tv Inside Story Al Jazeera October 16, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am EDT
>> i'm antonio mora, thanks for joining us, you can head over to aljazeera.com for the latest. ray suarez and the "inside story" is next, have a great weekend. getting afghanistan often its feet and getting the u.s. out of the country. but reality has intruded. the taliban has hung on and even looked up with i.s.i.l. kunduz last briefly fell, and now there's a change in plans. the longest war, it's the "inside story." >> welcome to "inside story." i'm ray suarez. you may remember that optimistic young senator from illinois who told the public he wasn't against all wars. just dumb wars.
he promised he would wrap up the american project in iraq and leave, emphasize getting afghanistan right and leave there, too. but wrapping up more than a decade of war has been difficult as iraq keeps sliding deeper into dissolution, and more than a dozen years of blood and treasure still seems undporchable. ungovernable. so now the president says he's not leaving. >> i will not let afghanistan be used as safe haven to attack by terrorists again. training afghan forces and training counterterrorism forces qaeda. of course, compared to the 100,000 troops we once had in afghanistan, today fewer than 10,000 remain in support of
these very focused missions. >> al jazeera's jamie mcintire explains the unwitnes once-and-future american mission in afghanistan. >> the president's surprising phase, u.s. trained afghan army which needed u.s. and nato help to retake the key northern city. but the penningto pentagon insists kunduz was not a tipping point. months in the making, following excessive consultations with the afghan government, nato allies and u.s. commanders. >> my approach is to assess the situation ton ground, figure out what's working, what's not working and make adjustments when necessary. >> 9800 u.s. troops in afghanistan through the end of 2016 instead of slowly withdrawing them over the course
of the next year. his old plan would have left a small embassy force in the capital. then it's keeping 5500 near bagram , jalalabadand kunduz until at least 2016. the very narrow u.s. mission is not changing. u.s. troops will only advise and assistage forces and go after taliban remnants. >> the combat mission has ended and our mission now, on a day-to-day basis is train, advise and assist and counterterrorism and only to undertake other kinds of operations either to protect our own forces or in an extremist situation. >> reporter: the pentagon says the president's original time line was overly optimistic in
part because it failed to recognize the many months to form unity government of ashraf ghani and chief executive abdalla abdalla after elections last year. but it says the unity government was a major factor in the president's decision to make what he called an extra effort. because unlike iraq where president nouri al-maliki asked the u.s. to leave, afghanistan asked u.s. to stay is. >> the majority of the afghan people share our goals. we have a bilateral security agreement to guide our cooperation. >> the president somberly noted, they will be in danger and some troops who feel they may have seen the last of afghanistan, will see another tour of duty in a war that's killed 2200
americans and wounded thousands jamie mcintire, al jazeera. the pentagon. >> serving as the u.s. ambassador to afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, the author of the other war, winning and losing in afghanistan, ambassador, is this the right call at the right time? >> it is the right call. i wish it had been made several months earlier and i wish a series of time and deadlines going back several years had been made. but that's then, and this is now, and it's the right call. >> what is the end game for american forces? by the president keeping those three deattachments inside the country, are they enough to do what it is american planners want to happen there? >> i think this is right decision about the force, keeping the current force level. i'm very skeptical of the
decision to get down to 5500 by the end of next year. it is again a time-driven decision, without reference to what the conditions will be. we have -- the president has two counterterrorism. i don't think you can do both within that limit of forces. we are already seeing -- i was just in afghanistan, just came back from spending ten days there. we're doing some things very well but for instance on the logistics, we really can't see below the core level. that makes it very hard to correct problems at the brigade level. as you contract more you can do lest of that. >> we take teenagers from american high schools who have a notion that the military would be good for them, and in the course of a few months turn them into, most of them, go into effective members of units.
why is it so har to hard to train these units? >> could be a long one but let me try a short one. they take teenagers many of whom are illiterate and have to train them to record the serial number of their rifle. the fighting force is not bad. there's a leadership problem. and it's not one size fits all, the commandos for instance did very well in retaking parts of kunduz within the first week. the police did miserably. so got different bases. the biggest problem there is a leadership. too many politically motivated placement over the last years, particularly in the north which was considered a safer area, open to political placements without competence. the biggest issues are not about
high school graduates becoming soldiers. it's been four years to build a modern air force and now we cut them off from the best helicopters we're buying them because those were russian and we sanctioned that because of ukraine. some of the biggest problems the thing we're staying to advise logistics, what does that mean? that means how do you forecast your parts, order them in advance, get them into afghanistan, distribute them down so when a unit has to move, its trucks move. that's a complex thing. building medical evacuation systems, none of these support services that are critical to moving forces employing them were being tackled until about four and a half years ago. >> we have about a minute left. from what i hear you say it sounds like you would have been okay with a much larger force and an open-ended rather than time-limited mission. >> slightly larger, not much
larger, don't need ground combat forces. need to stop having the time limits that aren't related to cns. conditions. and doing things like we'll only bomb when afghan informs are about to be overrun in ex trem is. in ex tthemis. one way or another for the past 13, 14 years. those decisions sometimes run on two very different tracks. >> totally agree. but i think that dialogue also has changed and i'm not sure the media's picked up on it. what i've watched in the congress is with the problems of iraq with the growth of the islamic state, considerable change in the political room for presidents moourv maneuver and i think
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>> al jazeera america primetime. get the real news you've been looking for. at 7:00, a thorough wrap-up of the day's events. then at 8:00, john seigenthaler digs deeper into the stories of the day. and at 9:00, get a global perspective. weeknights, on al jazeera america. >> you're watching "inside story," i'm ray suarez. pull out a map of west asia. afghanistan is really far from damascus. from syria's turkish border, from lebanon and jordan. but with acknowledged contacts between taliban and i.s.i.l, should we look at afghanistan as a part of a single theater? we're looking at america's
longest war this time on the program joining me now is michael bre rvetion reen, jim hansen, co-author of cut down the black flag and thom thomas johnson, director of the program for culture and conflict studies. michael breen, let me start with you. is this the right move at the right time as i asked ambassador newman, and what remains as the mission? >> it's good to be with you ray. and this discussion has centered as it often does on the number of troops, how is the taliban doing? let's take it back here. there are three threats to the government of afghanistan, in order of authority, least to highest, taliban, then regional
interference from the neighbors, and above all, the corruption of the afghan government itself. it is a lot easier to be an insurgent, when the government preys on its people.this is fundamentally about governance. and the military conflict is the symptom of a weak state. so what can military forces achieve if a state like this? there are a lot of things that armies can do. they can't deliver justice. that is a challenge for the certain government. what the afghan army can do is buy time for that to lap. >> professor johnson do you agree, that those aspects that michael breen just mentioned, make doing anything in afghanistan that much harder? >> yes i do. i'm a firm believer that what happened in kunduz represents a sea change in this conflict in afghanistan. we spent $60 billion over 13 or
12 years in training afghan national security forces. and we never trained them to conduct urban warfare. so i think the taliban now has always been focused on basically a rural insurgency. but they are now focusing on the urban and provincive capitals. after they left kunduz they are presently threatening gosne. i think this reepts se represents a sea change. the commandos came and helped wp help of the united with the help of the united states. raiding parties of 150 people each, infiltrated in another 100 people, you had maybe 500 or 600 taliban in the city. they fought with between it's
estimated between five and 7,000 afghan national security forces for 12 hours before the afghan national army retreated to the airport. and the afghan national police were terrible. they left their bases immediately, as the fighting started. so i think real key question here is not only political but sustainability of the afghan national security forces. and with the addition of i.s.i.l. being in the country i think it adds a whole new dynamic that needs to be discussed very seriously. >> jim hanson why are we even having this conversation 14 years since the overthrow of the taliban government? >> well, i think we'd have been a lot better-served if after we toppled the taliban we just bombed some of the areas where the bad things were going on and dropped some leaf lets that said, don't do that again. we decided to stay and you
brought up a point, is this connected to the rest of it? afghanistan borders iran, iran has been meddling in that area well. if you go from afghanistan, to iraq, to iran dom syria you have one theater of war at this time. >> do you fight it in a different way rather than two separate operations? >> it's probably a really good idea. if we had looked at it as instead of separate conflicts but the global jihad movement, anybody flying the black flag is our enemy, i think that would have been better than trying otreat them as discrete entities and failing in both theaters as opposed to trying to treat it as olarger global problem. >> michael breen is there something almost counterintuitive ever this? there are similarities but a lot of differences.
>> half of i.s.i.l.'s dna is al qaeda dna and queald's gam al qaeda's game plan has been integrating them into a larger cause. i.s.i.l, i.s.i.s, whatever you want to call them, they have come out of that world, they understand that. i.s.i.l. is an incredibly new organization. military officers who came out of the iraqi regime and insurgency, you have a fairly sophisticated knowledge of modern warfare and innovations on both sides of the coin. we should be concerned about what they're doing. >> gentlemen stay with us. what does afghanistan have to look like in order for america to leave? does it have to be an equally viable, representative democracy
or a government destined not to collapse back into chaos? the longest war, it's the "inside story." >> killing of journalists is a question that is directed to society. >> they are impartial. >> if you wanted to be a good journalist in iraq, you had to risk your life. >> they observe and report. >> kidnapping is a very real problem. >> journalists on the front lines. >> sometimes that means risking death. >> getting the story, no matter what it takes. >> that's what the fourth estate is all about. that's why i'm risking my life.
>> welcome back to "inside story." i'm ray suarez. occasionally, you could hear former afghan president hamid karzai dismissed as the mayor of kabul, since its range didn't reach very far past kabul. institutions and infrastructure, nothing remained done. we're looking at the longest war michael breen, jim hanson and thomas johnson are with me. professor johnson how good is good enough? when will we know we're done in afghanistan? >> well, i think that's key question, ray.
and i think what we need to address is: whration going to what is going to be our strategy going forward. i've been a proponent of cutting our loss he and getting out of afghanistan because i think the war there was unwinnable. but my position has changed drastically in the last few months with i.s.i.l. coming into the country. it is estimated that i.s.i.l. is in 27 of the 34 provinces and some estimates from the u.n. suggests there may be as many as 3,000 i.s.i.l. members in afghanistan and they obviously have their eyes on central asia. i think this changes everything. the taliban isn't even on our international terror list. outside of afghanistan, the taliban, the afghan taliban, not the pakistani taliban but the afghan taliban has never attacked western interests outside of the country. i.s.i.l. is a completely different situation. so i that i we really have to come to an agreement on what our
strategy 's going to be, how our counterterrorism forces are going to work against i.s.i.l. and what i.s.i.l.'s plans are before we can answer your very pertinent question. >> jim hanson can we put a couple of bullet-point goals down to say to the american people so we know roughly what the mission is and how long it's going to take? >> that would be counter to the entire concept of what we should be doing which is looking at this as a long war. and given the fact that our enemies are not just limited, if it was just the taliban, again that would be a different story. but as professor johnson says it is i.s.i.l, it is all of the bad guys banning together. the problem that president obama made for himself was the idea that you can end wars. you can't end a war. you can end your participation or how you fight a war. but the enemy gets a vote. and in both iraq and afghanistan he seemed to think that if he says the war is over that somehow the enemy is going to go.
and he did it in 2009, when he announced the surge into afghanistan he also announced a withdrawal date. he did the same thing with this. he says i'm going to put this many troops in for this time and then i'm pulling them out at this point. if you broadcast to the enemy what your plan is and what your staying power is they'll out-last you and that's 92nd strategy. >> but we can't have an open ended mission, can we michael breen? discussion. how many troops for how long. again i think, i saw as many -- >> wait a minute, we spent a lot of money and written a lot of white papers on doing the other things, economic development, suppressing poppy cultivation, schooling girls. we did all those things too. and it's still not working. >> hasn't worked yet. this is a long term project.
to me, the lesson of iraq isn't precipitous military withdrawal there is a long term tale of deep military engagement that should follow the establishment of security. that political peace, i.s.i.l. is many things but i.s.i.l. is a predator on fragile and failing states. that's not primary a military problem, we talked to afghan military police at a tactical level but providing security and justice to a population that requires justice system, systems of accountability, these thing are not born overnight. i think in this discussion afghanistan is an incredibly frustrating policy problem, friends of mine have given lives there, but the condition of the afghan people despite these set backs are in some ways many beneficiarbetter than it was tes ago. when do we reach a place when
afghanistan, we're not talking about switzerland. but at what point does afghanistan have enough consent to be governed that the taliban recruiter or i.s.i.l. recruiter, giving a life for a shot at a government that just might represent their interests. >> the prospect of dying is not enough to turn that i.s.i.l. guy down yet. i want to thank my guests, michael breen, truman project, thomas johnson, name he post graduate school. i'll be back with final thoughts of an afghan war that never really ends. stay with us, it's "inside story."
>> afghanistan has been home to coups and countercoups, revolutions uprisings and invacations for centuries. it's been a monarchy. a communityist soviet satellite and ruled by a lightly free floating ement 'e floating emrat e. in other words it wasn't a very promising place for americans to parachute in and impose order against a wider fight of state disfunction and terrorism. the cold war left an american client in pakistan there as a counterwait to soviet friendly india. but pakistan nevertheless became a home and haven for the taliban
to make endless war and endless mischief against american efforts to rebuild in afghanistan and now here is president obama no more able to declare victory and leave than george w. bush was and no matter how much the afghan people suffer, wreck schools and casual oppression, there never seems to be an end of young american men ready to fight. it's hard to imagine why people fight so hard an so long when so little is to be gained by it, even as a river of aid fueling the cycle of corruption and dependency rolls in. i'm ray suarez, and that's the "inside story." ♪ ♪
[ shots ] >> calls for an international protection informs at the al-aqsa mosque on another day of confrontation between palestinians and israelis. hello i'm darren jordan live in doha. also on the program: hungary closes its border with croatia to stop the flow of refugees from austria and germany. environmentalists claim a victory and football's world governing body fifa