in charge.

PAUL JAY: Okay. I got a question from James Allow. He's on YouTube. I'm kind of paraphrasing, but do you think this language about Pakistan is mostly a threat or could you actually see a complete US disassociation with Pakistan in favor of India?

JUNAID AHMAD: Yeah, no I think this is very unhelpful language. This has been going on, Paul, as you know for so long, and that only increases the animosity in this country. Pakistan is a threat, Pakistan's nuclear ... I mean Pakistan's Taliban have, I mean they are nowhere near the nuclear weapons. The Pakistani military has been cooperating with the US for a long time. So many Pakistanis are in the US and so on.

The language, and particularly the lens of security through which Pakistan has been seen, particularly since post-9/11, has only inflamed the animosity here and the tensions. Add to that the relationship with India in which the past ...

PAUL JAY: Let me, let me just ask a question about that.

JUNAID AHMAD: Sure.

PAUL JAY: I mean, as far as I know, and we've been covering the Pakistan story since, almost since we came into being in 2007. We had a journalist who worked with us there who was assassinated by the ISI because he was reporting how much the ISI and sections of the Pakistan military were actually involved with the Taliban and al Qaeda. Why does it inflame Pakistani public opinion, if much of this stuff is true?

JUNAID AHMAD: Well one thing, Paul, to remember and I think the Osama story is a perfect example of this. When Western coverage all of a sudden comes down and says what was Osama doing there? Very legitimate question to ask, what was he doing there? They kind of don't want to address the question of how did he get here in the first place and how long has he actually been here? Is it just now? That when it's politically convenient to go out and assassinate and win brownie points for a domestic American audience or to kind of do a historical analysis of how ...

PAUL JAY: Uh oh. We just lost Junaid. Hang on. We're going to try to get him back on as soon as we can. Let me see. There are some questions here. Let me see if I can ... Here's a question. Why do we never appeal directly with the people? We create such animosity with such threats. That's from Carol on Facebook.

I mean I'll try to answer and I'll ask Junaid. Hopefully we'll get him back soon. Well because American government kind of doesn't much care what the American people say either, I would say. Why were they going to care what the Pakistani people say? I think it's very important that these differences, these contradictions between say the American elites and the Pakistani elites and the Afghan elites, the Indians, you know their interests converge and diverge, but when they do have differences, it's differences amongst the elites. There's no basic difference in the interests of the Pakistani people, the India people to start with, the Afghan people and then the American people.

Most Americans don't benefit from the military industrial complex. I mean some do. Some have jobs and yeah, they make a point of making sure that they manufacture weapons I think in virtually every state in the country, so they get a certain amount of electoral support, but there's study after study that shows that public money that goes into military spending is far less effective in creating employment than putting it into for example schools or other kinds of public ventures.

The real, the people that really reap the benefits from this kind of a foreign policy is base, military industrial complex and the people that own that. Obviously the fossil fuel industry, especially in the Middle East, has enormous influence on foreign policy. Has great interest, not just to the Saudis but as we've been reporting on the real news there's a lot of I think evidence that there may be another incursion, American incursion into Iraq. One of the reasons to get the oil, as Trump has said openly. He went to the CIA and spoke right after he was inaugurated and told the CIA we'll have a second chance.

I don't suppose we got that CIA clip really handy do we? No? Okay. Well we've played it a few times. We'll later play it again. The question is why do we never appeal to the people? Because it's not about the people. All the language about democracy and all the language ... I mean, I can remember early on, after 9/11, when America, Bush was getting ready to send troops to Afghanistan. He had this big campaign which was every child in America should send $1 to this address at the White House and this fund would go to help the children of Afghanistan.

Well, nobody ever heard anything about that again, and I expect some money actually was sent. I've been trying for, what is it? 16 years, to figure out where that money went. I haven't been able to find it, but to give you an example of what the kids of Afghanistan were facing, and it hasn't changed after 16 years of occupation. When I was filming Return to Kandahar, which is a documentary I made in the spring of 2002 in Afghanistan ... We're going to play this in the next day or two. We'll make it available on our site.

We were about to leave after about six weeks in Afghanistan and we were in Musharraf-I-sharif and we were driving past the main mosque and we kind of stopped to take some final photographs. While we were there, taking our photographs, we saw an older beggar started screaming at a maybe 11 year old kid who was begging because he had gotten into his sort of territory of begging. The kid wouldn't leave.

The older guy takes his crutch and smashes the kid in the head and opens his forehead up. We went and grabbed the kid, took him to a hospital. They started just bandaging his head. I said, "Well, where's the suture? You can't ..." He's got this great big hole, a gash in his head and through a translator obviously, but the doctor says to me, "Well, we don't have suture." You have to actually go to the pharmacy and buy the suture and bring it back and get stitched up, but because he was a beggar boy, they assumed he would never be able to go buy some suture and get stitched up.

Of course, we bought the suture and he got stitched up. That's the level of things in Afghanistan. We interviewed Phyllis earlier ... Oh we got our disc. Well let me just finish the story. Infant mortality rates, amongst the worst in the world. Decades, 16, 17, going on 17 years of American occupation and the living standards, the conditions facing people are certainly no better and in many cases might even be worse.

This idea that why don't they talk to the people? Because well it's never about the people. It's about differences amongst the elites and it's about, very banal, it's about making money. Okay Junaid's back with us. Are you there?

JUNAID AHMAD: Hey sorry about that Paul.

PAUL JAY: No problem.

JUNAID AHMAD: Sorry about that.

PAUL JAY: I've been blabbing a little bit. I don't know if you know. I made a film in Afghanistan called Return to Kandahar. I was there in the spring of 2002.

JUNAID AHMAD: Yes.

PAUL JAY: I was telling people a bit about it. All right. So let me give you a question. Well I'm not sure if we finished this one. I think we got cut off. They're asking whether you can imagine the Americans completely cutting with Pakistan and just full blown alliance with India?

JUNAID AHMAD: Right.

PAUL JAY: So what do you think of that? Is that ... How real ...

JUNAID AHMAD: Yeah. Well I mean, things are going in that direction. Even at the peak of the crises taking place during the past, since 9/11 and the US invasion of Afghanistan, you had moments, 2010, 11, 12, the Raymond Davis issue, Osama issue, the Pakistanis had blocked ... One of the things that they've been most dependent, the US NATO forces in Afghanistan is supply lines that go, only exclusively through Pakistan to actually get to Afghanistan.

There's been this and that, and there's been a lot of talk about it, but Pakistan is very central player in that region. I mean, unfortunately we have so many now forces involved in profiting from maintaining this conflict or at least low intensity conflict. We were talking earlier about the arms industry. One doesn't see how this is going to unfold.

I think that a clear break from Pakistan at this point is not feasible for the US. I think, but I do think that there can be actions. Again, the law of unintended consequences, when you're going to be speaking about the language of the ... Okay, one thing is stopping aid. Another thing will be, as you were discussing with Phyllis. Jeremy Scales written about this. If you once again ratchet up the special forces type of incursions into Pakistani territory itself ... Drones are one thing. To have drone attacks, which you can, but if you have those types of things, I think you will see Pakistani soldiers fighting back.

I think at that point, that would be a tipping point in which the historic kind of unity and discipline of the Pakistani military may start to rattle as well because I don't think we are at a point where they would tolerate that.

PAUL JAY: Carol, again on Facebook. In fact, she writes again. Again, she sent a few questions. She says, "Well what are the solutions?" I think first of all something you just said is really important. I think to a large extent, the status quo in Afghanistan is the objective, the American objective.

JUNAID AHMAD: Yeah.

PAUL JAY: Ongoing endless "low intensity war." Maybe low intensity for American troops. There's a lot of Afghan civilians dying.

JUNAID AHMAD: Right.

PAUL JAY: It's no so low intensity for them.

JUNAID AHMAD: For them.

PAUL JAY: But from the point of view of American policy, these kinds of wars can go on a long time and a lot of people make a lot of money at them. That's one thing, but there's also another part of this. When I was in Afghanistan and I've talked to Afghans since, they have said it's not so simple as the Americans just getting out because what they're saying is, one RAWO takes this position, the Revolutionary Afghan Women's Organization, and others. The Taliban are essentially fascists, and you, America, it was your policy that created them. It was your whole policy of sucking the Russians in that created, armed these backward jihadists in the countryside.

We had, you know, this film I made, Return to Kandahar, Nelofer Pazira is the main purpose that we follow in the documentary. When she went to school in Kabul, she wore blue jeans. She said people would be laughed out of the school if they came in burkas. It was becoming a modern, in terms of natural development, a normal modern capitalist place. American policy destroys all of that, and they say you can't just leave at this point. You're going to leave us to these fascists that you helped give birth to.

JUNAID AHMAD: Right.

PAUL JAY: On the other hand, the war has to end because people are, they can't go on. You can't live in a country that's endless war. It's a real rock and hard place here.

JUNAID AHMAD: No. Absolutely. There's no doubt about that. This is a country that's now suffered two, three decades of ongoing war. Generations are growing up amidst war. The Taliban itself, forget about the original mujahideen, horrible fascist warriors. Many of the Taliban were actually orphan students who were just going to madrasahs in Pakistan and so on, but trained and that's why they became such a vehicle for the Pakistanis to implant within Kabul, because they were many of them orphan kids from the wars in Afghanistan.

It's just been an utter mess. But I think that at this point, I mean, any pretense of kind of development, democracy, any humanitarian pretense, that is just being dispensed with with Trump and the military high command sitting in Washington. They are just, I mean right now it seems like we need to defeat any resistance to our control and domination of the country and we have to start to begin, and this is absolutely, I mean ridiculous and absurd.

The way the country's president is selling himself is that well you have to stay, not only to protect me but there's great mineral wealth here to be exploited as well. Forget the horrible plight of the ... I mean in none of the discussions here is the horrible plight of the Afghan population. I'm saying to you, Paul, that when people are saying that these, whether they're US troops or a lot of mercenary and these private security firms, none of them are coming to protect Afghans and their lives. There's a whole bunch of motivations, and this is not one of them. I think that ...

PAUL JAY: And that never has been for one day.

JUNAID AHMAD: Never has been. Never has been. This is about, from day one it was a war of revenge and it was a war to project American, a declining US empire, but a very kind of dangerous one, to project its influence in a regions where, bordering Iran, China, Russia. These rivals, so having kind of projecting its power in this area, Central Asia and so on. That's what it's been about and if it can do it now by exploiting mineral wealth locally and continuing the arms.

This is what it's all about. This does nothing for the Afghan people. I think the only solution was something that has been explored over in early this year. The Russians tried to get together the regional actors in the region because it must be a regional solution. Every regional power has a horse in this race, which makes this complicated and so unending. They knew that they have to have a regional solution. The Americans didn't come and their response was to unleash the mother of all bombs in Afghanistan. That was their response to the type of diplomatic negotiations taking place between the regional powers.

That in my mind, Paul, seems to be the only solution, workable solution to attempt to end this conflict, is if you bring in all the regional actors that have some horse in the race. You know, people complain about Pakistan and then the Taliban and the Haqqani network. Well Pakistan is next door, Pakistan has hosted millions upon millions of Afghan refugees in its country. You have countries thousands of miles away supporting forces in Afghanistan. What gives them the right to tell Pakistan not to interfere?

You know, it's the same story in Iraq, right? When the Bush administration would complain about the Iranians or the Syrians or whoever interfering in Iraq, while they have 500,000 heavily armed tourists there in Iraq. I mean it's the same, it's the same story. This has to be a regional solution. It has to be a regional solution.

PAUL JAY: Stephanie on Facebook asks the question which I think is, it's actually so important. I don't know why, in the mainstream press almost never gets talked about when discussing the geopolitics of all this. She says, "How does the opium economy fall into this?" It is, something like 65% or more of Afghan's GDP and anyone that knows about the poppy/heroin/opium trade in Afghanistan, this stuff's coming out in industrial size containers.

JUNAID AHMAD: Oh yeah.

PAUL JAY: This doesn't happen without the American drones and the American military. Of course Afghans. I mean everybody's kind of in on this at one level or another and it's an enormous amount of money. It's not just about the guns.

JUNAID AHMAD: Oh absolutely. I mean that's a long story, but I mean when they initially, the Taliban came to power, they had to a significant extent, which is why they also, a lot of opposition arose to them, not only for their very kind of medieval fascistic policies, vis a vie women and others but also because many of the other warlords were profiting from the opium trade, detested their kind of initial complete ban on the opium. Now of course, the Taliban themselves also benefit immensely from this, as do many other warlord in [crosstalk 00:41:43]

PAUL JAY: Stephanie makes the point that some ordinary people benefit because at least it gives them a living.

JUNAID AHMAD: Oh, absolutely.

PAUL JAY: She says that some civilians don't have to sell their daughters now because at least they can make a living out of the poppy trade.

JUNAID AHMAD: No question about it Paul. Because they, no other ... I mean, and now the exploitation, what they will put Afghans work in is to kind of go into the mines to get all of these minerals, et cetera. Decent kind of sustainable local agriculture, totally not invested in. Totally not supported, but it's just for these other types of things.

PAUL JAY: All right, well this has been a great conversation. If you're willing to, I think maybe every week or two we could come back and have something with live and people ask questions. Is that something you would ...?

JUNAID AHMAD: Absolutely.

PAUL JAY: Yeah. All right well that's great.

JUNAID AHMAD: No, no. Now that I'm back in Pakistan, Paul, this is good. Now I'm on the ground here, so I can give you kind of the local pulse every week.

PAUL JAY: That sounds great. Well thanks for joining us.

JUNAID AHMAD: Wonderful. My pleasure Paul. Thanks for having me.

PAUL JAY: And thank you at home for joining us on The Real News live.



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