BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

Afghanistan Peace?

August 30, 2020 Dana Lewis Season 2 Episode 4
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
Afghanistan Peace?
Chapters
00:00:00
fmr Lt. Gen. Ben Freakley
00:19:25
Johnny Walsh U.S. Inst. Peace
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
Afghanistan Peace?
Aug 30, 2020 Season 2 Episode 4
Dana Lewis

Peace talks with the Taliban are beginning again in September as U.S. President Trump is bent on reducing U.S. Troop numbers in Afghanistan.  

There are not many U.S. Soldiers left there.  And Trumps desire to announce something positive during his election campaign is likely to short change the efforts since 2001 of Americans to end terrorism in Afghanistan, and stand up an independent and democratic Afghan Government. 

In this episode of BACK STORY host and creator Dana Lewis talks with former Lt. General Ben Freakley who commanded The 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan on challenges of peace, and also about reports the Russian's put out bounties on U.S. Soldiers.  

And, we talk to Johnny Walsh, Senior Expert with United States Institute of peace and also a former U.S. Diplomat attached to The U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan. 

 

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Peace talks with the Taliban are beginning again in September as U.S. President Trump is bent on reducing U.S. Troop numbers in Afghanistan.  

There are not many U.S. Soldiers left there.  And Trumps desire to announce something positive during his election campaign is likely to short change the efforts since 2001 of Americans to end terrorism in Afghanistan, and stand up an independent and democratic Afghan Government. 

In this episode of BACK STORY host and creator Dana Lewis talks with former Lt. General Ben Freakley who commanded The 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan on challenges of peace, and also about reports the Russian's put out bounties on U.S. Soldiers.  

And, we talk to Johnny Walsh, Senior Expert with United States Institute of peace and also a former U.S. Diplomat attached to The U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan. 

 

lt. gen. Ben Freakley (ret):

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1016881/5209171.

:

As a soldier, you always want to get to peace. As soon as you can. This process is extremely complex , uh , because you said let's get to the enemy. So Tala Manuel Qaeda ISIS in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iranian influence. Who do you want to pick

President George Bush:

On my orders? The United States military has begun strikes against the Al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability.

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

Hi everyone. And welcome to another edition of backstory. I'm Dana Lewis, that was president George Bush announcing the invasion of Afghanistan after all Kaido organized the September 11th, 2001 attacks in America, which killed nearly 3000 people. Well, some have been led in the head of the terror group. Al Qaeda was quickly identified as the man responsible, the Taliban radical Islamists who ran Afghanistan and protected bin Laden, refuse to hand them over. So a month after nine 11, the U S launched airstrikes against Afghanistan as a reporter for NBC news, I was based in Moscow and before the airstrikes began, I was one of the first correspondence to cross into Afghanistan from Tajikistan. And I would come to report from Afghanistan a couple of dozen times over the years, traveling in and out of the country to measure the mess of American effort, to stand up the Afghan army, to promote an independent Afghanistan and to defeat terrorism. We knew then it would be a 20 year counterinsurgency fight, not a simple war to be won. As president Trump has suggested in his announcement to pull us forces out and finish what he, no doubt has little understanding of and what had to be done in Afghanistan. Trump wants to announce the end of a war for political gain Afghanistan and American sacrifices. There be damned. There are many in Washington and in Afghanistan, by the way, who think American forces need to stay and support the Afghan government or it will collapse. And the Taliban will return to power. I've been an embedded journalist with American troops often in Afghanistan, 10th mountain division, the 101st airborne us Marines. I've been on patrols with soldiers, where we had a five and 10 chance of getting hit by roadside bombs. The last time I was in Kabul, our convoy was hit by a roadside bomb. The helicopter I was in was fired on with a rocket propelled grenade, and we were within hours of being kidnapped from a refugee camp. We left another journalist was taken hostage. I've spent with us commanders who understood how complex it was to defeat an enemy that could run and hide in Pakistan and live to fight another day. And the challenges of corruption and drug dealing and ethnic division in a rugged and beautiful landscape torn by decades of fighting stoked by the interests of many countries, including Iran and India and Pakistan and Russia. In 2010, there were a hundred thousand us troops in Afghanistan. Now there are 8,500 and by the November election in America, the us administration hopes to draw us soldiers down to 5,000. So president Trump can boast. He brought Americans home in this backstory. We talked to a well-respected us commander. I know from my time in Afghanistan, retired Lieutenant general, Ben frankly, and a former diplomat who was helped with peace talks. If peace is a word we should really use in describing a process, I think is doomed to erase many of the achievements by us soldiers and diplomats in Afghanistan, and the efforts of Afghans who want a better future. And the Taliban returning to power is a bleak future for Afghanistan. All right, joining me now is Ben Freakley, and he is a former American Lieutenant general. He commanded the 10th mountain division in Afghanistan in 2005. He is a professor of practice of leadership for Arizona state university. So that's the official title, Ben, but I have known you for a long time , uh , including in Iraq when you were commanding , uh, some of the, or you were deputy commander of the hundred and first airborne, I think under general Petraeus, you have a lot of combat experience. Well , there's plenty of soldiers with more than me, but okay. But okay. When, when, when I used to sit around with soldiers and they talk about commanders, they would say, Ben frankly is one of, and I don't know how best to characterize it, but he is not sitting in the, in the planning office. Uh , he is a real boots on the ground general and he knows how to take it to the enemy , uh, in a very tough command, very tough commander in a good way for American forces, but tough to the enemy. So let's talk about the enemy, you see this peace process now, the peace process with , with the Taliban. Um, are , are you, are you hopeful? Are you skeptical? How would you characterize how you feeling? Well, I mean, I think any soldier and any leader that served and had the honor to serve with our soldiers , uh, is always hopeful for a peace process. You know, Clausewitz said that war is an extension of politics by other means. And so because politics and governments fall apart, it leads to conflict, but all conflicts lead back to some kind of peace process or some kind of resolution. I , I mean, I've always been optimistic and hopeful

lt. gen. Ben Freakley (ret):

That we would get to peace . Cause that meant that our soldiers were out of harm's way, both are American soldiers, but as importantly, our coalition soldiers who've given so much and you were to you and I were together and our NATO forces were shoulder to shoulder with us in Afghanistan when I was there. Um , and it continued to be, so I, I would , uh, as a soldier, you always want to get to peace as soon as you can. This process is extremely complex , uh, because you said let's get to the enemy. So tell on all Qaeda ISIS in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iranian influence, who do you want to pick? Uh , so we've picked , uh , our government has picked a , the Taliban to deal with. Um, and I, I think it's a very complex deal. That's been struck mostly in favor of the Taliban to the disadvantage of the standing government, of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Johnny, and his team who were excluded initially. But perhaps that's the only way the Taliban would deal. So we dealt with who we could deal with, but I think that , um, it's , it's been tough. You know, it's been six months now. Um, you see the Dani government , uh, most recently with this very difficult decision on the 400 arguably sensitive political prisoners and, and operational prisoners that , uh , Gany felt like he had to have a Loyal jirga to get the upper leadership to vote. They did, and they let them loose. Uh, but then on the heels of this , uh , 300 , uh , prisoners escaped from [inaudible] , which is concerning. So you've got 700 operatives out on the battlefield besides the 5,000 that Gannon had already released to the Talibans release of about a thousand, many of argue that there are sort of farmers that were rounded up and then let loose to swell their numbers. I don't know, I'm not on the ground. Dana I'm, I'm sitting here in Virginia.

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

No , we're on the ground. Who were you fighting? Who is the Taliban?

lt. gen. Ben Freakley (ret):

Well, as you know, it's a mix , uh, it is , uh , forces that were formerly under , uh , Gugu gene . Hekmatyar, he's been reconciled now , now dead. Uh , it was forced as clearly under , uh, uh, Connie's out of Pakistan and the Connie network. And , and it's those , uh, out of , um , uh, you know, Khandahar Hellman , uh, ruse gone complex that were Molo , Omar's loyal soldiers. So I believe it's a mix. Um, but I also believe that some of these casualties are also, and it's open to reporting or being called by ISIS. And in some cases motivated by Al Qaeda to keep at least the embers warm, the recruitment up and the pressure,

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

The resilience of the Taliban.

lt. gen. Ben Freakley (ret):

No, no. Um, I I'm not at all because they were resilient when we were together. When you were with us, when the 10th mountain had , um , forces there , um, there are plenty of young men , um, disillusioned and out of work, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan that are ripe for recruitment and across the middle East there's there's. And even as Becca San and other areas , uh Chesno that can be recruited foreign fighters come and fight. Uh, so no, as long as there's money involved and there's , there's a purpose behind the work. And , uh , the way in which the United States has, has failed to have a consistent strategic message across multiple administrations that were there, were there to stay, and we're going to , we're going to see it through, and we're gonna go from a military , uh , involvement to a diplomatic solution and help , uh , build a government that produces better support for the Afghan people. I'm not surprised the recruitment whatsoever.

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

I mean , a lot of people that I talk to when they say, why are American forces still in Afghanistan? You know, and I tell them, well, you know, from the beginning there wasn't a Hill to take, and there wasn't a strategic objective in terms of something geographic. It was after nine 11 American forces went in there to dislodge Al Qaeda that was using Afghanistan , uh, as a launch platform, the Taliban were given the option then, you know, give up Al-Qaeda or, you know, a U S forces we'll we'll we'll deal with you as well, which, which is exactly what happened, but the Taliban fundamentally, do you think that they can be moderate, that they can suddenly power share with the Uzbeks and the GX and all the different ethnic groups in there? Because I don't think those groups,

lt. gen. Ben Freakley (ret):

I do know that that gets to my comment. I mean, you were on the ground early in , uh, after American forces entered in 2001 you've seen the long history of this, but , uh, prior to , uh, U S involvement, the warlords had , uh, broken Afghanistan apart. It never really was a homogeneous , uh, country. Uh , even in the time of the Kings , uh , the tribes basically elected a King and King nominally in charge,

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

But U S forces us sorta to interrupt the history there a little bit, but the us forces and commanders like yourself were incredibly successful in going to those warlords . And we saw it on the ground where they said, give up your weapons, disband your malicious, come together in a unity government. And in fact, I don't necessarily think all of them did, but I mean, the vast majority of the big kingpins did, and they were operating in that government system,

lt. gen. Ben Freakley (ret):

Right. And they participated even those that were reluctant and held some of their arms back , uh, still participated because they won . They were included by all of us and they wanted to be included. Um, but I think with this ebb and flow of a , we're going to be there, we're going to leave , uh, we're going to support. We're not going to support. Um, I think in large part, African people are just completely war wary and want it to be over. And part of their trust is now being seated to the Taliban versus the Dani government. And , and they certainly don't see a strong international military economic , uh, informational diplomatic effort, coherent to stay with them until the end. And , and, you know, it's , I've always used the analogy that if , um , if there's a strong policemen on your block every day, you trust that policeman . Cause she, or he are gonna show up every day. But if that policemen just comes in for half an hour and says, Hey, who are the drug pushers or who are the people that are committing criminal acts? You're not going to tell them anything and they're going to leave. And you're going to go back to having to deal with the miscreants as the Pakistanis would say, that are in the area. And so the Afghan people are trapped between , um , what's the future really hold, what are the Taliban selling? But to your point, can the tell bond be moderate? I don't know. And the only thing, the only reason I say there's a chance, I'll answer it for you is over ethanol .

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

We're not going to get , they're not going to be moderate, but

lt. gen. Ben Freakley (ret):

As I say, there's a chance as over economics because it's one thing for the U S forces to pull up. And the secretary of defense has just said, they're going to move another 3000 plus out by November conditions based , but nobody knows what the conditions are. And if your conditions based and you're looking at what's happening against it , you say the conditions are pretty bad. And if you look into what's happening with Iran and you're looking at what happened with Pakistan, you might want to leave a strategic capability there to hedge the bet as the West, not going alone with us, but NATO itself has invested so much. You might want to sustain the investment, but,

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

And Americans have invested blood on the ground. And there are a lot of young, young men who fought to stand up an independent Afghan government to try and get the country up and running. And it's a tragedy if, if that their legacy , uh, is that the Taliban are just returned to power, right ?

lt. gen. Ben Freakley (ret):

The country splinters again. But that's why I want it to work. I personally lost 74, 73 members of my team. And I think about them all the time. And every time anniversaries come up of , of a loss, I think about it. Uh , and I've been to Arlington and seeing where they're laid to rest some Mars part . And sometimes my wife and I talked to the widows and, you know, to your point, 2,400, over 2,400 have lost their lives. And then 20,000 have been killed. I've been wounded. And then that doesn't count for the coalition. I mean, the Brits are our allies. You know, all our NATO team members have lost one or more, some, some in the hundreds. And you're exactly right, Dana, it will be in vain if it falls apart. And that's why it's in our best interest to stay there , uh , to stay with the strategy of there . Because the other part of it is , uh , do we really want independent fighters to say we beat the Russians and then we beat the Americans in the West. We can beat anybody. We can go anywhere. We want to, as long as good, strong fighters, they won't, they won't stand it. But to finish my thought on, could they be moderate? My only thinking of the possibility of it is over the economics, because again, they've seen the Afghan people have seen what the economics have done creeping a, a very , uh, strangled society economically forward a bit. Um, have , if the Taliban loses the economics behind it, there'll be in power a short period of time. And then there'll be some other kinds of civil war. But I, I think the only hope is the economics diplomatic and economically , uh, but, but , um , short of that, will they be ruthless? Will they be , uh, completely without law other than Sharia law? Absolutely. I don't. I'm not naive about that.

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

Do you draw any parallels between what's happened in Iraq and, and , uh , allowing the army to fall apart and , uh, you know, a caliphate to be struck at one point, and you can kind of look down the road and say, if, if us troops pulled out of there and allow the Afghan government to fold, there's some pretty big dangers ahead.

lt. gen. Ben Freakley (ret):

I think there are several dangers number , number one, if, if , uh, if the U S doesn't and the West don't get this right , uh, this failed state reoccurring is highly probable. Secondly, if the military does fall apart, then you've got all those unemployed men were , that were in the Afghan security forces, police or army. Now they're unemployed rich for recruitment. We already know that ISIS is in there in large numbers. Uh, so what's too . And if the Taliban want , uh , financial resources someone's and the West pulls out economically, someone's going to fill that void economically, whether it's rich oil shakes or whether it's Putin or whether it's Iranian, but someone's gonna gonna , um , fulfill that , um, void both with violence and with economically. And we're going to be right back into a pretty bad situation.

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

You mentioned Putin . My last question , uh , there have been reports that bounties were put out on us soldiers by the Russians. W would you comment on it?

lt. gen. Ben Freakley (ret):

Well, number one, I, you know, I don't live in a classified world anymore. I don't, I only read what's an open source, thanks to great journalists like yourself that , uh , actively report on it, but I'll just say this. Um, many of the leaders in the Afghan national army had served as younger men with the Russians and for the Russians. I watched to come on and say who, but I was once with a senior Afghan general on the battlefield, and we were talking about a fight , uh , to come. And I mentioned that his Afghan core commander I thought was a good soldier. And he said, yes, he's a good Russian soldier. And I said, what do you mean by that? And he said, well, when I was fighting with all my shot, Massoud we attacked bog room . And the guy defending it was that guy with the Russians and we beat him , but he was a good Russian soldier then. And he's a good soldier now. So just from experiences like that, I have to believe that there are still ties from those men who had relationships with the Russians during their time of occupation. And do I believe it's feasible for the Russians to come back in there with funding and , and pay people to act as mercenaries and kill American soldiers? I absolutely believe now whether or not they did that. I have no proof whatsoever, but from my own experiences there in my own belief, is that feasible? Absolutely. And you would expect your commander in chief to take a pretty tough line on that on many things with, regarding Russia , um , our whole diplomatic core , um, and our, our whole of power government, our ability with informational power, economic power, military, and political power to put pressure on Putin, to stay out and to not influence it and get the , get the data and the facts that if indeed the Russians have been in there doing that, there'll be some pretty serious sanctions about , uh , about that. Ben Freakley a former Lieutenant general who commanded many forces in many places, including 10th mountain division in Afghanistan. Pleasure to talk to you, sir. And you Dan , thank you for all that you do.

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

Johnny Walsh joins us now from DC. He is with the United States Institute of peace. He's a senior expert there, and probably more importantly, he is a former us diplomat and he served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hi Johnny , thanks for talking to him . Thanks for having me 2001 after nine 11, I was one of the first reporters across the river from Tajikistan into Northern Afghanistan, where the Taliban had basically taken over 95% of the country. And we're fighting with the Northern Alliance. It wasn't much of a fight at that point, but , um, they were asked to difficult Haida and to stop Al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a training base to attack America, they refused and thus, you know , us troops started to pour in from the air and elsewhere. Um , and here we are all these years later, and us troops are still on the ground. Surprised ,

johnny Walsh U.S. Institute of Peace:

Uh, surprised that Afghanistan fell so far from the promise that it held in 2001 and two. I mean, if that was a moment of tremendous hope, Afghanistan was not really a case like Iraq, where the country started falling apart almost as soon as, as the U S came in. There was a great period there. Um, on the other hand, the column on, or the reason I've kind of Stan is in such rough shape right now, and they've been pretty consistent all this time. They are very disciplined, very unified, very, very lethal in the battlefield. Um, very brutal in a lot of contexts. Um, but maybe just maybe pragmatic enough to look for a political way out of this conflict that would accomplish enough of their objective .

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

Why do I think, you know, and tell me I'm thinking cynically, but why do I think that their way out , uh, is, is probably just to get power again and that's what they're after?

johnny Walsh U.S. Institute of Peace:

Hmm , well, I think that , uh, for many of them probably for most of their top leaders, that would be the preferred outcome and they do see themselves as very militarily strong. Some of them straight up think they could just wait until the U S leaves and eventually retake the country. The thing that works against that is that more and more of them appear to see that that is a years long proposition of grinding conflict, civil war with a huge body count, not least on their own side that might in fact, never truly end in their favor. And so when they look at the prospect of a negotiation like that involves compromise by everybody, that's, that's in the nature of a political settlement or a peace agreement. Um , it's usually not everybody's first preference, like every part of the outcome, but on the other hand, like there might be a formula where they could achieve their core goals, which is the ultimate departure of the foreign troops and what they consider a more Slavic system , um, without totally dismantling necessarily what's in place right now. And most importantly, that would be a way to end what has become the world's most violent war for the last few years , um , which nobody seems to have a really credible military way out.

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

And yet they just keep on, even through negotiations, carrying out attacks .

johnny Walsh U.S. Institute of Peace:

This is very high right now, and it's not tolerable. It's causing an enormous body count on all sides, but certainly telephone initiated attacks are, I think what's important to keep in mind is that violence for the Taliban as for so many insurgencies is where all their leverage comes from. So it's not that it wouldn't be good for them to stop right now, but it's not really realistic that that violence stops before there's any kind of political deal on the table, just as the government's main leverage is political power, and it can share it as the situation requires the telephones is violence and it can reduce it as a situation requires. Those two things are going to be at the core of any peace agreement. If there is one,

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

Why do I think a lot of the Afghans that I know, I mean, the Uzbeks and the Tajiks and others will look at any kind of a peace deal, pretty cynically, and think that it's not going, there's that word again, cynically, but they'll look at it and think, you know , over time, this is just going to unravel. And as I began , Stan traditionally is a place where people just tend to grind away at one another and the fighting begins again.

johnny Walsh U.S. Institute of Peace:

Well , it's been true for the last couple of generations. I do always stress to people that Afghanistan has not always been a place of. Civil actually had a pretty stable 20th century before the Soviets came in. So that's living memory for these players. And I don't think it's all impossible to get back to a different reality in terms of Uzbeks and Tajiks, they absolutely look at the Taliban , which is like a, you know, ethnic Pashtoon religious fundamentalists movement that shares nothing in common with many of the other constituencies that I've kind of said , these are the groups, look at the telephone with horror. And sometimes the feeling's mutual. I would say though, that in spite of that, and I would add that the Taliban never let's say pull better than 15% approval, 18% approval or something in the country, pretty hard to pull in Afghanistan, but that is beyond any margin of error. They are unpopular. However, all of these groups have seen now that even with that level of popularity, the telephone can keep despite up forever, not necessarily win it , but recruit endless fighters and launch a text in every corner of the country,

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

Because you cannot deal with them when they're across the border in Pakistan. Right. And they're probably getting support from the ISI and they , they regroup and relaunch again and again and again,

johnny Walsh U.S. Institute of Peace:

They do. They do. I mean, I often stress that the vast majority of telephone fighters are in Afghanistan from Afghanistan and they get all their stuff inside of Afghanistan. But the sanctuary Pakistan gives their senior leaders, makes the group all the harder to actually defeat because those people are essentially untouchable right now.

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

So when you, when you talk to American commanders, for instance, who have been in there fighting and losing soldiers, this tremendous effort at the beginning to stand up a democratic government, to get the malicious, to put down their weapons, to educate women and open schools, and all of a sudden, you , you say, yeah, you know, you're going to have to make a deal with the Taliban. How do you sell them on ?

johnny Walsh U.S. Institute of Peace:

Well, I think , uh, it's tough for all sides to accept the idea of peace with the people that they've been fighting with for all this time. Certainly for the U S military. I mean, I come and I advocate for base because I think it's the only happy ending that is going to is plausible for Afghanistan. But I don't like the idea of it either. I mean, I've had friends who are killed by the telephone too . That's what war is , um , not to preach on that subject, but I think that the U S military by and large has really embraced this too because Afghanistan, the war has gone on for far too long. And so I would really peace to our military commanders speaks to people like me does not mean dismantling women's rights or democracy, or the security forces that have been built up all this time. Like there will be compromises, but other really important stuff. It's important for negotiators to hold their ground to. Um, peace means finding a way that all of the different constituents in Afghanistan can be part of the system, which generally is not true right now. Um, and I, I think that while it will be a very difficult, I'm not here predicting success, you can imagine ways that what's really important can in fact be preserved. And the last thought on that is , um, many of us see the peace process as the way to preserve these post 2001 games, as opposed to like a way to sacrifice them. Because the alternative is a , is an eventual meltdown of the country. If the conflict just continues forever, and that will certainly not be good for rights, democracy and everything else that's been accomplished during the last generation

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

From an America , spent a lot of money and a lot of time trying to build up the Afghan army there in special forces. And I assume that under the peace deal, the Taliban absolutely won us troops off Afghan soil. Would that happen? And could the Afghan army, you know, they've stood up on their own, but they've been pretty wobbly .

johnny Walsh U.S. Institute of Peace:

I mean, so there is a pathway right now to a complete us withdrawal. That was part of the core of the bilateral deal that the U S and Taliban made , uh, earlier this year that it would be sort of a pathway to zero troops. If the Taliban did certain things in return , um , that could happen. It is certainly true that the Afghan forces are doing the overwhelming majority of the fighting right now. The U S support is quite helpful to them. Um, but I wouldn't want to sell them short on that regard, especially some of the really crack units like their special forces , um , which are maintaining their end of this driving conflict and have been for a long time, if all of the U S support where they benefit from us air power, they're developing their own air force two . We'll see how that evolves in the next couple of years. And it would be much uglier conflict without the U S forces around that's to be sure. And that's why the U S has a lot of leverage on this because it doesn't have to withdraw its forces. If it perceives the Taliban, aren't serious .

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

Do you think that there's going to be a deal? I mean, we've just seen a prisoner release, I assume, of , of Taliban prisoners. I assume that that's an encouraging, there's obviously progress in discussions.

johnny Walsh U.S. Institute of Peace:

I don't want to be overly rosy about it. I don't know how to predict what the actual odds of a successful, you know, grand bargain signing at the end of this are, but the opportunity now is by far the largest it's ever been , um, there have been huge breakthroughs to seriously explore this. Um, both sides have appointed very, very credible teams of negotiators to work through some of the weightiest issues in the country. So that's a, that's a lot more wind in the sails than many , uh, processes that eventually lead to peace agreements start with. So , um, for good negotiators, it's a lot to work with. Now, on the other hand, the positions of the parties are very far apart. Um, but this would hardly be the first time that when talks started, you know, each side thought they were going to get a 90 10 deal and they had to start working towards something in the middle of that both could live with, I don't know what that'll look like. I think it'll take a long time, but the opportunity is tremendous. And the odds of a good outcome for the U S or Afghan governments by military means are much lower than the odds of a good outcome by diplomatic means.

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

No, I don't think anybody thought it was going to be short fight. And you know, some of my American friends say to me, what are we still doing in Afghanistan? And what, you know , I thought we, I thought we won there. I thought there was victory, or there's never going to be victory there. And American commanders, you know , general Patraeus for one , um , said, look, this is easily a 20 year insurgency fight that we're going to the job there is to stop Afghanistan being used as a launch pad for extremists , carrying out attacks on , on Americans , uh , and terror training centers. And so the 20 year insurgency fight is saving us, being attacked at home. Um, so I think commanders have seen it a lot differently than American politicians have. And is this really now the time to stop that long bloody campaign? Um, but one that protects America?

johnny Walsh U.S. Institute of Peace:

Well, it all depends on what kind of stuff we're talking about. I , I think as much as most Americans would like to see us just out of Afghanistan, no further questions. Um, it matters whether that is just ripping the bandaid off and letting the place collapse, and no matter what the consequences versus withdrawing the troops responsibly in the context of an actual peace agreement, the ladder is pretty responsible. And I mean, it might not look like victory in the sense of , uh, you know, the battleship and the Japanese surrendering, but it might look like victory in the sense of the date and the cords ending, the Balkan Wars, like a really potentially a huge diplomatic moment , um, that, that ends a conflict, absent, some kind of settlement like that. I think Afghanistan does remain some of the most fertile ground in the world for terrorism and all learned the consequences of that. Um, it is already one of the biggest generators of refugees into, into Europe, especially , um, which destabilize the politics of Europe for a generation itself. Um, and that would get far worse if Afghanistan deteriorated in the, in the sense that it couldn't in this environment of total chaos. So , uh, as, as fatigued as we might be like the U S interests here are quite legitimate and to just watch the place completely melt down , I think we would all regret that if only for our own national interest to say nothing of the human suffering, it would entail. Um, pretty soon after we made that decision,

Dana Lewis/Host Back Story:

Johnny Walsh, senior expert at the United States Institute of peace, pleasure talking to you. Thank you. It's a pleasure. Thank you. And that's our backstory in Afghanistan and peace efforts. Peace talks are due to resume in September. Before I say goodbye, I have a little favor to ask. Backstory is a storytelling

dana lewis:

Effort that I need your help with to keep going at least subscribe to it and share it interested. Corporate sponsors can private message me. I'm Dana Lewis and I'll talk to you again soon.

:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1016881/5209171

fmr Lt. Gen. Ben Freakley
Johnny Walsh U.S. Inst. Peace