White House needs to continue supporting Afghanistan: former US ambassador to Afghanistan

White House needs to continue supporting Afghanistan: former US ambassador to Afghanistan

USA, Washington, September 17 / Trend , N.Bogdanova /

Interview with Ronald Neumann, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near East Affairs, current president of the American Academy of Diplomacy in Washington

Q: Is it possible that the massive riots and protest actions against results of the president election in Afghanistan can put the legitimacy of the whole process under suspicion? Especially, if the presidency of Karzai is confirmed how will that influence the image of Talabany?

A: First of all, everybody would like the government to be more effective. Remember, President Karzai was able to get that position because he was a compromise candidate - not just the American-appointed candidate - he was the preferred candidate of contending Afghan groups.

That also imposes some limitations. He has a very weak hand to play. He doesn't have money, or at least very much, and he doesn't control force. And we want him to take some very dynamic decisions that have a high level of political pain.

If votes are thrown out, particularly among Pashtuns, the country's largest ethnic group, it will push them into the arms of the Taliban. The most important thing is that whoever wins has "the greatest chance of Afghans rallying around the result.

Q: A number of new strategies to rebuilt stability in Afghanistan are currently been use in the country.  What were the problems of previous strategies and what should be done now?

A. I think it is worth it for the White House to be maintaining support for Afghanistan. That's where we were attacked from. There is every reason to believe that the Taliban-al-Qaida lash-up is closer than it was. And there is no reason to believe that we can choose unilaterally to quit this war if the other side is not quitting a much larger war. So I think there are any numbers of critical, basic issues that impel us to stay involved.

I mean that is not the basis on which one decides whether -or should decide whether to stay or leave Afghanistan. If you stay, which I think you have to and that's the correct decision, then the question is how you work with this government, whatever government comes out.

And... draw a deep breath. We don't have a final result yet. Even if the Electoral Commission announces a result that's quasi-final - that is Karzai gets over 50 percent - until you have gotten the report of the Complaints Commission and discounted the votes that they throw out, you don't have a final result. So draw a deep breath and don't rush to judgment until you see how it works out.

Q: It is believed that the Taliban are fighting against foreign forces in Afghanistan, but until 1996 they were fighting against local government. Do you believe that if the foreign forces are out of the country then Taliban will weaken their activity?

A: My perception is still that the Taliban are a fairly weak force, despite the increase in violence in Kabul. But there is no comparison to Baghdad at all. There are a lot of places in this country where people are going about their business with only occasionally a bit of violence.

That is much more a testimony to Taliban weakness than to government strength. There is also not a lot of ideological support for the Taliban, even if local people are fighting for them.

Low turnout-estimated between 40 and 50 percent nationwide-showed that Taliban efforts to keep people home were at least partly successful, creating an election defined by violence. There is no denying the fact that a notable reason for low turnout was the lack of security, and obviously that must be addressed.

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