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A Discussion on Recent Developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Aired October 12, 2009 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the Taliban escalates their attacks in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. So can either country get a grip on their Islamic militants?

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the program.

In Pakistan today, the Taliban launched yet another offensive, the fourth major strike in just over a week, killing dozens of troops and civilians in the Swat Valley. The bombing happened two days after they brazenly attacked the Pakistan army's headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Later in the program, we'll discuss the worsening political and military situation in Afghanistan with Peter Galbraith, who was recently fired from the U.N. mission in Kabul over the election dispute.

But first, we go to our reporter in Pakistan, CNN's Reza Sayah.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Carnage in northwest Pakistan. A teenage suicide bomber attacked a military convoy as it passed through a busy market in the Swat Valley Monday. Forty-one people died, six of them soldiers.

It was the latest in a string of militant attacks that have renewed doubts about Pakistan's ability to win the fight against Islamic extremism. Observers say the attacks show both sophisticated planning by the militants and an apparent failure of security forces to do their job.

Last week, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the offices of the World Food Programme in Islamabad. He duped his way in by dressing as a soldier, then asking to use the bathroom.

Days later, one of the deadliest attacks this year, more than 50 killed in a suicide attack in a busy market in Peshawar.

The most audacious attack came over the weekend, when militants again dressed as soldiers stormed the army headquarters in Rawalpindi and took dozens of people, soldiers and civilians, hostage.

After 22 hours, Pakistani commandos swooped in, killing the militants and capturing their leader, but not before 11 military personnel and 3 civilians died. Facing heavy criticism, the Pakistani military went on damage control.

GEN. ATHAR ABBAS, PAKISTANI MILITARY SPOKESMAN: I think our reaction was quite satisfactory, and we are proud of all those who conducted the operation, laid down their lives, and prevented the damage which could have been much more.

SAYAH: Analyst Maria Sultan (ph) says these attacks are the work of a new breed of professionally trained extremists.


AMANPOUR: And we're going to turn right now to Reza Sayah in Islamabad.

Reza, thanks for being there at this late hour. What exactly is the Pakistan army or government going to do about this?

SAYAH: Well, they've launched a series of major military offensive against the Taliban. They've surrounded them with a lot of hype, and they've had some success in northwest Pakistan. For example, the Swat Valley, they managed to push the Taliban out. They're turning their focus now to South Waziristan. That's their next target, South Waziristan, of course, the hub of Taliban activity here in Pakistan. Washington calls it a safe haven for Al Qaida.

But the problem with these military offensives is oftentimes the militants can easily melt away, hide, then come back and hit back with these devastating suicide attacks, and the only way to stop these attacks is with better and more effective counterterrorism. That means a better police force, more effective intelligence-gathering, management and analysis.

And the Pakistani government will tell you they're not there yet. This is an conventional army designed to fight -- fight a conventional warfare -- Christiane?

AMANPOUR: And the debate that's very publicly going on in Washington, D.C., regarding sending more troops or not to Afghanistan and whether it be counterterrorism or counterinsurgency, is that having an effect on the Pakistani government, the military right now?

SAYAH: Well -- well, they're keeping a close eye on that debate. The Pakistani government doesn't want U.S. and NATO troops to pack up and leave, but they are concerned about a sudden surge. Some believe that a surge will lead to some of those hardened militants in Afghanistan to cross over the porous border into Pakistan and destabilize this country.

Remember, many in Pakistan blame the instability, the extremism here on the -- what they call a failed U.S. policy in Afghanistan. They point to the many foreign militants, the Uzbek fighters in the tribal region, and they say the reason they're in Pakistan is because of U.S. and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government doesn't want a similar scenario to play out -- Christiane?

AMANPOUR: Reza, thank you very much. Thanks, Reza.

And joining me now for more on the worsening violence in Pakistan, Hassan Abbas, one of the world's leading experts on the country. He's also author of "Pakistan's Drift into Extremism."

Thank you very much for joining us here.


AMANPOUR: And you were there recently, at least in the summer.


AMANPOUR: First of all, what Reza just said about going into Waziristan -- we've heard a lot -- that would be the North-West Frontier province area, just abutting Afghanistan. We've heard a lot about the fact that they're going to make an offensive into there. Is that going to really deal a death blow to the Taliban and militants there or -- or stir up a viper's nest?

ABBAS: I think it will be just a beginning, because in 2004 and 2008, military went in there, got severe beating, which forced them to get into negotiated deals. This time around, I hope that the cordoning off of the area, the military strikes, and the U.S. drone attacks from the Afghanistan side have given them this opportunity to plan it well, because this will be the battle. That is the sanctuary where Al Qaida, Taliban, Pakistani Taliban have their bases, the training centers.

AMANPOUR: Let me just play a little bit of devil's advocate. I've seen the way the Pakistan military in the past have -- have done these kinds of things, artillery strikes from afar, almost indiscriminate bombing of what they say are militant bases, and that tends to really rile the population.

ABBAS: True.

AMANPOUR: Is there a risk of that again?

ABBAS: There is a risk, but I'm hearing that this time they have tried to development some information networks, some basic information about where is the -- the leadership of Pakistani Taliban, where are Al Qaida. They have enough time to do that.

So hopefully this will be more -- more specific, more focused, because bombing from the above will not change, as you have rightly said.

AMANPOUR: And we have a map that's going to show these -- these four strikes that have happened in the last eight days. If we look at that wall, the very latest is Swat, where 41 people were killed. Just before that, Rawalpindi, 23 people were killed over the weekend at the military headquarters. And just before that, the bombing of the market in Peshawar, 52 people killed, and the U.N. headquarters of the World Food Programme in Islamabad, where five people were killed by those who had infiltrated.

So the real question is: Has the government and the military got a grip on this situation? They've made a lot of promises. There was something to show for it in Swat a few -- a few weeks and months ago. And yet it's happening again. So what is happening?

ABBAS: This is partly a reaction of what happened in Swat, also. I mean, in Swat, the military went full-fledged, in a strong way. There's reaction. The militants also want to stop military from going full-fledged in South Waziristan, but there's no doubt the grip is weak. The law enforcement grip...

AMANPOUR: The grip of who?

ABBAS: The grip of Pakistani state. To -- to counter such measures is very weak. The law enforcement is in a pathetic state. The Pakistani intelligence has, I think, little clue where all these different militant groups are based, what are their new networks, because the attack on GHQ, Rawalpindi, is unprecedented. And this is a very severe security breach.

AMANPOUR: How is it possible that they -- and they do complain a lot -- the Pakistan government, the army has complained a lot about not getting the right kind of tools to be able to conduct this kind of counterterrorism. But how is that, since there's been so many hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars of aid going to them, including military aid?

ABBAS: True. But, initially I think, soon after the 9/11 tragedy, there was reluctance on the part of Pakistan to go after all the militant groups. Musharraf went against some of the militant groups, but there were others -- Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba -- they thought that these people are being used by Pakistani state, some elements of the state, in Afghanistan, in India, and they thought they'll just conduct their business, go home, whereas they had other agendas, to -- to conduct these operations within Pakistan.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to show you something that the Pakistan foreign minister told me a couple of weeks ago on this program. We're just going to play what he said in an interview.

ABBAS: Good.


SHAH MEHMOOD QURESHI, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER: What we've done is, we've gone into Swat with a designed strategy. When our government came into office, we looked at the strategy of the past and we devised our own strategy. We call it the 3-D strategy. It talks of dialogue, it talks of development, and it talks of deterrence.


AMANPOUR: So dialogue, deterrence and development. Does that work? And has this government actually been better at counterterrorism than the previous one?

ABBAS: This 3-D policy, I say, is on paper only. I have not seen any evidence that they've really tried all the options. Yes, it was a great thing to have -- to have a democratically elected government. They're much more committed to this at a theoretical level, at an ideological level. But the true steps they need -- law enforcement, police, coalition between army and the law enforcement agencies -- that -- that is still -- there's a defective combination.

AMANPOUR: OK, so last question here, because we're running out of time. They're -- they're attacking the Baitullah Mehsud faction, according to what the government is saying, but trying to negotiate with two other Taliban factions. Is this a recipe for disaster, as it was preceding the - - the Swat takeover?

ABBAS: Yes. My view is and my belief is, these negotiations with Gul Bahadur, with Mullah Nazir, these are in North Waziristan, this will not work, because those militants will benefit from these deals or these negotiations to create more space. They will become Frankenstein monsters six months from now. What will we do then?

AMANPOUR: Well, what will you do, in a word? What can Pakistan do?

ABBAS: Pakistan can devise a very clear strategy to go against all militants, irrespective of who was a favorite some time ago, who may benefit you at some time. The militants have to be seen from one lens. All those who have conducted terrorist attacks should be tackled according to one standard.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Abbas, we're obviously going to continue to follow this. Thanks for joining us.

And next, chaos in the other half of this equation, in Afghanistan. Angry protests over what many say was a rigged election. A U.N. official fired for speaking out against voting fraud is my next guest.



HAMID KARZAI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN: In terms of the presidential vote declared by the election commission, well, I am the first. But in terms of the announcement of the winner, we should allow the elections commissions of Afghanistan to make that determination.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, AFGHAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The environment has deteriorated, unfortunately, security-wise, governance, corruption, and so on and so forth. And this recent fraud and massive state-engineered fraud, engineered by the incumbent, that made it difficult for everybody.


AMANPOUR: Two very different views, of course, from the two principal candidates there on what happened in Afghanistan's election. And joining me now, someone with some very blunt criticism of the way the election was handled.

Peter Galbraith, the former deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, who was fired in a dispute over the way the U.N. handled election fraud there.

Ambassador, thank you for joining us. I want to ask you, today -- or, rather, yesterday -- your former boss, Kai Eide, the head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, held a press conference in which he did say that there was fraud. Is that enough for you?

PETER GALBRAITH, FORMER U.S. DIPLOMAT: Well, I'm -- I'm pleased that, seven weeks after the election, he's been willing to say publicly and even to recognize what we told him and not -- we being the U.N. staff, who did a huge amount of work, which was that there was massive fraud in -- in those elections.

Even a week ago, he was down -- continuing to downplay it, telling the Security Council that the election had been characterized by irregularities and that all candidates had committed fraud. Now, obviously, he's changed his tune in the face of a lot of criticism and, of course, the overwhelming evidence that has been there since August 21st.

AMANPOUR: Can I read you, also, something that he said in his press conference but that didn't actually appear on television, so we've got a graphic about it? Mr. Eide said, about you specifically, "Now, the allegations made by my former deputy have not only been personal attacks against me and my integrity, but they've been attacks that have, in fact, also affected the entire election process." How do you react to that?

GALBRAITH: This has been a policy dispute, which some in the U.N. system have sought to portray as a personality clash. My disagreement with -- with Kai Eide was over what he did. It was over the fact that, in July, when there was a chance to reduce the risk of fraud or even prevent it by getting the Afghans to shut down ghost polling stations -- that is, stations in places that were so insecure they were never going to open -- he stopped me when -- from doing that.

And when the fraud took place, we had collected extensive data on turnout, on the fraud. We wanted to turn it over to the Afghan institutions that were investigating it, and he ordered us not to do it. So the facts speak for themselves.

AMANPOUR: Why -- what is the motivation? I mean, are you accusing him of anything? Are you accusing him of being biased in favor of the sitting president, Hamid Karzai?

GALBRAITH: Well, he did tell Karzai that he was biased in favor of Karzai. And he explained to -- when I confronted him about this, he explained to me that, yes, he had said it, but it didn't mean that he wasn't neutral. And on this, I -- I accept his point. But, of course, I'm sure Karzai didn't understand it this way.

The -- the -- the root of the problem that's happened is that the U.N. was responsible for helping to ensure the integrity of -- of these elections. That was in the Security Council resolution. These were U.N.- supported elections. The -- the world paid for the elections to the tune of $300 million. And -- and -- and the U.N. failed in that task because he didn't want at any time to do something that might offend President Karzai.

AMANPOUR: All right. So what effect is it going to have that he held a press conference, by the way, surrounded by the diplomats from the Western countries, who -- obviously, there's a show of support for him. What affect is this going to have on the outcome and on the ability to move forward in Afghanistan?

GALBRAITH: I -- I think it's likely that he -- that he held the press conference because he understands that the election complaints commission probably has discovered enough fraud to bring Karzai below 50 percent. I don't know that, but I can speculate. And I can also speculate that the resignation today of a pro-Karzai member of that election complaints commission is another indication that Karzai will be below 50 percent.

AMANPOUR: And do you think there will be a second round?

GALBRAITH: Well, I -- I -- I think there's a very strong likelihood that the election complaints commission will find that he's below 50 percent, and then the question is whether Karzai will accept that decision and whether the independent election commission, which is a not independent, but a pro-Karzai body, will accept that decision. If they don't, then the political crisis in Afghanistan, which has already done such damage to the overall effort there, will get much worse.

AMANPOUR: We know -- and there's been a lot of discussion about the military challenge in Afghanistan. I want to ask you about the civilian challenge, because, obviously, you knew a lot about that as -- as U.N. official there. Who actually is in charge of civilian activities for the U.S. government, for instance?

GALBRAITH: Well, for -- for the United Nations, which is where I worked, of course...

AMANPOUR: Yes, but for the U.S., as well.

GALBRAITH: ... is the U.N. -- well, it's -- I think there's quite a mixed chain of command. Of course, the American embassy, headed by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, would have the people who are there. Ambassador Holbrooke and -- and his operation has certainly been responsible for this enormous increase in U.S. civilian support to Afghanistan. The Department of Defense also has brought civilians there, the State Department. So it's a -- a number of institutions.

AMANPOUR: But you said enormous increase, but there's -- I'm really trying to get to the bottom of the whole civilian infrastructure, because, for instance, even Ambassador Holbrooke said that there's only 11 agriculture specialists, and agriculture is meant to be the way that President Obama sort of identified as getting the economy up and going. What is the problem and the sticking point here with getting enough development done? Because, clearly, when I was there recently, there was a big hole in civilian development.

GALBRAITH: It -- it -- well, first, it -- it -- it takes a long time to mobilize both personnel and resources to begin to make a difference. And President Obama only started his strategy in -- in -- at the beginning of his term. And so we had to go out and find enough agricultural experts who are willing to go to Afghanistan and have the cultural skills to operate there. That -- that takes a while.

And so we -- but now that the -- the civilian -- so-called civilian surge is beginning to be felt and -- and hopefully it will begin to make a difference. The difficulty in this is that, when you try and build up Afghan institutions and certainly to improve governance in the country (inaudible) credible partner. And after this election, where there was so much fraud, Afghans will understandably question the outcome.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, perhaps, about the stepping the Afghan police force? Was it just the U.S. or other European and NATO countries? I mean, how much support have others given to this whole civilian side of what's going on? Because that's crucial to counterinsurgency.

GALBRAITH: Well, on the 31st of March in -- in The Hague, there was a U.N. conference in which all the countries present endorsed President Obama's strategy, and other countries are increasing their contributions of civilians. It's true that the U.S. bears the disproportionate share of the burden, but -- but the allies are supporting the U.S. in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: And some people have said, including a former State Department official, that this whole -- this whole idea of trying to build up competent government, root out corruption, et cetera, is going to be a lengthy process that could last at least decades. Is that something that you agree with?

GALBRAITH: Yes. The problem is that in -- particularly in the Pashtun areas of the country, which is where the insurgency is, the way most Afghans actually experience government is in the form of abuse of power or impunity. They see the -- the local official or, more likely, the -- the power broker who's not the official, but who controls the official, being able to do whatever they want. They -- they have a sense of injustice.

And so they aren't really willing to support that government. It may not be for the Taliban, which also doesn't much -- enjoy much support. They're in between. And the Taliban, in those circumstances, is able to terrorize people into -- into supporting it or being neutral. It's going to be extremely difficult and an extremely lengthy process for a government that has lost the trust of the people to regain it. Even if it had -- was able to get rid of the corrupt officials and begin to institute good governance, people would have to risk their lives to support it at this stage.

AMANPOUR: Peter Galbraith, thank you so much. And there are indications that that final vote will be -- will be reached this week, so we'll keep an eye on that.

And next, a new take on the world refugee crisis. It's a crisis that affects everywhere, from Afghanistan and Pakistan to West Africa and elsewhere. But some refugees are turning to music.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who have problems, people who are frustrated will be revived if they hear the greatness of a Refugee All Stars band.


AMANPOUR: We'll debut a special new series in just a moment.


AMANPOUR: Now our "P.S." or our "Post-Script." Tonight, we're launching a special series featuring short films from around the world that have a personal and often unconventional take on massive global issues that affect us all. We're starting with a look at the global refugee crisis. It is a crisis that affects Pakistan and Afghanistan, as we've been reporting, but we're looking through the eyes of six refugees from Sierra Leone who form a band.

The film comes from the Pangea Festival, and it's an excerpt from an award-winning documentary by Zach Miles and Banker White.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who have problems, people who are frustrated will be revived if they hear the greatness of a Refugee All Stars band. They will say, "Yes, I'm a refugee. I'm a refugee, and I know that refugees can excel."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 4th of June, 1997, we are registered as refugees. I was thinking it was just for one year or six months. I never knew that I will take a very long time in Guinea. I never knew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Living like a refugee, it's not easy. It isn't. I just took all the problems, the suffering of the people, and I make a song of it, live like a refugee.


AMANPOUR: We want to show more smart short films that let everyone see the world and often shared experiences through different eyes and different perspectives. Check on our Web site,, and we'll tell you how to submit your films.

But that's it for now, so thank you for watching, and we'll be back tomorrow with an exclusive in-depth look at the drug war in Colombia. For all of us here, goodbye now from New York.