Rahimullah Yusufzai: Negotiations must take place now; Taliban, fighting for religion and country, can fight forever
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. And in Washington, one of the main topics of debate these days is US policy in Afghanistan. Now joining us from Peshawar, Pakistan, to give his opinion on just how things are going on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan is Rahimullah Yusufzai. He’s a senior analyst with the Pakistani TV channel Geo TV; resident editor of The News International in Peshawar, an English newspaper from Pakistan; and he has served as a correspondent for Time magazine, BBC World Service, and ABC News. Thanks for joining us again, Rahimullah.
RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI, RESIDENT EDITOR, THE NEWS INTERNATIONAL: Thank you.
JAY: If the Pakistani military wanted to find Osama bin Laden, could they? Many people are asking: how is it possible after nine years he has not yet been captured? As I understand it from our earlier conversation, you believe he is alive and in Pakistan.
YUSUFZAI: Well, you know, if you say this about the Afghan Taliban, I would say yes. The Pakistanis could capture Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, if they want to, because if he’s in Pakistan, they would know where he’s hiding. But about the al-Qaeda people, especially Osama bin Laden, I don’t think Pakistan army or government have got any love lost for Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda. Osama and [Ayman] Zawahiri have been calling for the removal of the Pakistani government, or even an uprising against the Pakistani army, so I don’t think that there would be any incentive, any effort to try to protect the al-Qaeda people. I think the only thing Pakistan would want is that Osama bin Laden is not killed or captured within the Pakistani borders. They would want him to be captured or killed across the border. That could be the only reason, because of the backlash. Otherwise, I think that there is no real evidence that Pakistan would be protecting Osama or Zawahiri or they know about his whereabouts and they can capture him. I don’t think that is the case.
JAY: In terms of how this resolves, what is your opinion what US policy should be now?
YUSUFZAI: This issue has no military solution, and if there was a military solution, it would have happened in the last nine years. So it is like reenforcing failure. You send more soldiers, more resources, you kill many people, but you also create many enemies. That is what is happening now. As you know, Obama was saying the US army, NATO army, they have achieved some successes in the Kandahar and Helmand province, which are the strongholds of Taliban. But I think it is temporary. Taliban always retreat in the face of a superior army, but then they always come back, as it happened in Marja, in Helmand province, in February last year. So I don’t think that there will be any military solution. In the end, all these combatants have to sit across the table and talk and try to resolve this.
JAY: When you hear Afghan officials talk about this issue, they say they’re open to negotiations but there needs to be negotiations with a certain amount of leverage or strength. If you just allow the Taliban to come back on their terms, it’s essentially opening the door to a kind of a sharia law and the kind of demands the Taliban have had in the past, and that a lot of Afghans don’t want this. What do you make of that argument that negotiations can’t take place now because there’s nothing pushing the Taliban to give in on anything?
YUSUFZAI: If you wait for the proper time and you keep fighting in the hope that you will weaken the Taliban and you will achieve better terms in negotiations, that may not happen. I think you negotiate with the strength you have. You don’t try and keep fighting forever or you fight for four more years. I think this is not the proper policy. And, you know, through negotiations you can moderate, you can try and moderate the Taliban position, because, you know, they also cannot get everything. Taliban also is not in a position to claim victory. They also are suffering losses. So I think that, you know, you can’t wait forever. You know, nine years is a long time. I think if you fight for four more years, so many more people would be killed, and maybe after so many more killings there will be no incentive to talk.
JAY: And do you think what you’re saying represents most Afghan public opinion?
YUSUFZAI: I think that the majority of people in Afghanistan don’t want Taliban, are opposed to the Taliban ways and their policies. So I think that if there is a solution, political solution, and if in future there is some kind of a democracy and elections, I am of the firm belief that Taliban would not be able to win any election. You have to defeat them politically. But one thing which they know very well is to fight. They cannot administer, I don’t think they can formulate good policies to try to win the hearts and minds, but they can fight. And they will fight, because they have these two strong arguments: that they are fighting for their religion, and that they’re fighting for their country. So that is why they can fight forever.
JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Rahimullah.
YUSUFZAI: Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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