tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN April 7, 2016 3:00pm-5:01pm EDT
afghan, iraqi, shiite militias dominated by the iranian, trabd, equipped, and deployed by the iranians with the support of russian air power and as joe said, we have some contracted to the russians in syria which means we are building a new order. not just in syria but in the middle east, in which this russian-iranian alliance and this network of militias that the iranians have put together, which is now operating not just in syria but also in iraq, also in lebanon, also in yemen and so forth is an acceptable partner for the united states and for the -- and for the west. it also means we completely misread what's happening -- what's happening in europe. the refugee crisis in europe and all of the tensions that it creates in europe and in nato is a consequence of the actions of this russian-iranian-syrian
alliance but somehow popularly we have -- we are associating in our minds with isis rather than with the actual perpetrators, this is the russian-iranian-syrian alliance. and even in the right wing now in europe, the anti-immigrant wing, is looking to russia as the -- as a partner in solving the refugee problem, which is a completely pathological position. so listen, just to sum up, i think that we -- that we accept these principles at our own per peril. the humanitarian costs that jomana has outlined is really staggering. i mean, we now have estimates of half million people killed. mainly by the assad regime.
10 million people perhaps? up rooted in one form or another. and that is horrendous and i think as americans we should be concerned about the fact that we have just turned a blind eye to this. but then there's this strategic -- the strategic factor and i'll just mention three things here and i'll stop. the one is, we have degraded our alliances in the region. we have denigrated our traditional allies. our traditional allies do have problems. we have problems. there's no doubt about that. by emphasizing those publicly and by moving away from our traditional allies that means the turks, the saudis, the israelis and so forth, we have not built structures in the region that are capable of con tending with the challenges of the region. with anything of other than unilateral military force, which is what we're supposed to be avoiding. if there is another shock that comes, like a destabilization of
saudi arabia or destabilization of jordan, the only tool that we really have at our disposal is unilateral american action, which is problematic. the second thing is we are not building a stable new order. we are -- we are sowing the seeds of further conflict. you can see that. for example, and this is just to give one example. we are now in a conflict with, quietly, in a conflict with the turkish government about this hundred kilometers of territory along the syrian-turkish border that the turk have not closed. we're telling them that if they don't -- that if they don't close it we're going to close it by working together with the syrian -- with the syrian equivalent or the syrian arm of the pkk. that's a kurdish terrorist organization which the turks
regard arizona a vital enemy. we're going to work with their kurdish enemy to close this border. they would like to close it but they want us to work -- they want us -- they're willing to close it but they want to do it under certain conditions which will protect them from the creation of an autonomous kurdish authority on the other side of the border that stands for kurdish separate tichl from turkey. if we continue down this path, we can tell ourselves that sooner or later the turks will just accept this. i think what's more likely to happen is the opposite. at a certain point the turks will reach their breaking point and they will start taking unilateral military action which will work very much against the peace and stability that we want. finally, the claimed goal of all of this is that by doing all that we're doing we're going to defeat isis. it's just not going to happen. with the absence of sunni
partners on the ground in syria and sunni partners in the region we cannot retake the territory that isis now holds. we can clear it out militarily but we can't hold it and create a stable new order there. you know, we might get lucky. maybe because isis isn't the smartest organization in the world. and maybe isis itself will collapse but we're still going to have tremendous disorder there. we're still going to have a safe haven in that region for extremists causing us problems in the region and in europe and elsewhere. but we need to define the strategic goal not as defeating isis but as creating a new stable order in the region and the path to that begins with working with our traditional allies and coming up with an agenda that they can get onboard with. thank you. >> thanks. that was terrific. i want to come back to something you said and something that they said in different ways when you said the administration, part of
the message is that there are no moderates to work with syria. jomana and joe, you're saying that -- [ inaudible ] >> thanks, adam. -- were jailed or they were killed. so what you guys seem to be saying is that contrary to different messages that we're hearing, it's not too late, right? a lot of people think, oh, the whole situation has gone so far to the extremes, there's no one for us to work with there at any point, and i believe it's safe to say that's not going to happen with this administration. but you guys seem to be saying that there are different moderate groupings that it would be possible for the u.s. to work with so i guess, first of all, jomana, if you could give me a
picture of what that opposition looks like on the ground. i know it's entirely, you know, it's not entirely transparent but just a general picture and then i'll ask mike and joe to talk about what that might look like in terms of implementing policy. there are actual moderates to work with. >> so i'll probably defer a little bit on some of the armed group section to joe because he might be a bit more familiar with that than i am. i tend to work with more of the civil society movements. but i definitely -- >> i wasn't really talking about the arm groups. >> the movement. >> right, what the movement looks like at this point. >> i definitely agree with the statement you just said, that there are -- there is a moderate civil society movement in syria. and frankly one that the united states government has been supporting. the state department funding has significant portion of that has gone to keep media, you know, organizations, local counsels alive, et cetera, and organizations that have really
with stood the pressure from them and until about a year ago isil as well. local council members, one of my friends who remained despite the fact that isil was there to keep a movement alive. but then he himself was also killed by isil. so i definitely believe in that movement not only because we saw them during protests but because there is a significant number of syrians who have not taken arms in the past five years and have remained in syria that have chosen not to leave. they could have left. but i do believe the people we're seeing in syria right now are committed in remaining in syria and not all of them have taken up arms. and i think that we need to really show our support for them and, frankly, i don't think -- i mean, i know our ally like mike was highlighting is the kurds right now. that's our main ally that we're
utilizing in the region but the kurds are not going to be able to come to da mass sus mascus ae these other areas from isil or assad or from anyone else. they're not even interested in that kind of a fight right now. and so you need people from that region to liberate their own regions and they can only do that if we really show them the support that mike was saying, that sometimes they're not aware where we -- and the international community really lies on this line. do we support them, do we not support them? and i think mikie in making tha to them would help. >> it comes back to something you started with, joe, and you're saying in some ways the administration has farmed out a lot of its policy to the russians. so, again, what's your sense, let's say for the next white house, who is there to work with and what could be done and then, mike, i'll ask you to follow up on that. >> maybe i'll answer this question or your first question
differently. take a different angle if you allow me. since we're reflecting on five years later and what happened, i think it's important to make a kind of -- to take this moment of self-reflection and maybe part of it self-criticism. two points i think that are important. if you remember, i hope you all remember in the early moments of the conflict assad gave interviews. his cousin gave interviews to the western press, to the "new york times," to the "wall street journal" and he said exactly, look, and it was only few peaceful civilian protests in some streets of damascus and the village near iraq. okay? there was no syrian war. he said, look, this thing is going to radicalize and islamize. it's going to weaponize and it's going to regionalize. we looked at that, okay, this could have been analysis from the researcher but it was a president of the republic saying
this is what i'm going to do. okay? now, what's worse is that we helped him implement this. i mean, we, the world, i mean, the west, et cetera. so these prophecies became self-fulfilling prophecies with our inaction, mistake, inibility, unwillingness, et cetera, everything that mike has talked about. so i think everything was written on the walls from the start. we knew this was the playbook that assad wanted to put in motion and by doing nothing or by doing the wrong things or by having the wrong analysis, willingly or unwillingly, we helped this reality taking shape. and then this reality become a reality and then we took it as a pretext not to do anything. i mean, if you remember, the debate in washington in 2012, it was if you go there we will radicalize it. if we go there we can weaponize it. if we go there, we will enhance
the region. but by not going there we made all of this coming true. this is somethi i think we should reflect as analysts today in retrospect. now, where were the turning points of the missing? of course everybody has in mind, this is problem the historical missed opportunity. but there were missed opportunities before that and there were missed opportunities after that. and there are still missed opportunities today. as jomana has said, today this hype in washington and elsewhere about the kurds as fighters against -- is nice. i mean, we all -- i mean, i have respect for the kurdish fighters. but the kurds are only interested in sanctuary them, they will not go in even the damascus. this is a limited faction. now, mike mentioned allies. also, neglecting our allies is preventing us today in building
this new opportunity but not only in terms of military build-up, it's a political matter. if you want to rebuild the stable order that will manage a post-isis middle east you will have to have a new social contract in the middle east between peoples and states. and this is a reality. this is a truth that you can't escape. and by keeping, turning around the bush of this issue, that is really democratization, the change, political formula, that, by the way, russia and the u.s. has written in the geneva platform. it's written on -- it's ink on paper on the geneva platform in order transition that would lead syria to a normal, more or less normal political democratic life. we're not inventing the wheel in 2016 buttal only we have to look back to the missed student eed s we have today. the last point on this issue and this is maybe the part that is difficult for me to express.
and you will maybe allow me. i mean, people know where i stand. but in this issue of radicalization and who is the moderate to work with, there are no moderates, et cetera. my bitter feeling five years later, one of the things that i reflect upon with self criticism is that probably the opposition, revolution, call it as you wish, i mean, this reality of the anti- anti-sad force, i think they have not constructed a proper narrative to their friends, to their allies, to the world, other syrians in the early ages of the conflict. i think this is something which is still doable and i think that the opposition should work on that. the narrative that syria has from the start was a peaceful civilian revolution. i don't want to use the term secular or religious because in the mideast this is something very relative. we're not in a west min steerian
scandinavian part of the world. this is not the way things work in this region. they have missed the construction of the proper narrative that is able to stabbed in front of the narrative that you were denigrating a few minutes ago that assad is the defender of the minor iitys and christians. let's name things as they are. i as a french, partly, i'm lebanon ease also, was appalled yesterday -- before yesterday on sunday -- easter sunday to see a delegation of french mps and politicians and researchers and journalists going to damascus and sitting with the butcher of damascus of syria in the name of this guy is fending the christians. for me this is something -- besides the counter truth of it, but i'm very bitter that the syrian opposition and us all have missed the construction of the proper narrative that is able today to confront this
truth that is leading the entire, let's say eastern part of europe today to turn to vladimir putin for protection. because they are completely appalled and -- muslims invading them under the name of refugees and et cetera. we -- and in that sense, mike, this is a defining moment not only for the middle eastern order but for the world order. we are constructing the world order or misconstructing the world order for the 30 years to come out of the syrian cauldron. this is why it's not only a syrian question, international question, partly ethical, partly geopolitical, and it is partly, let's say, a strategic issue. >> joe, you said 30 years? is that what you're -- >> i mean, i'm ready to negotiate on that. >> mike, i know that you -- i'm not going the ask you to write a narrative for the opposition, but what would be -- what would be the narrative, why is syria
still important right now for the next administration in terms of u.s. strategic interests and what is the entry point for the united states right now? is it these moderate groups, is it different allies to work with? it's such a big issue now we've allowed it to get very big so what's the way in? and explaining it how, right? explaining why it matters. >> well, i think the next -- first of all, let me just make some predictions and then i'll say what i think should happen because i don't think what i think should happen is actually what's going to happen. i mean, when i watched the debate on the republican side i think that there's more of a tendency to agree -- or all they claim to disagree with president obama on these issues, i think there's much more agreement than meets the eye. i mean, you can divide the u.s. national security elite into two groups on this.
and one group says that you can't -- cease it basically the way i described it. you can't solve the syria problem without -- you can't solve the isis problem without also thinking about assad and iran. and that this territory of jihadististan from baghdad to aleppo is one problem and it requires -- we have to have a policy -- uniform policy about bringing order to it across the syrian-iraqi frontier. the other one, the other way of seeing it says, isis is the problem, not iran and russia. so in that first category that says that this is one unit, then the problem is not just isis, it's also iran and -- iran and russia and their proxies. the other side says, no, isis is the core problem. isis, you know, russia and iran
might be problematic in certain respects but they're not as big a threat to us as isis is. and we can -- we don't have to work against them. we don't have to impose costs on the russians and iranians for what they're doing. and on that side you have -- if you divide it up that way you see remarkable things. on that side, the side that says basically we can work with the iranians and the russians in syria and iraq, you find that president obama is there, donald trump is there, ted cruz is there. right? they like to blur the lines a little bit by not admitting the degree to which they want to work with the russians and iranians. that's the way it is. and i think that the american public unfortunately does agree largely that there's nothing that we can do, right, and that we really do need to just take a step back from this and let whatever happens happens.
there's nothing that's going to come up in domestic politics that's going to make a president change his mind about that. the preconceived notions that they come in with are what's going to determine it. hillary clinton possibly, she's sending signals that she sees things a little bit different than president obama on this. but she has a side of her party and it's the bernie sanders wing, the progressive wing of her party. bernie sanders doesn't want to talk about foreign policy, period. right? you can't get him to say anything about foreign policy. and when it comes time to govern, hillary clinton is going to be very much aware of the fact that she's got her bernie sanders wing. so oddly enough progressive, the bernie sanders, and the american firsters of donald trump, they end up in the same position on syria. so it bodes ill, it requires a president to have -- to come in with a conception like joe already has and to understand the intersection of these things in that way. so i'm not -- i'm not optimistic.
but what i think -- what i would like to see is a president that would come in and would say, look, obviously the united states is still vital -- the middle east is still a vital interest to the united states and what's the proof of that? the proof of that is for seven years president obama tried to pull back and he can't do it. he can't do it. he may say the iraq war is over but we're fighting in iraq. we're fighting in syria. and the trend line is going in the opposite direction. we are committing more resources and engaged in more military activity as time goes on. so the idea that we can somehow -- we can somehow pull back from the middle east without it following us, i think that thesis, that thesis has been completely disproven. and then i think that we need to think about what kind of world we want to live in, right? just these kind of refugee flows into europe and the affect that it has had on european politics and on american politics.
right? we're talking about -- we are talking now about much greater control over people, much greater control over borders, much greater control over our own lives, right, because of this chaos that we have failed to -- that we have failed to -- that we have failed to take care of in the middle east. i think if a president wanted to explain to the american people why we need to be taking action, greater action in the middle east and playing a more aggressive role in organizing the region and imposing costs on actors like the russians and the iranians, it wouldn't be hard to do at all. there's still a deep distrust of the russians and iranians and the american people if president just doesn't talk about it. we sort of talking about who it is, who is actually taking -- >> he doesn't talk about it. >> exactly. exactly. he knows if he did -- who is taking palmyra and what does this region look like after those forces are triumph.
it's not good for the united states. >> one of the different things, i mean, just say -- i want to open this up for questions and answers in a couple minutes. but i just want to -- you were talking a allies before. what does it mean to -- what does it mean to look at the region still in terms of allies? we're talking about syria specifically but also talking more generally about the american role in the region, the american position in the middle east. and i want to finish up on this question. why don't you start off since you led in to that and then joe and jomana. >> americans want allies to be like the ally wes had in world war ii. they want our enemy to be the de devil and they want the allies to be on the side of the angels and they want to feel good that the fight they're fighting is a completely moral fight in every respect. right? what we get in the middle east is something much messier, right? we are -- it's a question of bad
and worse and understanding what's bad and what's worse. we don't share the same values with the saudis. we don't share the same values with president erdogan in many regards. but history shows that the turks and the saudis are willing to accept a middle east in which the united states is the heddom order. history also shows that the iranians and the russians are revisionist powers in the sense they want to diminish the united states and diminish its allies. president obama is selling us a bill of goods and telling us that iran has changed and russia has changed and they don't want to weaken the united states and they understand because we're now reaching out to them that we all have the same interests. it's just not true. their goal -- it may not be their overriding, their sole
goal. putin may not wake up and every morning say how do i undermine the americans today? but undermining the americans is on his agenda. the guy grew up in the kgb. you don't spend our lifetime trying to undermine the united states and then just because there are some changes in the international order you forget about how good it feels to cause americans pain. it feels good to him. we need to understand that. it's as simple as that. >> joe, if you want to, i mean, if you want to -- if you want to talk about it from a french perspective or regional perspective, you certainly don't have to talk about it from an american perspective. but what the region looks like and what america's role in the region looks like? how is that? and the different people we can work with both in europe and in the region? >> i won't delve into that too much besides the fact that mike mentioned goldberg, the goldberg interview. "atlantic" piece where the saudis were mistreated but even the brits and the french.
free writers and, et cetera, it's a lot of free action. >> i would be curious to know what people are saying in paris? in they are outraged. i can tell you. several things have been written. one of our french fellow colleagues here in washington wrote in "atlantic." very strong piece in reply to president obama. this is not the issue. i would like to say, if you would, about -- two things. first of all, this is why. it's not only -- it's no more only the mideast. i think it's what's happening in europe is really very grave and very gra mat tick. when you talk to politicians in france or england or elsewhere they tell you that probably besides france and great britain today the entirety of the political spectrum in western europe is shifting towards something between the far right, the far left, both populous and demagoguic, and by the way, this is interesting because the sanders/trump convergence is
something of that kind which is new in the u.s. but not at all new in europe. we have been living that in europe for the last 20, 25 years. and, also, the shift towards a kind of -- by default because these people don't find anyone to protect them anymore. and this idea that -- i mean, i don't think this is an analysis. it's a fact that putin is saying. the day the wall fell in berlin, putin said, this is the worst day of my life. and i will take revenge. this is written in all of his biographies. we're not accusing him of anything. this is what the guy is standing for. so, okay, now, the choices is ours. do we want to build again a europe that is a europe that resembles the europe of the '30s or of the cold war or do we want to capitalize on the liberal order that was created after the fall? this is a decision leaders will have to make and part of this decision is made today in syria
and iraq. it's not that i'm obsessed by that. >> no, it makes sense. if you can explain more. >> because of the refugee issues that is completely changing the fabric of europe, that is completely changing the perception of the political forces, the perception of the social forces, the way the lo t electorate will behave in the coming years. the powers that will become the defining powers in the middle east, if they supersede, the west, u.s. and others, will also shape the way the international order is constructed. they are shaping the way the energy flows for the coming decades are being constructed and designed. they are shaping the way that -- probably arab peoples and arab societys will evolve and will react and shape their vision of the world. so we are really creating today. of course, you can see the mideast is marginal. we're pivoting to the east.
but even in the east and this is news the white house should know, even in the east they are looking at what's happening in the middle east. when you sit with asian diplomats or asian politicians from singapore, china, et cetera, they tell you and i had these conversations. as probably we have had all these conversations. the way the u.s. is behaving in the mideast is telling us if in 20 years from now china takes over taiwan or singapore in the sea of china, if we are able to. count on the american protection. and this is the new world order. this is not something related to assad and the family and lebanon. this is something planetary. we're redesigning the equilibrium of the world. on the regional level, forget about the city guys trk saudis and turks, murky, play with s s islamists. in every speech the department says that our aim in the middle
east and in syria is to protect also and to, let's say, avoid and strengthen the fragility of states like lebanon, jordan, and et cetera. what are these states today living out of the syrian crisis? lebanon is on the verge of collapse. jordan is on the verge of serious problems. i mean, you have more and more sleeping cells. you have a number of refugees that have led the king of jordan to say that we can't breathe anymore. i can talk about lebanon. you ask me about the country, the spillovers on lebanon are today really reaching the red line. lebanon has escaped the syrian conundrum so far. it was a miracle but miracles are not forrer. at one point they stop, at least frankly you are -- >> surprisingly. >> so isis are approaching the border. lebanon is a country of 3 million people to 3.5 million people where you have 1.5 syrian refugees just imagine the entire population of canada pouring into the united states. this is the magnitude.
okay? just imagine how long this country can take? without a president of the republic, with a militia that is armed to the teeth, that is calling the shots and making politics and demaking politics. and, et cetera. so i mean, this is also partly in the discourse of the u.s. i'm not putting in their mouth something they haven't said. they say every day since three or four years that our aim in the syrian issue is to prevent spillovers, is to enhars an orderly political transition and prevent our friends in the region to collapse. everything has happened. all of these points are happening in front of their eyes. so if you want to talk about all lies and, et cetera, forget about the grand schemes of alliances. even your small friends in the regions, your poor oel friends in the region are living helpless because of your lack of policy. so i think that this is interesting to reflect. now, if you give me one second
you ask me a very interesting question about lebanon and syria. i think that we tend to overexaggerate the comparisons between the two crises, the two wars, the lebanon nieese war an syrian war. the syrian war or crisis a rebellion by a society against authoritarian regime. lebanon was sparkly, let's say, the product of lack of sleep, lack of any regime, authority tear i don't know or lib -- it was the absence of the state and factions fighting among each other on who will befind the central power. whereby in syria you have a fight by society aiming to seize central power. where the comparison is interesting is that lebanon adopt in a way that i think syria should end up if we are able to lead it to the political process. meaning, a properly accepted political power sharing by all the factions. now, of course, al assyrian, it's not the question to
replicate the sectarian system in syria but a kind of power sharing that so far the only party refusing that power sharing device is the regime. so far at least verbally the opposition has gone to geneve gentleman accepting the platform of negotiation whereby the regime also, if you take its words, is refusing to talk about the central issue which is assad. saying the only issue is isis and terrorism and then we will see. so this is something that they are trying to escape. the second aspect which is very interesting when you look at the way the lebanese crisis was sold and this is why i think the comparison stops also at the doors of syria, very ironically the number one condition for peace in lebanon was that syria become the -- leb no. it was the mandate given from the west of syria. who who will become the syria of syria tomorrow? i don't know. iraq? of course not. the gulf? yosk not. turkey? of course not. so the contenders are probably
iran and otherothers. this is something you have to keep in mind when we go very quickly and simply or simplistically this comparison between lebanon and syria. >> thanks. that's great. jomana, i'm going the ask you to wrap up this part before we go to questions and answers. i can ask you, we've been talking about the region, we've been talking about the view from washington. if you can. i have to say, very moving when u just mentioned about your friend being killed by, you know, by isis. but if you can, give us -- if you can give us a view of how the syrians are looking at it, how the siege syrian communities are perceived, you know, just watts going on now and what's it likely to look like? >> sure. obviously i'm speaking of my own personal capacity on this. from the people i've talked to i'm sure you're not going to be shocked to know that syrians are incredibly disappointed with the way things have unfolded.
i mean, to say that they have loft faith in the united states is a understatement. they felt really not only abandoned but betrayed by anyone who has any country, any leader who has actually attempted to or claims to have attempted to address this situation. we don't have to go back to the goldberg article and the red line and how that was the first of many disappointments to come. the security council resolutions, the syrian people stopped getting excited every tomb they passed one because the implementation was the issue. not agreeing on things that should be common sense. basic human rights and needs. and i think, you know, something that the goldberg article was actually translated into arabic very recently and has spread like wildfire throughout the middle east. the comments that the president made about, you know, contrasting asian children who
want to build technology and build the world and middle eastern kids who are killing each other and, you know -- >> waking up, wanting to kill americans. >> exactly. exactly. i mean, that's -- i mean, those are my cows susins, right? no one has ever expressed that kind of sentiment. it's deeply disturbing, i think, to have read it as an american, to have read it, but i'm sure it's even more exponentially disturbing to be a middle eastern and reading that is how the president of the united states views the region. it's very disappointing, to say the least. so i think that the syrian people are waiting to see -- i mean, there are people who will always have hope, right? i mean, i have to have hope as a syrian-american that something will come out of these negotiations, whether or not that hope is based on anything tangible. but i guess some are waiting to see maybe what the next president can bring to the table. >> jomana, thanks very much.
do we have someone with a microphone here? yes. thank you. hello, please. >> identify yourself. >> yes. hudson institute. the question i have goes back to the beginning of the conversation or the discussion and the presentation of the de facto partition of syria and the attitude of various president parties to it. and the question has to do with a relationship between russia and iran. it was suggested that iran would not really like to accept that situation. and i'm not -- they also wouldn't like to accept the situation where russia is calling the shots. that i can certainly understand but i'm not sure i understand why they wouldn't be satisfied with the partition so long as their principle goals are
achieved. and this is connected, i guess, with the question of what exactly was the purpose of the campaign in palmypalmyra, i thiu zus suggested that people were asking whether this was a first step towards raqqa. it seems at least plausible that it wasn't the first step towards raqqa. the first step -- it was the step towards a way of protecting the kind of partition you were talking about before that palmyra was the long finger of the islamic state into the central part of syrian control by assad and something that was more threatening than raqqa. >> how about if we have joe take the second part of the question and, mike, if you take the first part. joe, if you want to talk about raqqa and palm meyeria campaign and, mike, if you want to talk about why the iranians is not, is that okay? >> sure. >> very quickly, maybe i was a
bit mis -- what i just aimed to say is after the palmyra separation, if you look at it in details you probably know, palmyra was almost handled over by the regime of isis one year ago after one shot, one bullet shot. today it's all of a sudden after the brussels attack, et cetera, taken over by the regime. with also a few battles. okay, it was a battle but it was not so -- so that is something murky here. this assad, the question though that is raised is, okay, this russian, let's say, covered operation by air and iranian and all the people, the afghan, hezbollah, assad apart from iraq and et cetera, doing the groundwork. is this model going to be the pattern of something replicated
elsewhere with an acceptance by washington? for example, in raqqa, or do you ask would like, or, is the u.s. wanting to take the lead on other battle fronts like raqqa in order to establish a balance between washington amoscow. my bet is probably they would self contract the bat of raqqa to the same pattern that we have seen in palmyra. the problem here is that it will become more problematic for the reasons that mike has mentioned. who will control the territory. palmyra is a very specific case. it's not really a city. it's an archaeological site. by the way, tilths siege of probably the harshest prison of the assad regime that has been taken over. to rejoice it's taken over the
done i don't know is not very rejoiceable. raqqa is something else. if you want to take raqqa again you can and shia militias to take raqqa and to slaughter the sunni population or keep it away, someone will have to take order and to put order in that region and to go of verne it. we're talking here about goff nance. this is what i was employing in my probably very quick remark. >> mike, do you want to take the first part? >> about the russian-iranian connecticut do minim-- condomin? >> yes. i liken them to siamese twins that don't like each other. they share the same organs and they share the same limbs or at least some of the same limbs and they can't get away from it. by which i mean the russians
around the iranians, both have a strategic interest. it's not a tactical interest. it's a strategic interest in maintains the assad regime in place. they've been entirely consistent about this all along and that's what allows them to work together. i'm sure if i was reading the top secret intelligence on the iranian/russian relationship i would find all kinds of tensions between the russians and the iranians because, as joe said, the iranians don't want to be subplanted we the russians and they don't want the russians to be able to call all the shots and so forth. but they have this strategic interest. look, president obama is right about one thing. the russian and iranian position in syria is not that great. you know, if you look at the forces that they used to take palmyra, these are not we well-trained efficient forces
that are capable of holding out over the long term against an aggressive and determined flow. and so there's a reason why the iranians are using afghans and iraqis. because they themselves don't want to die. so -- and assad himself can't mobilize his own military. so i think that they are -- the russians and iranians are stuck together for a very long time and anybody who, on the basis of intelligence, real or imagined, says that they're going to fall out any time soon is selling us a bill of goods. >> thanks. i saw two more hands in the air. it want to get these because we're going to have to close out in a second. back here and then rafid, did you have your hand up? why don't you ask the question. hold on on a answer. you ask your question and we'll see if we have a chance for any more. let's go through these. >> first, thank you all for the comments.
i want to pick up just on one of these nuggets. joe in particular spoke about perhaps putin's wallet being calibrated around the time of president obama leaving office. and i have to say first that didn't strike me as making sense because if you're in moscow and looking for a deal, the best deal you're probably going to get is going to be on president obama's watch rather than anybody else. if question we look deeper into it it's seems some of the rational might be that putin cannot deliver in syria and putin cannot deliver in syria precisely because of some of the things that mike was just talking about. mainly, the differences between the russian outlook on syria and also the iranian and the syrian outlook on what they want to see happen. we see some of that play out in the media with russian criticism of assad's statement about retaking the syria and calling for the elections and russian deputy foreign minister talking about a federal set-up in terms of political compromise, which
syria didn't take very nicely. so i was wondering if that was your thinking as to why the men in moscow would be able to pass time rather than achieve the deal? and is the cease-fire really the out of limits of what the russians can put forward at this time? >> can you just identify yourself? >> sure. >> george washington university. >> thanks. if you can bring it up here. if you can identify yourself and ask your question. it's going to come from this way. yes. thank you. >> thank you. i'm rafi, adviser to apec. some analysts have said that isis on the one hand and assad in the other hand need a etch other and feed each other. that isis need assad as poster boy for recruitment of the infidel monday who massacres sued difficults and on the other hand they need isis to say it's only us against them. all the -- all the terrorists on
the other side and we're the good guys fighting against them, which is something you suggested. and if that is true, isn't it interest of both of them to continue the war in such a way that isis will remain intact, perhaps palmyra is a small thing. i don't know. but basically they want this to continue and not to really seriously hurt each other because both of them interests to continue this. >> thanks. why don't we do this. joe, why don't you ask his question and working back here, all of you come up with an answer to rafi's question as well but let's keep it fairly quick as we've got to close down in a second. >> thanks. very good questions. >> i fully agree with what you said and this is what i was implying maybe to refine that i would say the following. so far for what is possibly extractible from the american administration, putin extracted it. i think what we has in geneva, vietnam, this whole machinery is the ultimate thing he could get.
this is why both sides have an interest of presenting the truth as well because the americans would say, i mean, the u.s. administration could say to its opinion, its friends, we have a shift in syria. a cessation of hostility, people can live. there is a political process. by the way, in this political process, believe it or not we're talking about assad, me and lavrov. it's not public because we don't want to spoil the process but we're doing it. and time is passing. and the administration is leaving in a few months. so for the u.s. it's already something. for putin, it's convenient. he got what he wanted. he's sitting on power with the u.s. he has become the holder of the keys in syria but he knows the digestion of this deal on the syria basis and on the international level can't be done with an administration that is leaving, it has to be done with a new administration. so he knows that he can deliver assad in the six months to come so he has a vested interest in
hanging to this illusion of political process that turns around the world and then, also,because he wants to, let me say capitalize on this new parody between him and the u.s. he wants to know who will be in the white house for the period to come. this is the way i see it, which is not contradictory to your way of seeing it. >> jomana, if you want to take rafi's question. mike, if you want to finish it up. >> absolutely. i think what you just stated is absolutely correct. i think that the -- this is something that is syrian people have said over and over again in protests. as long as assad is here you are giving isil an excuse, isil and assad an excuse to recruit and it fuels their fire because they're the only two entities that are able to offer any sort of -- to win anything in any way sort of. they're able to arm them. able to give them food, water, et cetera. unlike some of the other armed groups poorly supplied and
purely -- poorly funded. and i should also mention that just briefly that we did see some individuals in isil areas, during these protests also hold out signs and, granted they did it covering their face and in very obscurely so they wouldn't be caught but there were people even inside of isil held areas who risked their lives to still show we are for freedom, we are for democracy and for the removal of assad. there is a movement that is alive even in these isil-held areas even though the world is only able to see really isil at the forefront of this fight. >> mike, would you like to just have the last word? >> sure. i think there's a lot of evidence of, what would we say, conniving together between isis and assad. like assad buys oil from isis. and the russians blame the turks but it's assad who is actually buying the oil from isis. and the reason for it is pretty
simple. the center of gravity for isis is iraq. and the center of gravity for assad is western syria, what they call vital syria, damascus, and damascus and aleppo and the connection, the geographic continuity between the assad realm, that's what they are all focused on. so their centers of gravity are different and the other thing that people miss a lot is that when looking at the iranian structure and isis, there's a kind of same strategic structure. isis is a sunni organization that wants to carry out revolution in the islamic world and focused on revolution and taking over sunni territories. that's where they are focused. iran is quite happy to have isis out there foe meanting revolution in sunni areas. there's no possibility that they are going to become active in iran, for example.
so there are points where they have friction between them. iran and assad and isis, but basically the vectors move in the same direction. >> mike, thanks. >> i want to thank you all for coming. i want to thank our c-span audience again and hudson and our panelists so thank you very much again. >> thank you. >> thanks. american history tv on
c-span 3 this weekend. saturday night at 8:00 eastern on lectures and history. >> what we see is new factors making emancipation desirable, old kinds of obstacles falling by the wayside with a result that by august, if not early, 1862, lincoln has decided that when the time is right, he will announce a new aim for the war effort that would add to union human freedom. >> wheaton college professor on the revolving war goals and then at 10:00 on "reel america." >> at the same time and the amazingly agents from the united states. 20% of a mannequin was woman
power. advanced across the world. >> this 1944 war department films how documents and women in world war ii hidden army working in war manufacturing are a main reason that germany lost the war. and founded in 1890. >> one thing that stands out at this time period is that this creation of this imagery of the apothiosis and it's an old concept and it goes back to ancient times where a warrior is made god-like by lifting him up and celebrating him. >> on the presidency at 8:00 -- >> though washington and
jefferson are the two most prominent examples of slaves while they occupied the white house. james madison who followed jefferson as the fourth president of the united states owned over 100 slaves holding a large percentage while he occupied the white house. he is responsible for proposing and expanding the compromise which guaranteed the south held a proportionate influence on congress to observe and uphold slave-earning interests. >> tyler perry, studies professor at california state university, fullerton, on the 12 american presidents who were slave owners, eight of them while they were in office. go to c-span.org for more. afghanistan's first lady was in the u.s. recently and spoke at an event hosted by the atlantic council.
mrs. ghani discussed the challenges facing afghanistan and the role that women are playing in the rebuilding process. this is an hour and 20 minutes. all right. good morning. ceo of the atlantic council. it is an enormous pleasure to welcome you to this morning's event with the first lady of afghanistan mrs. rula ghani. mrs. ghani, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us. please carry our best wishes back to your husband, president ghani, with whom you know we have a long and deep relationship of the atlantic council and we gave him our distinguished leadership award last year with great pride. i'd like to extend a special
welcome to his excellency habib. mr. ambassador, ambassador to afghanistan to the united states and his wife who are joining us for today's conversation. mr. ambassador, with he so greatly value the council's strong, productive relationship with your embassy. we consider this bilateral relationship to be a relationship that has outsized importance in the months and the years ahead and we look forward to working with you on strengthening our bonds. atlantic council board director ambassador khali zal is also here. his general support is a crucial catalyst that enables our afghan programming. any of you who have spent time with zal know that he built an incredible career and has unique challenges -- you unique insights in the challenges we
have today, but now you can go beyond knowing t you can actually read about it. he has just published his book "the envoy" and if you look at my former workplace, "the wall street journal" in this morning's edition, there is an incredible review. so that's a plug that i give to all hardworking book writers. he is a compelling storyteller so it's well worth reading. also, to understand his -- his upbringing in afghanistan and the life that he led afterwards. we're also joined by ambassador richard olsen -- >> not yet. >> not yet. he will be joining us who serves as the state department special representative for afghanistan and pakistan. today's conversation is public and on the record, so i encourage you to join the conversation online using #rulaghani.
2015 was a significant year, the first full year in office for its unity government led by president ghani and chief executive abdullah and 2016 expects to be equally demanding. nato is straining to maintain commitments in europe and the middle east and this year the member nations will review their engagement in afghanistan and recommit their support. amid renewed violence between the taliban and government in kabul the afghan government must find ways to keep at bay forces that could reverse progress made since 2001. as these security threats loom, we must consider the human cost of increased instability and violence. it is more critical than ever to cultivate a strong, healthy and vibrant society and to deploy security and economic policies that harness the nation's potential. we in the united states have
seen what happens when we take our eye off afghanistan and the importance of that country. in the past we -- we cannot allow ourselves to make the same mistake again. we look forward to hearing from the first lady on these issues at the nexus of state and society. she has played an integral role in the government's efforts to overcome the legal, economic and social impediments to progress. she's continual alley made women's, children's and internally displaced people's issues a central focus of the debates in government, since i'm not going to be introducing you i'm going to leave that to the atlantic council senior fellow and chair ambassador james cunningham, jim cunningham, who until a year ago was the u.s. ambassador to afghanistan. i'm very proud to have him at the atlantic council holding this role and to have him now introduce a woman who has shown the formidable will and unmatched leadership needed to advance the conditions of women, children and internally displaced people in afghanistan. so ambassador -- ambassador cunningham. [ applause ]
>> thank you, fred, and thanks to all of you for joining us today. and for the many of you who are in the audience who have been engaged for a long time in afghanistan, i want to thank you for your support. we have a lot of distinguished guests here so i'm glad you took -- very pleased that you took time out of your busy schedules to join us today to hear mrs. ghani and i want to say a special word of welcome to ambassador of norway cory oss and ambassador mohib and his wife. i'm not going to go into mrs. ghani's bio, you have that in the documents. i also want to thank ambassador azad for joining us today. the session is on the record after mrs. ghani's remarks the ambassador will join her on stage for a discussion and q & a. what i want to say is a brief
word will rula ghani as a person. my wife and i were very happy to have known her and her husband when we were in afghanistan and we are very proud to have her as a friend. we first met several years ago at his home in kabul. while she was active in kabul life she wasn't a particularly public person, she was a gracious and engaging host, a warm and thoughtful person committed to improving afghanistan and supporting her husband's untiring efforts in that regard. and i mean untiring. when asher ghani ran for president she began to campaign for him which was a first in afghanistan. she was a gracious campaigner, she was attacked and maligned for campaigning in some quarters in sometimes hurtful ways, but she remained committed to
supporting the campaign and to a better future for her country. as american ambassador i was proud when the new president recognized her at his inauguration, a symbolic turning of the page in afghan history. afghanistan is facing severe problems and challenges as we all know, but there is a new afghanistan building and emerging. the future is in the hands of the afghans themselves and they are taking charge of their future. they need time and space and millions of courageous afghans are working every day to take advantage of that time and space and i am convinced that there is an opportunity for this country if the international community maintains its commitment. and i'm also convinced there should be no further reductions in u.s. and international forces and support for afghanistan until conditions on the ground and afghan capabilities make that possible. i've been consistently reminded over the course of my career of the importance of the individual in history. the occasion when the right
person is at the right time and place to influence developments large or small and rula ghani is one of those people. on april 6th she takes the stage at the annual women of the world -- women in the world summit in new york city. the summit tag line is, meet the women who changed the world. she is helping to change her adopted country's history and afghanistan is fortunate to have her in the right time and place. so please join me in welcoming first lady, rula ghani. [ applause ] >> thank you, jim, for these very kind words. i have a little trouble remembering the time as first lady. i haven't changed, i've always been what i am and i'm comfortable with it and i hope you will be, too.
in the name of god the compassionate, the merciful, distinguished members of the audience, i come to you in peace. that's what that means. by inviting me to address the select gathering of thoughtful and influential movers and shakers. men and women, the atlantic council and the afghanistan rising initiative are honoring me and i would like to thank fred camp, jim cunningham afor their warm welcome. thank you also to you, members of the audience. for taking the time to come and listen to me. listening is something that i myself do a lot in afghanistan.
when i first decided to fully assume the responsibilities of first lady some 18 months ago, i was entering unchartered waters. i had no specific agenda, but that of serving the people especially the vulnerable ones. that meant that i had to get to know them better and understand their grievances. hence, the open door policy of my office. in the first six to eight months, groups after groups have come to see me. pouring out their hearts and sharing their concerns. some came from the provinces, others from kabul. if you are civil servants, among them of course the four women ministers. others are social activists or entrepreneurs.
to this date, the flow is constant if somewhat less rushed. i listen to my four advisers who report to me daily, four enthusiastic hard working women, slightly younger than i am, who deeply care for their country, who still remember how beautiful it was 40 years ago, who are determined to help rebuild the society and strongly believe in the capabilities of the afghan people. i also listen to the international community. some of you here are -- some of you are here today. and can vouch for it, from u.n. agencies, to embassies to aid institutions. australian aid, japanese, et cetera, et cetera. to ngos and even to individuals. i'm thinking, for example, of pascal, that french lady who is
bent on creating a virtual cultural museum for afghanistan. i love their dynamism, though i sometimes chaff at their bureaucracy. all this say in a round about way that the information that we're presenting to you will be firsthand. factual. and representative. it might not reflect what you read in journalistic or even in some expert accounts. i was struck by a comment i was reading on yahoo! two days ago. on the ongoing political debate on terrorism from susan hasler, and she recently wrote, people make the most incendiary and irresponsible claims as a stating indisputable facts hardly anyone will tell you where they got their information. repetition and volume try to take the place of verification. i would use word for word her
observation to describe the reporting on afghanistan these days. so you know where i stand. journalists are so rushed trying to be the first to scoop a story. while trying to write it in the most sensational and entertaining version. that they hardly have time to check their facts. witness the article in "the washington post" two days ago. there were so many facts that were wrong like so many people who were mentioned as being members of the administration that had defected. they used to be members of the former administration, so it's really not telling the story the way it is. so repeated half truths take a life of their own, especially on
social media. and suddenly, become conventional wisdom. the result today is an existence of several myths that need to be debunked. myth number one, the taliban are winning. really? then why is it that we keep hearing about the same 600 meters being lost and regained every other week or every other month? and why is it that their leader cannot claim to be what we need. the fact is that they do not fully control enough territory to be able to make that claim. and by the way, i do want to ask this question. who is the institute for the study of war that produces maps to the contrary? i really would like to know because their information is totally skewed. america has lost the war. that's myth number two. what war? america came into the town of osama bin laden which was done. america is not at war with the
people. am i right? america has failed in afghanistan. myth number three. wasn't america's aim to help rebuild the country and help it on its way to achieving political stability? wasn't the peaceful succession from president karzai to president ghani the sign of political maturity? myth number four. the electoral process in 2014 was fraudulent. how can you still insist on that when the u.n. commission carried on three different recounts and i'm talking about total recounts, over two months, and was unable to discover the alleged fraud on an industrial scale. they did find some
irregularities and they found them in both camps, and the numbers were reduced by 1%. so again, the article in "the washington post" talk about legitimizing the government. this is a legitimate government. and if you don't believe in elections, maybe the u.s. should stop saying -- talking about democracy because democracy is believing in the voice of the people and what they say. anyway. i don't know which number this myth is. other myth. there are quite a few. the unity government is not working. i ask, when angela merkel took over six months to put together her unity government, nobody in the world blinked. why should it be different in the case of afghanistan? it takes time to create a united government.
afghanistan is falling apart economically. well, maybe they mean that the pockets of the previous bureaucratic and political elite are no longer bulging with ill-gotten money. in my book, less corruption should be considered progress. the present afghan government is inefficient and disorganized. well, it takes time to clean up years of neglect and absence of management. it takes even more time to set up solid foundations on which to build the reforms. let us keep an open mind for a year or so. besides, in the brief they're already reporting that collection of revenue has already increased by 22% in 2015. if anything, this is not a sign
of disorganization. afghan men are an uncivilized lot. illiteracy does not mean lack of culture. this is something people in the west have a hard time to understand. there is what you call a culture and it can be deeply ingrained in people. a nontraditional society is highly cultured. of course, this is seldom the case for warlords and mercenaries, but isn't that true in most post-conflict situations? and again, it takes time to replace the reign of violence with the rule of law. and the government is hard at work reforming the justice system.
afghan women are worse off before and any peace with the tall ban will be made at their expense or its alternative, women have no say in the peace negotiations. i have heard that so many times. let's get the record straight. the number two on the high peace council is mrs. sarabi, former governor of the province and no shrinking violet. another woman on the negotiating team, mrs. safi, head of the all-important afghan women network. awn. women are taking part in the peace process and at the highest level. besides, president ghani himself has repeatedly declared in public speeches that the issue of women's rights is non-negotiable. i will not be surprised if some
of you will want to raise questions about several of the preceding points and i would be glad to engage them during the question and answer session. let me tell you though more about a topic close to my heart, the women of afghanistan. as i mentioned at the beginning, there is a constant stream of women who come to see me. lately, i have noticed an increasing number of accounts. of course, we are far from solving all the problems and challenges. it has been only a year since the barbaric tragedy in kabul and even less since the savage stoning of lahore. to name just a few cases of violence against women. but the women of afghanistan did not take this lying down and have raised their voices against all this violence. one of the results of their efforts has been the creation with the help of the ministry of women's affairs of an emergency fund dedicated to the victims of
violence that will help cover their expenses, especially medical and legal ones. another has been the holding of several meetings and conferences with religious scholars as counterparts to discuss what is the place of women in islam and to clarify any misconception. and believe me, you would be surprised as to how many injunctions in the holy koran preach respect for women and equal treatment of women and men. one very important development in our country since the new government came to power 18 months ago has been the greater participation of women in public
affairs. we now have four women ministers, all four very active and effective. our foreign service counts three women ambassadors, soon to be four. we almost had our first woman judge at the supreme court. by the way, do you know that we have over 250 women judges in afghanistan? whereas some of our neighbors do not have even one. many more women have been joining the civil service. some of them in responsible positions such as deputy ministers. the police are aiming at recruiting 5,000 women and they have passed the halfway mark. the army has identified positions that are exclusively to be filled by women. while also declaring some other positions to be open to both women and men and so on and so on. in other words, the present government is actively pursuing the integration of women in its decision-making processes. at the cabinet level, a commission for gender policy led by vice president danesh and attended by representatives of several ministries has been busy looking into the gender units of all ministries. every ministry has a gender unit
which you call the equal opportunity commission. the gender sensitivity of all official rules and policy. the ongoing reform of the justice system is benefiting women. a special division of the supreme court is now dedicated to cases of violence against women and children and it's headed by one of the supreme court judges. this has ensured special attention and higher speed in resolving these cases. one such case is being carefully re-examined. also, a special commission of the supreme court has been reviewing the cases of every imprisoned woman and to date, 95 women have been released or pardoned and 42 have seen their sentences reduced.
new regulations regarding harassment at the workplace were issued in september of 2015. the criminal court is being amended so that women running away from home are no longer automatically considered criminals and sent to jail. here again, many more adjustments are still needed. but the justice system is definitely becoming increasingly fair towards women. and i could go on and on about the women friendly policies that are being implemented by the ministry of women's affairs, of agriculture, of rural development and of labor and social affairs. following the guidelines of the official national women economic empowerment plan. my own team of advisers have also had their share in bringing improvement to the condition of women in afghanistan. in the health field, one major accomplishment has been the formation of a cancer
association, bringing together all existing health care and specialists under the auspices of the public health ministry to set up anified policy towards the fight against cancer with an emphasis on breast and cervical cancer. similarly, our office has supported a campaign launched by the counternarcotics ministry and it's established a treatment center for addicts. for those of you who have been gone to afghanistan, it was called the phoenix camp. we now call it the center of hope, center for hope. with one special hospital dedicated to the treatment of 300 women addicts, so it will not surprise you if i conclude today with a message of hope. the hope that i see on the faces of the women who come to visit with me, the hope that these
women are slowly regaining control of their destiny. the hope that the protection afforded to them by the constitution is gaining momentum. the hope they can become active participants in their country's social, economic and political life. the hope that they can dream again for a better future for them and their families. nowhere is this message of hope stronger than in the lives of the rising generations. we have terrific young women coming up. i see it in mallikar with a starting loan of 1700 -- i think it's the equivalent of $40 or around there, she found a way to start three small businesses, opened to high school and buying a piece of land on which she hopes to build a pasta factory. that's ambition. i see it in her contemporary who
acutely aware of the educational aspiration of girls from the provinces, because girls in kabul and other areas have access to education. but in the provinces it's still very difficult. she is finding so many ways to provide them with opportunities for learning in kabul and abroad. she gets some scholarships here in the states. there's the kings academy in jordan. she sent some -- i think in -- i think it's singapore. i'm not quite sure. and was about to fulfill a dream of opening a boarding secondary and high school for them in the capital of kabul. i see it in another of their contemporary nuggets. she founded her own ngo in order to be of help to her community. attending to those in need. and who single-handedly managed to accompany 20 handicapped children to india, where she had arranged for their treatment. and came back with 17 of them
now able to walk. it was wonderful to see those little guys coming back at the airport. i see it in laila, who after several years of taking care of her brother who was addicted to drugs, decided to open a shelter where 40 addicts are attended and who is running in parallel a small restaurant in order to cover her expenses. i see it in another, a mba graduate from the american university in afghanistan. after several years of helping students in the department of the economics started their own business. it's now about to start a venture herself that covers the whole process of production of threads and carpets in order to create 5,000 jobs to women in the provinces. if this is not hope, what is? thank you.
[ applause ] >> thank you very much for that clear and forceful statement. i want to thank my friend fred and my friend jim for their welcome of you and add my own words of welcome. for the audience, so they are in the picture, i have known president ghani for a very long time, since we were in high school together. in fact, when we were going to come to the united states as high school students, we went to the american embassy together to
get a visa and in filling out the application for that visa, your first name, last name and i did not know what the last name meant because, as you know, most afghans have just a first name. so the president, dr. ghani, was next to me. so he was a little more worldly than i was at that time. because i had just come from kabul and he was a resident of kabul for a long time. and so i asked for his advice, what is this last name? so he explained to me that your father's name is halil, which was my father -- he's dead now. and so immediately we made my last name on the spot.
so i owe -- it's served me well, so i thank him for that. and we have been interacting for a very long time. and in beirut where dr. ghani and i were students, the president met his future wife. with that, -- with that background, i wanted to start the conversation. we have about 50 minutes or so. and give ample time to the audience, but ask a couple of questions if i might. and one is that you have been quoted by the inspector general, ig, expressing your view with regard to the development activities or investments that have been made or the moneys that have been spent on development projects.
concern that the past pattern with regard to a legacy project with regard to women, that that past pattern of holding conferences, giving certificates, contracting and subcontracting would not be repeated. i would be interested, i'm sure the audience would be interested to know your view of the lessons learned and how should going forward the expenditures focus on the development, generally on women project in particular should be carried out. >> yes. i remember seeing -- is this working? i remember seeing the quote in a report, and i was talking at the
launch of the promote program, which you know is a five-year program that usaid has started for helping afghan woman. the program had not yet started but i kind of raised the concern that this program should not repeat the mistakes of the past, because indeed, there has been a lot of project -- a lot of programs, a lot of ngo's, a lot of international aid agencies that have come and spent money in afghanistan. but those people who have participated in those projects more often than not have had probably -- took part in workshops for two weeks.
and then ended up at the workshop, they nicely -- with the nicely signed documents they can frame and put on the wall in their home and nothing else. no follow-up, no trying to use their new skills if ever they acquired their new skills because sometimes it was the case they didn't really learn much. so i wanted to a little bit tongue in cheek to promote people, that peace makes sure that you are doing something substantial. that you are training people. you're doing capacity training. you're training people so they can carry on after your training and do something substantial. >> thank you. you in your statement you mentioned the progress that afghanistan has made, and in one
area that a lot of progress has been made impacting also women is the spread of telecommunication which covers now almost all of afghanistan from a very few phones. i remember when i went there first after 9/11 taking satellite phones to distribute to maybe now 17, 18 million cell phones. and to what extent that success can be used, which also includes lots of women having the means to communicate now, to address some of the areas that -- where more progress is needed. whether it's in the area of quality of education. whether it's in the area of economic empowerment of women to include them more in the economy. >> phones are a tool and it's true, we now have phones all over afghanistan.
and we have phones -- a lot of people also have smartphones. which means they can access things on the internet. phones have been used. phones have been used. i know of an organization that chooses them for literacy programs. and they have done literacy in the more classical way of having a classroom and teaching people how to read and write. but when they started doing it on the phones, it was much faster. the women would learn in months or less than a month. and the reason is that they had a motivation. they wanted to be able to use their phone to send messages. so they knew that that skill they were going to learn, they're going to be able to apply immediately. this was maybe the secret of the success. you have to teach people things they need to learn so that they can improve.
phones i know of the group of poets and writers, mostly when i talk about groups they are usually women. these were women and they communicate -- they come and meet in kabul once or twice a year. they don't have much money, they don't get money from anyone, but they communicate with each other by phone and sometimes if some member was not able to come to the meeting, they would put the phone on speakerphone and she would be in her village, wherever she is, and she would be reading for example a poem that she's written. and she would be reading it aloud and they will discuss it to her and tell her whatever they thought she did well, what they thought she didn't do well.
so it helps to come together and phones are important. everybody has a phone. even the cook or the driver or -- you need a phone to be able to function in kabul. >> yeah. i think that the phone -- as afghanistan leapfrogged not having line phones to cell phones can -- an area that i have been thinking about is whether this digital technology generally can be an instrument for addressing some of the other issues, particularly with regard to the quality of education or to -- with regard to financial inclusion. where we see significant results in parts of africa like kenya on digital finance.
can afghanistan benefit from the infrastructure that's developing with regard to cell phone technology to address some of the other issues of development? >> i think i -- i can think now of other examples. i'm not involved in this, so it's -- as the details come back to my mind, phones are now being tested to pay people. to pay them directly instead of going through intermediaries which would cut down on a lot of corruption. phones are used by traders to find out where -- you know, if somebody is trading in wool and is in one province, with a phone either by calling people or by looking up the internet, they can see what is the price of wool in another part of the country or in other countries. and so they can economically it is a tool to find out -- to get more information. it's really -- it can become very important.
i'm not myself as i said involved in pushing any kind of phone program so i can't really talk more about it. >> well, i have been very impressed. i do watch as we talked before coming here afghan news whenever i can. and i have been very impressed with your public statements in farsi and your commitment and your leadership has been extremely inspiring. so i thank you for your service as the first lady for afghanistan. with that, i would like to open the floor and take questions, comments. please introduce yourself so we know who you are. please, here and then we'll move around. >> i want to say that, yes, i mastered the dari language and i
gave a speech in pashtun -- i went to jalalabad and i spoke in pashtun there because this is the language. >> well, thank you. i missed that. excellent. thank you. >> there are things you don't know about me. >> well, i won't make any comment there. >> well, madam first lady, congratulations on the speaking in farsi and pashtun and i was born in kabul. i'm the program director for a group called capitalize international in washington, d.c. i thank you for being a positive inspirational public image not only for the women of afghanistan, but for the country as a whole. my question has to do with education and we all accept education to be the master key for success for all individuals in society. many, many years ago i was a student at georgetown
university. i was attending many meetings at the u.s. afghan women's council. back then we were debating how to create some social changes that are sustainable for economic empowerment of women in afghanistan. amid all this on numerous occasions suggested the idea of creating a woman's only university for afghan women in afghanistan, modeled after the colleges in the united states. i recently have heard that such -- that that idea has been adopted. i was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about that and if you are engaged in that intervention because i believe such an intervention is the right intervention for the future of the women's empowerment across the broader
spectrum of life for afghan women in social, economic and political aspects of life. thank you. >> yes. there is a project for a women's university. i will not take credit for the idea. it was one of my husband's promises during the campaign. and he followed on that promise like he followed on many other promises. it's i think -- i think the country that has taken upon itself to create this university is turkey. and they are as far as i know like a month ago i was with a minister of higher education and she told me that they were about to sign the memorandum of understanding. so it is under way and probably within a year we'll have that university. it's going to be located on --
it will have a beautiful view of kabul. and i hope that it will benefit a lot of women. >> thank you. >> please, back there. yes. if you could introduce yourself. >> i'm johan senkrat, i'm a graduate student from georgetown university. thank you for your presentation. i'm originally from sri lankan. i'm following the cricket world cup quite recently, and you know, the established cricketing nations have been incredibly impressed by the feats of the afghanistan team. in fact, the west indies were defeated by afghanistan a few days later. few days ago. so my question to you, ma'am, do you see the potential for cricket to advance -- to advance a nation building process, like garnering consensus on a common national identity?
we have seen in the past sports being used as a tool to bring people together. what's the role of cricket in your view in bringing afghans together? >> you might laugh but it's a very fortunate statement. cricket is extremely important in afghanistan because it's -- it is news that nobody can turn into negative news. it is positive news. and they're very proud of their teams and on cricket tonight, everybody to stays up to watch on tv the cricket matches and they're happy to see that afghanistan has progressed to the upper level and that they had four of -- of the four matches that they did, they did win one against a country that's had been -- that had been the champion in 2012. so people were very, very proud. yes. sports can play a very important
role and as you said, it's a leveller. in sports, it doesn't matter where you come from. doesn't matter what language you speak. doesn't matter anything. it matters that you're good at it and it's a good symbol of national unity, yes. >> way back, yes, please. the gentleman who's standing, yes. then we'll come this way. >> thank you. i'm jay from the hindu american foundation, nonprofit ngo that studies the plight of the hindu minority in several countries. unfortunately in afghanistan, the hindu and sikh up members are continuing to decline. do you in all honesty, do you feel the hindus and sikhs and other religious minorities have a place in the state and can the government guarantee their security or should they seek
refuge elsewhere in order to just survive? >> i'm going to start by answering with a larger answer, moreroader answer. it seems nowadays in the world that everybody wants to compartmentalize every country into different groups. okay, in afghanistan, it might be that we have the ethnic groups and the hindus are one of them. in other countries, you saw what happened in the middle east and suddenly we discovered we had all these groups that lived there for centuries and they lived in peace and somehow they started to be persecuted. i think this trend is a very negative trend. the hindus have been part of our history. there are hindus in afghanistan. there has been a back and forth between the two countries. it's a very strong one. i visited india and so many people had tremendous -- of
kabul of the good days, how they would go on their honeymoon to kabul. how they'd go for taking the s.a.t. to kabul because it was not offered in india. right now, we are in a situation in -- in a situation where kabul and afghanistan is -- it needs to catch up to where india is. the sikh and hindu community in afghanistan, they are of us, they speak the language. they have been there for centuries. there are certain -- certain considerations -- practical consideration i know of that relate to, for example, the
funerals where you need to have a pyre and burn the bodies. and i think the government has reached an agreement with the hindu community about creating a more modern facility, because people were complaining. you know, kabul has suddenly expanded, become such a large city and there were no places to be able to do these rituals. so there was some friction there. i would encourage the sikhs to stay, the sikhs and hindus to stay. afghanistan is an inclusive country and we are a country where, for example, shias and sunnis have no problems, unlike our neighbors. it is -- it is a country that is really very hospitable. >> thank you. >> lady over there, yes, please. >> i'm from the national democratic institute. thank you so much for the wonderful speech. it's always inspiring. my question is on sustainability.
as you mentioned national unity government has made some great progress strengthening women's roles across the different sectors, earn couraging women's political engagement and assigning women at high government positions. do you think these efforts are sustainable? i'm talking beyond parity numbers. filling seats and positions. how sustainable do you think these efforts are? thank you. >> the efforts will be as sustainable as the women themselves. you know, you can open up opportunities. you can open up opportunities and you can encourage, but the work has to be done by the people themselves. so if they are really keen on being part of the society on playing a role, there they have their chance and they will build the situation. if they are not keen, if it's just a passing fancy, but the way i see the women in
afghanistan, they are very keen and they are very grateful to be able to have so many forums where they can express themselves, where they can have an opinion and can push for certain things that they need. so i am optimistic. >> great. this lady over here. and then we'll go back. >> thank you very much. you gave a wonderful speech. [ speaking a foreign language ] >> sure. we're family. [ speaking a foreign language ]
[ speaking a foreign language ] >> may i translate for the audience the two questions? the question one was the issue of afghans who have gone to europe coming back, whether the government planned for reintegrated -- reintegrating them in afghanistan, and two is a follow-up, there are benefits that are -- that already women
have achieved from that. what more can they achieve from that technology? please. >> okay. yes. we have -- i read the latest number but i don't know because i have no real statistic. the latest number was 180,000 afghans had left the country. i want you to put that in perspective. the press makes it sound like there are hoards and hoards of afghans that are leaving. in a country of 32 million inhabitance, 180,000 is a small number. now, to the question of whether these afghans will be welcomed when they come back to afghanistan? of course. afghanistan is their country. they are more than welcome to come and to -- now that they have seen that the situation is not much better elsewhere, maybe
they will feel more motivated to contribute to work for building up their country. so i don't see any problem with their coming back. as far as the -- i don't know the second question is not really a question, it's a statement. >> a statement. yeah. >> i welcome this, it's kind of publicity as you see, but that's okay. but yes, why not? anything that can help women, i'm really for it. >> go ahead. yes? this young lady here. [ speaking a foreign language ] [ speaking a foreign language ]
[ speaking a foreign language ] >> very quickly because it's very long, basically, the lady was very kind to thank me for the work i have done and how i have given hope to every woman in afghanistan. that she can -- she can take part in the decision process in afghanistan. her question is is there a -- a plan for affirmative action to
-- so i say, okay. i try to understand who's doing what in all of this and maybe eventually i'll be able to push. but you have to remember i was neither elected nor selected. i have very -- i mean, on the book, i have very little power. it's just because the women and the men are really appreciating what we're doing that people -- if there was somebody from the office calls and say i'm calling from the office of the first lady, they are responding. there is so -- i hope i'll be able to look into this. thank you. >> i think one thing that she did make -- to congrat lated the first lady for this office in afghanistan. please, back there. >> thank you. i'm privileged to go to school at boston university on a fulbright scholarship. more privileged to meet the first lady in afghanistan that i have got to meet in my lifetime. you spoke about long term thinking, long term planning
with the initiatives. how long do you need to put afghanistan in a position that is reasonably irreversible in terms of development and stability and how are you explaining that to our allies for your administration and those that are going to follow you? thank you. >> again, i would mention that i don't do politics, but i will -- so my answer is now going to be very precise, because i don't interfere. i don't -- when i talk with foreigners it's much more on social and development issues. it takes time to build. it takes a minute or two to destroy.
you know, one bomb can destroy everything in no time. but then to rebuild a house, it takes one year, one year and a half. the previous administration was very good at stopping the civil war. remember, we had a civil war for 23 years. we were killing each other, we were bombing each other. we were destroying each other. so you have to give credit to the previous administration that they -- president karzai was able to bring everybody at the table and say we are all
together in this. unfortunately, from the point of view of management, the previous administration was not very detail oriented let's put it. so they -- as long as things were going on, they take care of it. so this administration has arrive and found a lot of disorganization and they are harder to work and try to bring some kind of order to the administration. again, i will mention "the washington post." i just read it yesterday, so this is why it's still in my mind, talking about a very disorganized government. the ministers now have to have a hundred-day programs, and at the end of the hundred days they are in the cabinet, whoever said that the cabinet sessions don't do anything must not have attended cabinet sessions.
in the cabinet, they -- everyone reports on what he has done during his 100 days. has he met the goals he had said he was going to meet? has he or she -- was he or she able to move in and further and organize or whatever? i think there's been now four different hundred day programs. and so through this the ministries are getting to be a little more organized. it will take time. every ministry has employees in the thousands. and you need to retrain everyone and to tell them this is the way you do things, this is not the way. so it's going to take time. i cannot say whether it will take a year or two years or three years. i hope by the end of the five year mandates you will see a very big difference from the beginning. that's what i would commit to. >> thank you. yes, sir. here and then over there. please. yeah. over here. >> let's take this person. >> please, while you're getting organized. >> all right. hello.
yes, thank you very much for being here today. i was in kabul a couple of weeks ago and i had the pleasure of hearing you speak at the women -- international women's day conference at the school. my question has to do with how do you relate to the women's ministry? how do you divide your lanes in the road, what do you do as opposed to what the women's ministry does? >> can you introduce yourself? >> i'm sorry, i'm max gross. >> max, of course has had a long relationship with afghanistan. >> that's true. >> married to an afghan lady. >> yes. who i think knows you and i also know your husband. >> thank you. >> it's a very good question because it's going to clarify something. i'm not about creating new institutions.
i'm about helping the existing institution work better and so i do that with all the ministries i'm in contact with. the ministry of women's affairs, i see the minister rather regularly. whenever she needs me. i don't necessarily summon the ministers and say, come, i need to understand what you're doing. they come to me. it always surprises me, but apparently i do have some say in afghanistan. they come, they ask for advice. i never say you have to do this. i'm never proscriptive. i never say do this -- no, no,
no. she came to a ministry that was a little built -- little bit in turmoil. there were two very strong women as deputy ministers, and she had a little bit of a difficulty with them. i never said do this or do that. eventually, the two have been replaced and she has two other deputy ministers. i have worked with her, for example, when i was interested in the gender units in the
ministries, and we worked very hard. we brought all the people from gender ministry -- all -- there are two or three per minister. we had a huge meeting and we discussed things and we kind of made a summary at the end of things that were not working well. and after that, we followed through. i helped her follow through, for example, i got to the -- to the organizational structure and to sit with her and to write ters for the unit. this is obvious what we need, but it's not obvious in afghanistan. so we did the ters and eventually after that, i let go because i saw she was really taking the reins. she was going to do it. it's her project, her ministry. i'm glad that she came to me for some advice and i was able to help her in a small way. but that was essential. so, yes, i do the same with ministry of counternarcotics. i also have some dealings with ministry of higher education, but not really much. ministry of education wanted me to be an ambassador for literacy. but they are undergoing a very big reform. that has been shelved. so it probably -- you probably will hear that i'm doing the -- i mean, all i'm doing is talking whenee