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The People of Afghanistan Do Not Want Foreign Troops in Their Country Anymore

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Iran Review’s Exclusive Interview with Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi
By: Kourosh Ziabari

The largest media gathering in Europe wrapped up in the German city of Bonn on June 24. The Global Media Forum 2015, organized by the Deutsche Welle and sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office, hosted around 2,000 politicians, media professionals, journalists, academicians and activists from across the world and provided the attendees with an opportunity to get familiar with the latest trends in online, print and multimedia journalism and explore the theme of foreign policy in the age of digital media.

On the sidelines of the “Social media vs. digital jihad” workshop, which the Digital Mass Atrocity Prevention Lab had arranged, Iran Review interviewed the moderator Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi. Waslat is an editor and correspondent with the Deutsche Welle in Germany, covering Afghanistan and the world. Waslat is originally from Afghanistan, and has been living in Germany for several years. She is a graduate of the University of Bonn with a masters’ degree in journalism.

Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi responded to our questions about security in Afghanistan, the Afghan people’s sentiments about the continued presence of foreign troops in their land, opium cultivation, drone attacks and the domestic politics of the war-hit country.

Q: Do you think that the military intervention in Afghanistan has been a successful mission? Above that, do you think that the U.S. and its NATO allies have been able to realize their officially-declared objective of bringing security to Afghanistan after nearly one decade of armed conflict?

A: Yeah. I think that the military mission has failed in Afghanistan and you can see today now that the foreign troops – already most of them have left. Some of them are still in Afghanistan, but they are there to train and help the army – they are not fighting anymore. And now you can see how the security situation has worsened so much in the last two months. The Afghan security forces are not able to control the country and to keep the extremists and the terrorists away. So, there was a small success that was brought through the military [intervention]. For example, there were more humanitarian aid and more civil aid [coming in]; women are now allowed to go to school; we have doctors there and the health situation has improved so much. But I think that’s not enough and it’s not enough if you see this from the viewpoint and perspective of the United States and what they tried to do in Afghanistan; they completely failed. So, still they don’t have a functioning state.

Q: There are some reports that the cultivation of opium and drugs has increased tenfold since the military intervention began in Afghanistan in 2001. Do you believe that there were perhaps some deliberate efforts to increase the cultivation and growth of drugs in Afghanistan or that it was simply a by-product of the military occupation?

A: Yes, definitely. Well, I wouldn’t say that they deliberately increased the production, but I would say that they didn’t do anything to decrease it; they didn’t do anything to fight and to combat the opium production. Instead, they just let farmers grow opium. I mean, there was little action done, but it was not enough and since then, the production has just increased year by year.

Q: Regarding the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan, do you think that it has been able to deliver sufficient humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan, especially to the refugees and the children who have been missing educational opportunities?

A: Well, I think that the UN has done a lot in Afghanistan and they’re really trying to improve the situation, especially for refugees and refugees in Pakistan and Iran, because you know that most of the refugees live in Pakistan and Iran. But still there is not enough aid; there is not enough funding and there are still so many things that need to be changed.

Q: And let’s touch upon the U.S. drone attacks, which are mostly targeted against Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pentagon launches the drone assassination campaigns on such countries as Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and also sometimes on the tribal areas of Afghanistan, with the purported aim of crushing the Al-Qaeda bases and defeating the Taliban. But it seems that it’s taking a heavy toll on the civilian population.

A: Yeah, that’s true. That’s the reason why the civilians in Afghanistan do not want the U.S. army or the foreign troops to be in the country any longer, because they saw how these troops treated their children and their families; they saw how they were operating night raids, which is against Afghan tradition. Actually, it’s against the universal human rights. And that’s the reason why there is now a negative sentiment against the foreign troops, whereas when the Americans invaded the country in 2001 and demolished the Taliban state, people were happy; people were actually welcoming the American soldiers and inviting them to their homes.

Q: Interesting point. So, on Afghanistan’s domestic politics, what do you think about the role President Ashraf Ghani can play in bringing back democracy and improving human rights in Afghanistan and revamping the national economy that is mostly ravaged because of the invasion? Do you think that the coalition between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah can finally lead to some fruitful outcomes for the people of Afghanistan?

A: I don’t think that they will be able to have fruitful results because, first of all, it’s not about Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah but about the people who work for them and the circles they belong to. And the warlords are still in the government, and they are still in power and they still decide about what happens in the country; and they won’t let a real democratic society flourish. And I think until those people are still in power, nothing will change. If it’s Ashraf Ghani or if it’s Abdullah, it doesn’t matter.

Q: So, you believe that they are somehow spreading corruption as it was said Hamid Karzai did?

A: Well, it’s not only that they spread corruption, but they’re funded by foreign countries as well as by our neighboring countries. And as long as they have money, then they have weapons; they can do whatever they want.

Q: So, how do you think an independent government can emerge in the country and contribute to the well-being of the Afghans? After all, they were the people who voted for Ashraf Ghani. Although the competition was really stiff and very close, he finally won. So, what’s your suggestion and what do you think would be the most favorable solution, particularly in terms of re-establishing peace and democracy in an Afghanistan which is not a U.S. stooge anymore?

A: That’s a big question. But first of all, the previous elections were not democratic in the end. And it turned out that there was a lot of corruption and a lot of votes were false, and the international community failed to find a real solution. The solution they provided was not helpful; now today we can see what this solution brings us! But I think it’s too late, to be honest. I think in 2001, when the Taliban rulers were driven out of the country, there was a big chance to improve the situation of the country. Maybe you know that the Afghan politicians – they came to Bonn, they had a big conference here and they didn’t invite the Taliban; they didn’t invite the people who were actually working against them. Instead of talking to everybody, they just talked to themselves and they created more power and more space for the warlords instead of bringing them in front of a court. Maybe you remember in Germany and what happened after the Nazi regime. I think that’s something that should have been done in Afghanistan and then maybe we could have seen that things could improve. But now, it’s really hard to find a solution. I’m sorry, but I can’t give you a solution.

Q: And as the final question, your workshop was on the “Digital Jihad” and the rise of ISIS. Do you think that the U.S. government is sufficiently determined to eliminate ISIS as it was determined to crush Al-Qaeda or remove Saddam Hussein from power? And if so, then why hasn’t it been successful in eliminating this group, that is neither Islamic nor a state?

A: That’s a tricky question and also a very big question. Well, I share the sentiment that we heard in the discussion here that first we have to think why there is the Islamic State and where they came from. Where did Al-Qaeda come from? Where did the Taliban come from? We have to think about this and then we can see why the U.S. is not doing anything to improve the situation. As long as it’s not in their interest, they won’t work to improve the situation.  

Key Words: Afghanistan, Foreign Troops, Security, Opium Cultivation, Drone Attacks, Domestic Politics, US, Humanitarian Aid, Refugees, ISIS, Taliban, Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Hasrat-Nazimi

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم