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Fmr. chief of staff to Colin Powell Lawrence Wilkerson discusses the recent killing of a U.S. General by an Afghan insider and the mess America will leave behind after its withdrawal

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Wilkerson Report.

Now joining us is Larry Wilkerson. He is the former chief of staff of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and he’s currently an adjunct professor at the college of William & Mary. And he’s also a regular contributor to The Real News.

Thanks for joining us, Larry.


DESVARIEUX: So, Larry, a lot of of news breaking over this general that was killed in Afghanistan. What do you make of this? What does this say about our ability to actually transition power over to the Afghans?

WILKERSON: General Greene was the deputy commander of the Combined Security Transition Command, which is the entity that is supposed to effect the transition of power from essentially the U.S. to the Afghan government, such as it will be, I hope. And he was an engineer by training. So here you have a specialist who is there probably to do the kinds of things that engineers do to make sure that the institutional infrastructure of Kabul and elsewhere as could be impacted was ready, ready for the new leadership in Afghanistan, ready for the UnitedStates to minimize its presence.

So the fact that he was killed, tactically speaking, doesn’t say much, except that we still have an inability to weed out the security threats within the Afghan forces–forces, incidentally, of course, that we’ve trained. This individual I think we had had in the forces for a couple of years before he got into the bathroom with his service weapon and dispatched some 15 or 16 people, either killing them or wounding them. This is an indicator strategically that we have not, as we did not do in Iraq with Iraqi forces, train them very well or instilled in them the kind of patriotism, the kind of desire to protect Afghanistan and the central government in Kabul that should have been there, if it could in any event be instilled in them. I suspect it probably couldn’t.

So this is going to be a difficult transition, to say the least. And it’s up in the air, I think, as to what Afghanistan looks like in a year or so. My guess right now would be it will look a lot like Iraq does today–a real mess, a mess that in part we are responsible for.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah. And can you elaborate a little bit more about our level of responsibility there?

WILKERSON: We spent so much money, Jessica, in Afghanistan and in Iraq that we could probably have given every Iraqi citizen and every Afghan citizen somewhere in the neighborhood of a annual wage or better had we just handed it over and left. I daresay that might have made a more prosperous Afghanistan and people who are more interested in a central government. It could not have possibly done any worse than we have done. Much of the money we paid out, billions of dollars, approaching $2-3 trillion now, I’m told by people who ought to know, went to U.S. contractors, and U.S. personnel in general, who were more or less more interested in profit than they were in helping Afghanistan. So you combine that with a really poor strategy from the start with regard to any kind of counterinsurgency, where you’d need a density of forces that is so enormous, few nations could even afford to put them on the ground in any country with a significant population and you have a United States that has halfheartedly–foolheartedly, we might say–lingered in Afghanistan for a decade plus and who’s going to pay for that by seeing not much change once it leaves. Sad though that prognosis might be, I fear it’s closer to the truth than any optimistic prognosis.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Larry Wilkerson, thanks you so much for joining us.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Jessica.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Lawrence Wilkerson

Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy

Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel, and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.