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CNN'S AMANPOUR

Interview with Hamid Karzai; Obama's Afghanistan Plan

Aired December 6, 2009 - 14:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Today, an exclusive interview with Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan. It's the first since president Obama's dramatic announcement this week.

Does Karzai think the new US plan will finally finish the war in his country?

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

It's been a week of transformation here in the United States as President Obama doubled his bet on Afghanistan, 30,000 new troops to try to finish the job there, but also an 18-month deadline for them to accomplish ambitious goals.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are the three core elements of our strategy - a military effort to create the conditions for a transition, a civilian surge that reinforces positive action, and an effective partnership with Pakistan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: But is the US sending mixed messages? Already Britain, its closest ally and fighting partner, says that it cannot back the Obama timeline, even as it does pledge more troops to contribute to NATO's promise of 7,000 new forces.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: When people ask me when will the mission in Afghanistan end, then I have a very clear answer. Our mission in Afghanistan will end when the Afghans are capable to secure, to defend and to run their own country themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: So we've heard many voices around the region and here in the United States talking about what's best for Afghanistan, but we haven't yet heard from the Afghan president himself. He too is being asked to double his commitment.

President Hamid Karzai joins us now from his palace in Kabul.

Welcome to the program, Mr. President.

KARZAI: Good to talk to you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: President Karzai, do you think that the U.S. surge will finish the job in your country?

KARZAI: Well, the -- the most important element in the new U.S. strategy on Afghanistan is concentration on protecting the population, and doubling economic assistance to Afghanistan, and also concentrating on the regional aspect of the problem.

So as far as Afghanistan is concerned, Afghanistan welcomes this new strategy, and Afghanistan will do all it can to be a good partner in it.

AMANPOUR: Do you think that -- although the president has concentrated on defeating Al Qaida and preventing it to come back, they're not saying they want to defeat the Taliban.

Do you think the Taliban needs to be defeated?

KARZAI: Well, those Taliban who are part of Al Qaida, who are part of the terrorist networks, who are organized from outside against Afghanistan, in association with terrorist networks, of course they need to be defeated with those terrorist networks.

But the thousands of Taliban, the majority of them who have no such ideological linkage with the terrorist networks, they are part of our people. They must be reintegrated into the Afghan society.

AMANPOUR: Do you have a plan to do that?

KARZAI: We have a plan to do that. We have actually been working on a -- on a -- on a peace process for a number of years now. What we lacked for those years was a clear understanding or support from our partners. Now that the new strategy of the United States and our other allies is talking of reintegration and of bringing those Taliban back who are not part of Al Qaida, this will become possible, but it has to have some added elements that is full trust and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, backed by the U.S., and also the -- the support and inclusion in the process of Saudi Arabia for this purpose, and on a larger picture, definitely Turkey and China and the neighbors of Afghanistan, as well.

AMANPOUR: Do you plan to open negotiations with Mullah Omar, who has already said that there's no -- no way that they're going to negotiate with your government?

KARZAI: Well, I have -- I have expressed my -- my stand on that for the -- in the past several years many, many times. I do see an urgent need for a negotiated approach. As well as we try to struggle against terrorism, we must also talk and find peaceful ways.

I've offered Mullah Omar a number of times to come forward and stop violence and participate in peace-building and reconstruction of Afghanistan. This -- the part that relates to Mullah Omar is also something that has to be understood and backed by the international community, because of the U.N. sanctions on them, and other relevant issues.

So, yes, as an Afghan, I would very much want to negotiate with him, provided he renounces violence, provided all the connections to -- to the Al Qaida and to terrorist networks are -- are cut off and denounced and renounced, and also provided, most importantly, that the United States and our other allies back us in this and see the need for it.

AMANPOUR: Because as yet...

KARZAI: Alone, we can't do it.

AMANPOUR: As yet, they have not backed you on that. Is that correct?

KARZAI: Our partners, no.

AMANPOUR: OK. Let me ask you about the exit strategy. Eighteen months from now for the surge troops to start coming back, do you agree with that?

KARZAI: I don't set -- as the Afghan president -- dates or deadlines for the presence or exit of allied forces and NATO forces in Afghanistan. We are looking towards objectives that we have and the achievements of those objectives.

Objective one is the defeat of terrorism and the return of safety and peace to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the region and comfort from terrorism in -- in -- in the West.

Now, towards that objective, we need to train and equip the Afghan military forces. We need to strengthen the Afghan government. We need to bring Afghanistan back to a self-sufficient economy, to the extent possible. And with the achievement of those objectives, probably we can then think of giving the mantle to the Afghans themselves.

AMANPOUR: So do you think that...

KARZAI: We will try our best as the Afghan people -- we will try our best as the Afghan people to do it the soonest possible. But the international community must have also the patience with us and the realization of the realities in Afghanistan. If it takes longer, then they must be with us.

AMANPOUR: Because you, yourself, have said, even in your inauguration address, that it would take some five years to be able to hand over security to the Afghan forces.

KARZAI: We want to have in Afghanistan in another two years the ability to lead operations and provide security for the Afghan people in many parts of the country, especially in parts of the country where we have trouble fighting and -- and terrorism and trying to bring violence down.

By the end of five years term of -- of the current government, we plan to lead operations for the security of the Afghan people in all of Afghanistan, in the whole country. That is our objective.

Now, we as the Afghans must also try our very, very best to reach that goal, and we hope that our allies will back us reach that goal.

AMANPOUR: What kind of a message do you think it sends, for instance, to the Taliban that there is an exit date, a timeline for transition?

KARZAI: My understanding is that the dateline or deadline, whatever word we use there, of 18 months is not an exit announcement, that this is the reduction of the forces that are arriving, but not the exit of all the forces.

In any case, I'd like to repeat myself here: Afghans would like to be sooner, rather than later, in charge of their own country to provide it security and to provide it economic well being.

AMANPOUR: What do you think the Taliban will get, though? What message will it send the Taliban?

KARZAI: And with regards to the message to the Taliban -- with regard to the message -- right, with regard to the message to the Taliban, my advice to the Taliban would be that they must take this as an opportunity to return to their homes and to begin to participate in building this country together with their -- with their brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Karzai, you said that you're ready to meet your part now that President Obama has promised 30,000 more troops. We will discuss that after a short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will work with our partners, the United Nations, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy so that the government can take advantage of improved security. This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: That was President Obama in his speech at West Point last Tuesday, sending a signal that the U.S. expects change from the Afghan government, as well.

Joining us again, Afghan President Hamid Karzai from Kabul.

So, Mr. President, you just heard right there, no more free rides, no more blank checks. Do you accept that there needs to be change from you to avoid a calamity?

KARZAI: Afghanistan is our country. Nobody will be heard more than the Afghan people if it doesn't work right. Therefore, we have a vital interest in (inaudible) for us, for our children.

We will do all that we can, including shedding our blood, and doing all, in terms of reforms and improvement, to bring a better quality of life to the Afghan people. But it can only come to them by bringing them security, by bringing them good governance.

AMANPOUR: As you know, we're talking about good...

KARZAI: And with regard to a blank check -- and with regard to a blank check, ma'am, we never had a blank check in Afghanistan. I remember occasions in the past seven years where I've asked for only $25 million to provide for the security of the Afghan community leaders, religious leaders, and after negotiating for months, we didn't get it.

So we are not used to a blank check, and we are not expecting one, but we welcome any cooperation that comes from our allies towards the stability and progress and well-being of the Afghan people.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Karzai, the United States, for instance, is saying that there must be a crackdown on corruption, a really serious crackdown on corruption. For instance, they have a list of government ministers and cabinet ministers who could be put into office. Are you going to change cabinet ministers, government ministers who are considered to have been corrupt?

KARZAI: Absolutely. We have done that in the past; we will do it again. If and when at any time there is an occasion where we need to act on corruption with ministers, with officials, with anybody, we will do that...

AMANPOUR: Will you be firing people?

KARZAI: ... for Afghanistan. I have fired people, and I will be firing people, yes.

AMANPOUR: And let me ask you this: There are very clear benchmarks. For instance, there are hundreds of millions of dollars, we're told, that have simply been taken, customs revenue at the Kabul airport alone, some $12 million of customs revenue been taken from one of the provinces, Nangarhar. How are you going to and will you crack down on that kind of corruption?

KARZAI: With regard to revenues, when we began seven years ago, our revenues stood at merely $100 million, a little over that. Today, we are collecting nearly $1 billion in revenues. And the revenue improvement in collection will continue.

We still have immense problems in the collection of -- of -- of revenues all around the country. This is an ongoing effort, and we will continue to -- to improve upon it, not only on -- on how we collect revenues, but on -- where best to collect revenues, the procedures, the laws. There's a continuous effort to improving on that. And we will do all that we can to -- to add the best practice to it.

AMANPOUR: The U.S. has said that, if you don't, they will go around you. Let me play this sound bite from President Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If President Karzai is unable or unwilling to make changes in corruption or governance, that we will identify people at a sub-cabinet level, at a district level that can implement the types of services and basic governance without corruption that Afghans need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: What do you think about that?

KARZAI: Well, Afghanistan is a sovereign country. It has a sovereign government. It's not an occupied country. No foreign power can go beyond the legitimate presence in Afghanistan to undermine the Afghan government and to work directly with those that they wish to work. This has to be forgotten, and this has to be taken very seriously.

AMANPOUR: So why don't you someone -- why don't you launch, for instance, a campaign against petty corruption? It's been done in many other parts of the world, for instance, in some of your neighboring countries to great success, and it would have a huge impact on the Afghan people who hate this corruption and on the international community.

KARZAI: We are doing that. We are doing that every day.

We are -- we offered in the Paris conference to have a -- a -- a mechanism that would evaluate and investigate cases of corruption in the Afghan government and also in the distribution of international assistance to Afghanistan, in contractual mechanisms. We have worked on all aspects of these questions with our partners in the international community, and we will continue to do so by all the means available.

Ma'am, I mentioned earlier in our -- in our interview that this is our country, and we want to live in it. Do we want to live in a good country? Of course. And what is it that we should do to live in a good country? A good government, a corruption-free government, the rule of law, the constitutional order, and peace in this country, that is what we'll do. I wish we could do all of that on our own.

Since we can't -- and that's why the rest of the world is here -- we must work together to bring us to that. We must not politicize issues. We must not turn them into -- into -- into stakes (ph) in order to -- to get out of dividence (ph). We must work on the objective sincerely, and that is how we will reach what we want.

AMANPOUR: Do you think, for instance, you will turn against then some members of your own kin, your own clans, your own -- your own officials who've helped you, for instance, even get elected, but some of whom are accused -- and there is evidence -- of great corruption and fraud?

KARZAI: If there is evidence, if there is proof, of course, that is my job. If I don't do that, I won't be serving the Afghan people, and then I don't deserve to be the president of this country.

AMANPOUR: Do you accept that one of the main problems in Afghanistan right now and the resurgence of the insurgency and the disappointment from the Afghan people is because of this rampant, endemic corruption?

KARZAI: No. The issue of corruption has been politically overplayed by some of our partners in the international community. It is not the way we're talking about. And if we will have a conference a few days from now on the issue of corruption, there you will -- you will come to know the details of -- of what the problems are in Afghanistan, and also the details of what the problems are coming from the -- the -- the -- from outside of Afghanistan to us in the way of corruption. We will address all of those questions that are in Afghanistan that are our problems. It is our responsibility, and we must do it.

But I also hope that our partners will also address problems that they bring to us that cause corruption, that cause bad governance, that cause parallel governance, that cause insecurity. So I mentioned earlier in my - - in my remarks that we must work together in order for us to reach our objectives, and that means addressing all these questions.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you one final question on this. What precisely do you plan to do, beyond press conferences and other conferences, what absolutely do you plan to do to root out corruption in the cabinet, in elsewhere?

KARZAI: Improving the rule of law, further improving the judiciary, the power to investigate, certain laws, procedures that take people's time, that make people to 25, 30 different offices in order to get a license, to make administration simpler, to make it transparent so people can have delivery of services sooner and cheaper, and without the possibility of corruption.

There's a long list of things that we have in mind. There's a long list that we've already done. There's a longer list waiting for us to accomplish.

AMANPOUR: Including firing corrupt officials?

KARZAI: Which we have done. We -- I almost every day sign instructions of -- of -- of suspension, of dismissal, of reappointments. There is an ongoing process. Almost -- almost once or twice a week, I receive from the judiciary, from the supreme court requests for dismissal, for suspensions on this account and from other government appointments. There are governors who have gone to prison. There are governors who are dismissed and are under investigation. A minister was dismissed right from -- from the middle of the cabinet. Others were dismissed.

A lot is happening that, unfortunately, is not noticed by the press in our allied countries. And we are also not really talking about it as much as we should.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Karzai will be right back. We'll ask President Karzai about bringing the Taliban in from the cold after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE FORCE, AFGHANISTAN: Counterinsurgency starts, as you know, with protecting the people. Because at the end of the day, the people are what we are here for. We're here to respect the Afghan people, here to protect the Afghan people. We're here to enable the Afghan people to build their country. We are not going to nation-build. What we are going to do is allow a nation to nation-build.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: That was General Stanley McChrystal, the commander in Afghanistan, speaking in Kandahar in the southern part of the country to NATO and Afghan troops after President Obama's announcement last week. And we are back again with President Karzai in Kabul.

Let me ask you something, Mr. Karzai, about the Pashtuns, the majority in the country. There is obviously thought, group-think, actually, that the Pashtuns are inherently opposed to any foreigners or -- or anything. Is that correct? And can they be brought onboard?

KARZAI: That is not correct.

When -- after -- after September 11th, when the U.S. and other forces came to Afghanistan, primarily the U.S. came to Afghanistan, the Taliban were chased out within a month-and-a-half. And it was done all over Afghanistan. That includes the Pashtuns in Afghanistan.

I was in -- in central Afghanistan. There were only about 14 Americans there at that time in the whole of central Afghanistan. And wherever I came together with the community elders, the Taliban went and left the area.

That is now true (ph). But the Pashtuns were -- were harassed. Their homes were raided. They were killed. There was no differentiation made between the terrorists, the bad guys, as I say, and the community. And that is part of the problem.

And that is why I've been saying for the past many years that the war on terror is not in the Afghan villages, that it is in the sanctuaries where they're trained, where they're financed, and that's why I supported General McChrystal's strategy, which primarily focused on protecting the population of the civilians. And if we don't do that, we will never succeed.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you again about the Taliban. We mentioned it earlier, but there is no real structure, no amnesty structure, and not everybody is on board to bring those Taliban into the community and reintegrate them. What needs to be done to make that happen?

KARZAI: Exactly to let them know that this is their country, that they will not be heard, that they will not be prosecuted, that they will not be persecuted for -- for -- for reasons beyond legitimate, that they have a future in this country, and that they're not part of Al Qaida and the terrorist networks. That possibility is there. This has to be backed by our allies.

AMANPOUR: And what do you think when both General McChrystal and President Obama say no nation-building?

KARZAI: Now, that is something that we have heard before, too. When you say civilian surge, that should be for a purpose, and that can only be nation-building, because a civilian surge can't be for any other purpose. When you say electricity, when you say power generation, when you say end corruption, when you say bring good governance, when you say the constitution, when you say elections, and then you accuse that election of fraud, that means nation-building.

AMANPOUR: And what do you say to this being the last real chance for Afghanistan to pull itself out of this mess that it's in right now, the last real chance for you to choose statesman over outcast, for yourself?

KARZAI: Well, I -- I like to serve the Afghan people by all means. And Afghanistan has been a nation for thousands of years. It's an old, old country with a great history, great culture. It's not a new country. It may be a poor country, but it's a magnificent country with deep roots in -- in the history of the world. It's going to be around. It's not the last chance for Afghanistan. Afghanistan will be there and will make it with or without the help of the rest of the world.

It's the rest of the world that needs to be in Afghanistan to bring them some security from the problems that they caused themselves by promoting Islamic radicalism, by promoting fanaticism and radicals for the past 30 years, first against the Soviets and then by abandoning Afghanistan. So -- so I think the -- the West needs to use this opportunity correctly to help Afghanistan and to help themselves.

AMANPOUR: And yourself? Can you use this opportunity to go down in history as a statesman or someone who's missed a chance?

KARZAI: Absolutely. By -- absolutely, by all means. Absolutely, by all the means possible.

AMANPOUR: As you know, the world will be watching.

KARZAI: By all means possible. I'll be very happy to go down in Afghan history as someone that contributed a little bit to the well-being of Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, thank you very much, indeed.

KARZAI: I hope I can do that.

AMANPOUR: Thank you for joining us.

KARZAI: Thank you. Good to talk to you.

AMANPOUR: And for some historical context, compare what President Karzai thinks today and what he's just told us with an interview we had on his return to Afghanistan. He spoke about that just now to us, eight years ago, just after the ouster of the Taliban, when he was then the darling of the West. That 2001 interview is on our West, cnn.com/amanpour.

And we'll be back in just a few moments with our roundtable, two different perspectives, some of the sharpest minds on Afghanistan. But first, a news break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back. Just a moment ago, we heard from the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, about the future of his country. And now for some insight on Afghanistan at a crossroads, we're joined from Lahore, Pakistan, by Ahmed Rashid, the world's leading voice on the Taliban, author of "Taliban" and "Descent into Chaos." And here in our studio, we welcome again historian Simon Schama, now at Columbia University, and the author of the multivolume "A History of Britain."

Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Ahmed Rashid, let me ask you: What did you think of President Karzai's tone and what he said?

AHMED RASHID, JOURNALIST/AUTHOR, "DESCENT INTO CHAOS": Well, I think he was defensive. He was subdued. He's obviously becoming more and more aware of the kind of responsibilities that are upon him. And I think partly the reason is that the -- the Afghans are in a state of shock, because I don't think they expected this timeline starting July 2011 to be actually announced the way it was by President Obama, although, of course, it's couched in a very diplomatic way, saying that that would only be the start of the withdrawal. But I think that that has been a big shock to people both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan.

AMANPOUR: Simon Schama?

SIMON SCHAMA, BRITISH HISTORIAN/PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, I thought it began with a sort of charming thoughtfulness and developed into a theater of pain, basically. There were two kinds of bristling. One was being told exactly he's got to clean up his act, and there was a particularly powerful part (ph) when there was somebody -- General McChrystal, I think, was quoted saying, if, in fact, he won't do the job, then we'll identify people...

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: That was Robert Gibbs.

SCHAMA: That was -- that was Robert Gibbs, thank you, yes. So at that point, Karzai said, Well, this is not an occupation. So the very tricky, acute issue of what is the sovereignty we're supposed to be defending, if, in fact, Afghanistan is to recover its full integrity, was painfully exposed towards the end. It was moving, telling and very poignant.

AMANPOUR: And yet he did say -- and he said many times -- that we'll have conferences and -- and the other kind of thing, but he did say he was going to fire ministers and put new ministers in and take some issues which obviously the world is going to be...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHAMA: But he sounded like a manager of General Motors, really, who is being, you know, brought to the floor and -- and being told, A, you've got a certain amount of time to turn this corporation around, and, B, we'll do the sacking if you don't.

And I think so rightly, in a way, you know, he bristled at that particular point. So there are tricky signposts ahead, I think.

AMANPOUR: Ahmed Rashid, let me go to this exit date -- and to both of you, actually -- that we've been talking about. I just want to put up a poll of the American people regarding President Obama's talk of a timeline. Here, 66 percent of Americans favor the idea of a withdrawal plan; 32 percent oppose it. But tellingly, only 39 percent of the United States people who were questioned thought that it was a good idea to actually announce it, with 59 percent thinking that it was a -- not a good idea to announce it. And also, 33 percent of the American people thought Afghanistan would be ready for such a withdrawal, and 61 percent thought that the conditions would not be right at that time for such a withdrawal.

So mixed messages. You say that they're mixed messages, what is it, sowing panic there in the -- in -- in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ahmed?

RASHID: Well, I -- I mean, certainly, I -- yes, I mean, I think certainly, within the government, within the Afghan government, I think there was enormous concern. And a lot of the questions that you raised with President Karzai and his answers, clearly these have not been discussed between him and the Americans before this speech was made.

Now, a lot obviously was discussed in the -- in the build-up to the Obama speech, but there were obviously issues that have not been discussed. He took real umbrage at this point that -- you know, about -- about bypassing the central government. There are different concepts about what reconciliation with the Taliban means. There are different concepts about what standing up Afghan security forces mean and whether it can be done in the right period and time.

So I think, you know, the -- the issues have not been thrashed out properly between the Americans and the Afghans and between the Americans and the Pakistanis. And I think this is why there is a -- a state of shock, not panic, I would say, but real concern as to whether these bridges are going to be built between the two sides.

AMANPOUR: So, Simon, historically, how can one give confidence that you're in it for the long haul, as they keep saying, but at the same time saying, "Well, we're going to start" -- whatever they want to spin it is, transition, whatever it is, conditions-based?

SCHAMA: Historically, Christiane, you can't. The figures you -- you quoted of the response of the American people may be one of the rare moments in this young administration where the American people are actually smarter than their amazingly smart president. It's absolutely right.

Of course we'd, you know, love to have a kind of drive-by degrade and contain the Taliban, followed by, you know, 1,000 flowers blooming, and absolutely uncorrupt Afghan police stations, while we do like -- like to have, you know, wonderful weather in February.

AMANPOUR: Or at least an army that can stand up.

SCHAMA: Well, yes, exactly. It does seem to be an extraordinary thing. It's rather like Franklin Roosevelt saying, "We're going to liberate Europe, but only until Christmas 1944." Absolutely can't be done.

And I think, actually, the president has a credibility problem, oddly enough, where the country would love to have a withdrawal moment. You know, it's essentially directed at his own party, who would go berserk if they thought it was, oh, another Vietnam.

But he may have a credibility with the country who said, "You are so smart. You don't honestly think that a problem as complex and tortured and ravaged as Afghanistan could be really solved in this time."

And, look, the Taliban may be incredibly religious, but they're not stupid. They have lots of places to go.

AMANPOUR: And we're going to discuss that right after a break when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: So, Admiral Mullen, are there going to be conditions? Is it a conditional promise to withdraw or bring home starting 2011? Are there conditions?

ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It's very clear the president has given us directions to start the transition in July of 2011. That said, he's also very clear that it would be responsible, as -- as well as based on conditions on the ground.

And in that regard, from my perspective, as I've gone through this process and engaged with Generals McChrystal, Petraeus, and others, summer 2011, we're going to know whether this strategy is working or not. So that's a - - that's a very good target to shoot for.

And I think, on the one hand, he has committed the troops, and we're going to get them rapidly there this year and -- I'm sorry, in -- in 2010 -- to really try to reverse this thing. And on the other hand, which -- which really shows resolve -- and on the other hand, I think he does signal a sense of urgency, that this isn't an open-ended commitment, it's not a -- it's not a long-term combat commitment, although I believe we have to have a long-term relationship with Afghanistan, and that we cannot abandon them as we have in the past.

AMANPOUR: As you know, both Pakistan and to an extent Afghanistan is concerned about being abandoned again by the United States. You've just mentioned what happened after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, when America basically left there. Do you think the message of a timeline is going to calm fears in Pakistan and Afghanistan or -- or create fears?

MULLEN: Well, I think we have to reassure them that there is not going to be an abandonment.

And it's a question that I've gotten over the last couple of years in both Pakistan and Afghanistan because of our history. And you know I've spent an awful lot of time in Pakistan, and there's a trust deficit that's been developed because we've abandoned them before. And it's -- it's very clear that I think we have -- we need to have a long-term relationship where that is not the case. And that's the commitment.

And -- and certainly it's a -- right now, it's -- it's said in words, Christiane. But in the long term, it's going to be our actions that make a difference and that we do, in fact, stay and become great partners with those two countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: That was Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appearing on our program this past week. Joining us again from Lahore, Pakistan, is Ahmed Rashid, and here in New York, Simon Schama.

Ahmed, let me ask you, President Obama and his spokespeople, while they're trying to calm fears of a -- of a dash for the exit, they also dismissed the notion that a public exit strategy would embolden and enable the Taliban. Are they right to dismiss that notion?

RASHID: I don't think they're right. I think the Taliban are going to sit this out. The Taliban will avoid, if they can, engagement with American forces as they come into Afghanistan early next year. And in the meantime, they're going to try and test the Afghan army, which will also be fighting alongside the Americans, and the Taliban will be making calculations that, is this Afghan army strong enough to stand up once the Americans start leaving? Can we defeat it 18 months down the road when the Americans start leaving?

And so -- but -- but basically, I think they're going to try and sit this one out. I think it's going to be, you know, with this timeline, is probably going to be more difficult to get the Taliban on board for -- for reconciliation or for talks. And by and large, I think the extremists generally in the region as a whole are -- are probably going to be emboldened.

AMANPOUR: Simon, it's going to make it more difficult to get the so-called good Taliban on board or even -- or the bad Taliban on board.

SCHAMA: Well, I think it is. But there's another question. What is it exactly that the troop surge, the 40,000, the increased number of NATO, think they're going to do to the Taliban which will make a Taliban that is, as Rashid says, sitting it out, helpless come the middle of 2011? It's very hard to see.

It's not that you have a kind of conventional army on whom you can inflict such a decisive feat -- defeat as you could, you know, in Germany and Japan at the end of the war. Who are the good Taliban? I mean, and why -- what incentive do they have to be pragmatic?

The only point historically which X terrorist organization -- the IRA, Sinn Fein, and so on in Ireland -- are prepared to be upstanding members of a civic democratic society is when they know they cannot achieve their ends by armed force. That's very unlikely to be the case.

AMANPOUR: Ahmed and Simon, I want to put something in the wall (ph). President Obama has spoken about a civilian surge. We heard President Karzai talk about it. And yet, even though they plan to ramp up the number of civilians, many people think that this is sort of pie-in-the-sky until there's security.

Henry Crumpton, formerly of the State Department, has said right now the overwhelming majority of civilians are in Kabul, and the overwhelming majority never leave their compound. Our entire system of delivering aid is broken. Very little of the aid is getting to the Afghan people.

How important is it, Ahmed, for that aid to get to the Afghan people?

RASHID: Well, absolutely vital, because, I mean, the whole surge -- both military and civilian surge -- rests on the fact of delivering security, number one, and, number two, delivering services and better governance, which is partly an American job that they have to do, but, of course, heavily an Afghan job.

But it's not just the -- the Americans who are having to sit in their compound. The Afghans are also having to sit in their compound. Afghan MPs, Afghan administrators, people who should be involved in the provinces and down at the grassroots level are not able to leave their offices because of the security situation.

AMANPOUR: OK.

RASHID: And whether all this can be turned around in just 18 months is -- is -- is an open question.

AMANPOUR: And let me ask you this. Many people dismiss the idea of nation-building right now as some lovely ideal. Why is it important?

SCHAMA: It's crucial. Wherever America succeeded -- in Korea, in Germany, in Japan -- it has not thought this was a dirty word. It's only a dirty word because the Obama administration is so frightened of people saying, "We need nation-building in America." It's got to be embraced. It's a metal (ph) that's got to be grasped.

AMANPOUR: And it leads to -- to stability and, therefore, security.

SCHAMA: It will create integrity for the Afghan government. And troops, extra troops might be able to make a difference.

AMANPOUR: Both of you gentlemen, thank you so much, Ahmed Rashid in Pakistan, Simon Schama here. Thank you very much.

And we have more for you on our Web site. We've been taking your questions for historian Simon Schama about Afghanistan. Those questions coming through our blog, over Twitter, and from our Facebook page. We posed some of them to Professor Schama, and we'll have a special Web cast with him available right now on cnn.com/amanpour.

But coming up, our "Post-Script." One Afghan who turned the heartbreak of war into lessons for the next generation and the surprising face of that next generation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: And now our "Post-Script." When we talk about Afghanistan, we generally deal with war and darkness and uncertainty, but there are so many other stories, stories of hope and recovery, as I discovered when I traveled through Afghanistan every time, from the heartbreak of war to the hopes of young people embracing a vision of a new Afghanistan.

We first met Fazal Ahmed (ph), whose son was killed by a landmine, and then Nawid Farouk (ph), who's campaigning for a very different future.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): When Fazal (ph) got over the shock of losing his son, he decided to do two things: dedicate his life to removing Afghanistan's land mines and making sure that his daughters got the education his son never did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I want all of them to be educated and become whatever they want to be -- doctors, engineers or teachers. If they have education, they can do it. But without it, they can't do a thing.

AMANPOUR: Twenty-one-year-old Nawid Farouk (ph) is the frontrunner in an election, a different kind of election that's captured the attention of young people here. It's the battle to win "Afghan Star," this country's version of "American Idol."

Nawid's out campaigning in what could be called an exercise in democracy, because the Afghan people will elect the winner, casting their votes by mobile phone. But the real contest here is between the vast majority of Afghans who want to embrace a new future and a violent minority who want to drag it back to a medieval past.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: And it was people all across the ethnic divide who watched that program. The majority of the Afghan people don't want the Taliban back, and right now, they're watching to see whether their government and the international forces can deliver.

President Obama has identified Al Qaida and terrorism as the targets, the main threat. But that threat, say Afghans, can't be eliminated unless their country is stable. And Afghanistan can't be stable unless its own government, as well as the U.S. and its allies, invest in its development. As one Afghan official told me, stability for them means security for the rest of the world.

And that's all for today. From all of us here and around the globe at CNN, that's our show. Goodbye from New York.

END