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Munizae Jahangir: US failed to build democratic institutions and now talks to the Taliban

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. It’s ten years since the US invasion of Afg-hanistan, and US policy seems to be rather confused, to say the least. One of the critical points that President Obama made when he came to office about how he was going to handle the Afghan War was he was going to somehow broker a peace deal between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, which would free up Pakistani troops to go to the northwest territories of Pakistan and fight Taliban forces. Well, that didn’t last very long. Now joining us to talk about the history of this ten years, to some extent, in terms of US-Pakistan relations and the current situation is Munizae Jahangir. Munizae is a special correspondent for Express TV, and she hosts her own show on Express called Question Time Pakistan. Thanks very much for joining us, Munizae.

MUNIZAE JAHANGIR, EXPRESS NEWS: Thank you, Paul, for having me.

JAY: So just if we quickly dip back just over three years ago, he was going to deal with the Afghan situation through this brokering of a deal. None of that came to pass. So talk a little bit about that and the current state of US policy in Afghanistan.

JAHANGIR: Well, I feel that President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy when he started out seemed to be that it would be different. They were–it seemed to Pakistan and Afghanistan that there would be more reconciliation. And there was a lot of hope when US secretary Hillary Clinton came in, because she is viewed in the region as somebody who understands not just Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also India. Therefore there was a lot of hope pinned onto this administration. But it seems that foreign policy is beyond the control of one particular administration, whether that be the Democrats or whether that be the Republicans. At the moment, President Obama seems to be more of a hardliner in some ways. For example, there have been more drone attacks in the northwest of Pakistan, and he has been very clear in his policy that wherever there are going to be insurgents, the US is going to have operations against them. For the first time in Pakistan’s history we saw boots on the ground with the Osama bin Laden operation. So in some ways we have taken a more harsh turn. But what he has done which is appreciated here is that Obama administration has distanced itself from the Pakistan army, which the Bush administration was seen to be very closely linked to, and has spearheaded, initiated reforms and a relationship with the civilian leadership. And that is certainly being welcomed here in Pakistan.

JAY: When Admiral Mike Mullen recently made these comments, where he directly accused the ISI, really, of being connected to the Haqqani Network, he accused the ISI of being involved in the murder of the journalist Saleem Shahzad, they universally, more or less, the American Armed Forces and intelligence, and Mullen again, said that the Pakistan army and ISI in some way were protecting bin Laden. We were told recently that in fact it was having a counter-effect, that Pakistani public opinion and political forces were actually uniting against this American pressure. Is that true?

JAHANGIR: Well, to a certain extent it is true, because after Admiral Mike Mullen made those statements saying that the Haqqani network is a veritable arm of the ISI, there was an immediate core commanders meeting. The generals got together and they had a huge meeting. Of course, what happened in the–what transpired in that meeting was never made public. But immediately after that meeting, there was an all-parties conference call by the prime minister and chaired by the prime minister, and it was attended by all the parties across Pakistan. Some of the nationalists, like the Baloch nationalists, did not attend the meeting, but by and large, most parties, including the opposition, who is now very critical of this government, also attended the meeting. And they came up with a joint resolution which clearly said that Pakistan’s sovereignty must be respected, that we respect our Armed Forces, and we do not appreciate the kind of criticism and the finger-pointing that the US has done. And, in fact, the prime minister went on record and said that the policy of “do more” must stop. So, yes, the civilian leadership stood side by side by its military leadership. Having said that, there was a lot of very harsh criticism of the military in this meeting. It was a closed-door meeting, so the media was not really given access to the information of what really happened in the meeting, what transpired there. But our sources–and very reliable sources–tell us that the opposition leader of the PML(N)–he leads the party called the PML(N), Mian Nawaz Sharif–was very critical of the Pakistan army. And, in fact, he was quoted as saying that there has to be something there–the world is pointing fingers towards you; it is not without reason. So he questioned the army chief. He questioned the ISI chief. And it was very clear that the government in so many ways was not on the same page as the intelligence agencies, as the military in our country. And it’s no secret that foreign policy for many years and many decades in Pakistan has been led and crafted by the army. So the civilian leadership does try and exert itself, but it has–this particular government has been very, very weak and incompetent in leading foreign policy. This government came in saying they want peaceful relations with Afghanistan and with India, but we have seen over the past few years, whenever there have been skirmishes or when there have ever–there have been tensions between the two countries, it’s always the military leadership that had led the civilian leadership in this particular case.

JAY: The analysts here, and sort of Washington, DC, pundits, military pundits, the general view seems to be that Pakistan is really just preparing for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan–and by preparing, it means, again, thinking that the Taliban or some section of it will be an ally of the Pakistan military, and they would like to see the Taliban have more power in a post-US Afghanistan, so that there’s sort of a contradiction in objectives here between Pakistan and the US, which also leaves the American exit strategy somewhat up in the air, because if supposedly the US can get out only under conditions where Afghan–the current Afghan regime has somehow taken over security and stabilized the situation, then the US can’t get out, because Pakistan’s not cooperating. That’s the view, I would say, mostly in Washington. What’s your take on that?

JAHANGIR: Well, it’s an unfair view. What analysts in Pakistan say and what the Pakistani administration says, that it’s the establishment, which we–by which we mean the army, or whether that’s the civilian leadership, what they say is that the US has failed, miserably failed in Afghanistan. And that’s not far from the truth. The US has been unable to establish any kind of a civilian leadership or bring about a civilian leadership in Afghanistan. The–you know, the institutions that make democracy stronger are not there. There are no political parties–or, let’s say, strong political parties–in Afghanistan. They have not strengthened the judiciary in Afghanistan or the media in Afghanistan. So the ingredients for a full-fledged democracy are not there, and the US has certainly not helped. Now that they’re speaking to the Taliban, we hear not just from Pakistan women’s rights groups, but also in Afghanistan, women’s rights groups, I think, where you are speaking to the same people who took away our rights, who denied us of our basic rights. So, really, why did you come in? And I remember, when the US invaded Afghanistan, one of the things that the Bush administration said, that they are going to free women. And the first picture that was flashed in the United States was of girls going to school. So they are today speaking to the same very people that they came to bomb. So in this region, certainly, that view is not looked at as a general–the whole truth.

JAY: Okay. Thanks very much for joining us.

JAHANGIR: Alright. Thank you, Paul.

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

End of Transcript

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