tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN April 8, 2015 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT
our relationship with afghanistan and with the team. there was a period, however lest we forget, that we had a tremendously positive relationship with president karzai before it went sour. and we have to take part of the blame for what happened. and he too. but we cannot take it for granted during my period at least, i had hardly any problem that we couldn't work out with president karzai at that time. and he was much praised in this town. his skills were compared to president clinton at one point when he came for a visit when he addressed congress. for him to be the successor to mullah omar obviously was huge.
he was lucky in his predecessor in that regard. but -- so we can't take the honeymoon that we're in with the current team automatically continues. it will require work. it requires -- we learn lessons from our experience with president karzai. especially why it turned sour. we need to be very attentive not to repeat some of the mistakes that caused that souring to occur on our part but similarly i think for the afghans if they had -- one of the things that i learned, and i'll end with that. when i went back to afghanistan after 30-plus years i thought the afghans were kind of anti-foreign and maybe would not want too much america. and what i discovered in the
course of the first month of my envoyship, and ryan and i had the same experience because we were there at the same time. that period was the greatest fear was fear of abandonment. rather than on balance of sort of at that point in any case of be being kind of run by or dominated by america. >> simply put, marvin it is to be the long-term strategic partner to afghanistan about which we have an agreement signed by two presidents saying we will. zal is exactly right in talking about fear of abandonment. in the run-up to the visit we heard that all of us over and
over again, the fear that we were going to leave afghanistan alone with the prospect it would not fare much better without us than it did without us in the 19 -- first half of the 1990s. so that is fundamental. we do need to learn how to manage that relationship particularly with the two principal leaders. they rely greatly on the u.s., both bilaterally and as a leader of the international community, but they're also profoundly afghan nationalists. as is president karzai. and we do have to respect that. that is not an impossible challenge for diplomacy, although sometimes we fail it.
it's knowing when we need to be engaged and how to be engaged. and again, we've got both good examples and bad examples since 2001 of what to do and what not to do. i would agree with my friends that it's rather unlikely afghanistan would be where it is today without our intervention post-election to help broker an agreement that each side could live with. and we will have to be attentive to the tensions inherent in that relationship and other tensions and contradictions throughout afghan society in particular that while president ghani and dr. abandonadullah, we all saw it here in washington clearly can work together and engage together.
it's probably less true as you go down the line in their respective camps. so we are going to have to be alert to that. but most fundamentally we have to be clear, we are in this relationship for the long run. without it the centrifugal forces are going to take over. it's also extremely appropriate vis-a-vis pakistan. i have served on both sides of the durond line. speaking of the durond line, i found in my many years in the middle east, the greater middle east, i had to account for my presence in afghanistan and pakistan somehow. i just folded them in. that when things are going badly and fingers are pointing at us blame the british.
[ laughter ] you know, for the pakistanis to understand, well, this isn't going to be 1990 all over again where they go from being the most allied of allies to the most sanctioned of adversaries literally overnight. the pakistanis need to have the confidence that we are a long-term strategic factor on their border and indeed in their country. if we want them to quit hedging their bets. >> i take it from the remarks here that all three of you agree that neither we nor the afghans have a plan b. this is -- we have this one -- perhaps this one opportunity. i think i also detect here, especially from things you've said before, that the three of
you questioned the plan here to have an exit of all american military forces by the end of 2016. the president at the moment has been flexible with respect to the troop withdrawal for 2015 but has stood quite firmly on the exit in 2016. what is it going to take for him to change his mind as you see it? how likely do you think that is? and with what consequences? >> i think afghanistan has been lucky to a degree because of the experience in iraq. and also the rise of ice -- isis isil. in the sense that we have had an
experiment almost that in the case of iraq that both ryan and i served in. >> you did too right. >> yes of course. >> you came from iraq to afghanistan. >> yes. we switched. >> yeah exactly right. right. so our total departure of forces and having just the office of security cooperation and the embassy followed a series of developments that was not good for iraq not good for us not good for the region and it was a polarizing effect on regional arrivals trying to fill in the vacuum created by our departure.
and as to that the syrian -- unraveling of syria, and now we have had to go back to get involved in the fight against ice and to send some people back in. i believe that afghanistan, with the investment we have made in the building of the security forces and with the commitment that has been made as ryan mentioned in chicago, to the afghan security forces and with some presence that's a success in my view because if you can go from 120,000 in the case of afghanistan. iraq of course there was a period we had a lot more. to a force of 5,000 10,000.
and work with the environment and with the afghans so they truly can manage their security problems, that is a model of success in my view. sure we would like this to be done in five years or in ten, but i could tell you stories in that is right because of -- we started slow on building the security forces initially. we wanted only the forces the afghans could afford. and the afghans, given what ryan described, what i experienced, what afghanistan was like, they could hardly afford anything. i remember being admonished repeatedly during that period to get your hands off the bike and let the afghans deal with these issues. and i would say, well, please show me the bike. i'd be happy to get my hands off this thing if i could find it. because there was hardly anything there at that time. so if we wanted them to have
afforded what they could afford that would be hardly anything. besides, there was enormous uncertainty in the environment on terrorism, on what happened, and the afghans would like us to maintain a force. it's not very populated in that region to have forces there. we have afghanistan-related interests. we have terrorism--related interests. we have other broader regional interests that i think justifies maintaining a residual force beyond 2016. now, as to whether the president will change his mind on this issue, i think there is indication that he's willing to have a conversation about it and i think a conversation was had during this visit. i think he has political imperatives for not appearing that he easily changes his mind. and maybe he's also thinking to keep this at this point maybe
to get some things from the afghans they will deliver on their part, on the unity front, on some of the reforms that they have been committed. but i believe that -- well i can't predict. i think the geopolitical requirements, future stability of afghanistan, our national interests in my judgment require if needed to maintain a residual force, and the case of iraq demonstrates that necessity in my judgment. >> anybody who was looking for controversy among us is clearly not finding it. i would agree completely with my colleagues. iraq is instructive in a pretty dramatic and sad way of what
happens when you say you're ending a war but all you're doing, again is ceding the battlefield. and our disengagement, as i indicated earlier, from afghanistan and indeed from pakistan after the soviet defeat is instructive. we can look at iraq for a parallel, but we find the example right there in afghanistan decades earlier. and as zal and ron have said, this is in our national interest. but there's something else too. and the argument i think for moving from a calendar-based timetable to a conditions-based timetable where i've long argued we've needed to have been in iraq and certainly need to be in afghanistan, this is the intersection of american interests and american values. and we i think are unique after
major states as a nation founded on values, interweaving them with our policies. it is very, very difficult at times, as we all know. and we're seeing some of that of course today around the world. iran cited the newest greatest generation in afghanistan. the afghans who have come of age post-taliban exemplified by the graduates of the american university of afghanistan. they are like no other generation afghanistan has ever produced. open to the world. plugged in. wired up. they think in terms dramatically different from their parents. and they are the long-term guarantee for security and stability in afghanistan.
but they've got to have the chance to solidify their presence and their influence. women in afghanistan. sometimes it seems to me we're trying to have it both ways. we urged women to step forward. we supported them as they did so. now, at least up until president ghani's visit, it was as though we were saying to them good-bye and good luck. well, the luck would not be very good if we were to decide we're done here, we're going to draw down and whatever happens happens, not our problem. well, in addition to the security ramifications that we've all addressed, there are fundamental issues about who we are as a nation and as a people. are we going to let the young people that we encouraged, the
girls and women of afghanistan that we've encouraged just take it in the neck quite literally by pulling out prematurely and letting things unfold as they may? we saw the horrific episode with the farhunda recently. it isn't just the taliban. there are some pretty dark forces that still permeate afghan society. they're moving in the right direction, but they're going to need us for some time to come to ensure that they don't backslide or come apart in a way that threatens both our security and calls into question what values we really hold as americans. we'll be judged by this. >> i totally agree with my colleagues. therefore, i won't say anything of the same things or i'll try not to. again, i think ryan's point about the moral implications is
really important. president obama in the last six months has made a number of incremental decisions that i would call positive and correct in terms of slightly extending the timeline for forces and allowing air support for afghans in extremis then again extending -- not enlarging but extending the time for a deployment. those are all in my judgment very correct decisions. the way we are making them, however, robs them of much of their psychological value. ryan and zal have talked about the need for america to remain a long-term partner. and a piece of that a big piece of that is the afghan and regional belief that that is so. the incremental way in which we are approaching policy continually undercuts the belief
that we're really there for the long term. one of the things i worry about is we will from month to month and year to year continue our support for afghanistan but we will do it in such an incremental and haphazard fashion that we will never get the political value of those decisions with either the afghan people or the insurgents. so it is both the nature of the decisions but the way in which they are made that's important. and i totally subscribe to the notion that we do not have the ability to end this war. we've never been about ending it. we have only been about pulling our own forces out leaving a nasty bloody war to somebody else. and i wish we would be honest about it. the other thing i think we need to think about in this regard is what is it we are planning to do about nato. nato has -- does not have a time limit per se.
but it cannot stay without us and it cannot and will not make any decisions without our decisions being made first. this ought to be a no-brainer because even if we end the combat role we have still said we'll leave military in afghanistan on a training mission. well, if we're going to be training we ought to want help. we ought to want other people helping us train. nato's the logical vehicle. we know there's going to be an assistance requirement for afghanistan. if we're going to be doing assistance we ought to want help in that. if other countries want their troops involved, they will be more inclined to make assistance commitments. so we ought to be focusing very hard on extending to some degree the nato mandate beyond 2016 however we constitute our part of it, so we don't just fall off the edge of a cliff. and nato is not a -- this is 26 nations and steering a supertanker is easy compared to
getting turns and -- you just don't get quick adjustments with 26 nations. so while we are busy contemplating our own future month to month we really need to stake out a nato policy. thank you. >> we want to leave time for questions from the audience here. but let me pose one last question from the panel here. for the panel. how do you view the prospects for a agreement with the taliban? what priority should the united states give to this strategy of finding terms on which we can hope that the afghan government and the taliban can agree on. and if in the course of your remarks you could indicate where you think pakistan figures in this please do. ron, you want to --
>> i'm going to try to keep this really short because i know my colleagues are going to have something to say. i agree that a political solution is highly desirable. i think we should stop saying there's no possibility of a military solution you can lose. i think it is very important for americans to understand that a political solution comes -- or negotiation that leads to a solution comes when everybody more or less decides they can't win. it does not come by running around with your tongue hanging out chasing a political solution which suggests desperation. we have almost nothing with which to negotiate anymore. except we could betray the afghan government and leave them on their own. so negotiations are not our real business. they're the business of the afghan government. we should support them. but we should not try to be in front of them.
secondly, the biggest support we can give to negotiations is the belief that we will continue our support so that the afghan government and military will not lose. they don't have to be able to win. they have to be able not to lose. and everybody has to believe that. let me -- i'm just going to stop there. i believe in this. i think it's a very long-term solution. i think when you look at all other conflicts ended by negotiation you have to look at a very, very long-term proposition in which you should expect that fighting will get worse after you begin negotiations as people seek to improve their position on the battlefield. so that supporting negotiations means supporting a long-term help to afghanistan financially and military lyily accepting that they're in the lead and accepting that negotiations will have to pass through if you get there at all. will have to pass through a period of intensified combat.
>> we tend to -- in a recent mission i mentioned before with regard to the unity record not being good globally, we tend to start wars in recent time with great fanfare and commitment and enthusiasm, and we don't tend to end them well. at least in recent times on this specific issue of reconciliation or agreement i know that the new government in afghanistan is trying very hard and has made a number of adjustments unilaterally to encourage reconciliation or a peace process or agreement.
they have intensified engagement with pakistan. recognizing that pakistan plays a vital role in facilitating and helping or hindering such a project. and they have moved against elements that are hostile to pakistan so that there will be no reason for pakistan not to help. they have sent some cadets to be trained in pakistan which are not very popular in afghanistan given the history of the relationship. and nevertheless this government has taken that step. they have frozen the acceptance of some military assistance from india, said let's take another look at this let's wait.
it has intensified relations with china in part because of wanting to impact pakistan, recognizing that chinese-pakistani relations are very important for pakistan. and having china more involved in afghanistan is also seen by the leadership as indicating to pakistan that their fear of india being so involved is balanced now by wanting their friend chinese involved also. and saudi arabia's another country that has been in intensification of relations with in part because of the impact that could have, or they would like it to have on reconciliation and relations with pakistan. now, on the negative side of the ledger, in my judgment one is this uncertainty about the
long-term u.s. commitment to afghanistan afghanistan. already the dramatic reductions and force presence i think probably leads some in the taliban leadership, the military wing at least to say let's test the forces and now that they are largely on their own although there is the u.s. help, and if there is a belief that beyond 2016 there will be none that will encourage them to wait and see what the balance of forces and power would be after this. coming fighting season and then maybe post until even after 2016. so that's one issue. and i believe the government recognizes that they need to
prepare and push for engagement relatively quickly. and i think there is some disappointment that the meetings that they expected to see happen with representatives or the leadership of the taliban have not yet occurred. they thought with all the measures and steps they've taken perhaps a meeting would have happened by now. but at the same time that they need to prepare for and intensify fights in the coming season and also push simultaneously for reconciliation with all the elements that they described, my own judgment is in the near-term prospects are not very promising because of this uncertainty with regards to the u.s. longer term and the desire to test the forces without as much help internationally as possible.
there may be opportunities for the government with elements because the taliban and the opposition is quite fragmented and diverse, perhaps more opportunities in the near term in that domain than a comprehensive settlement that even if a meeting occurs i think it's going to be a very protracted process. there may be a period of both fighting and perhaps even if a meeting does occur. >> i think everything we're saying on the subject has been said by my colleagues but that won't stop me from saying it again. two critical elements were noted. as ron said, this ultimately has got to be an afghan matter.
a peaceful future in afghanistan is not going to be negotiated by the united states. it has to be done by afghans. and then as zal said, we have got to persuade both allies and adversaries as well as those on the fence that we are in this for the long run. we have many great qualities as americans. but we have a few shortcomings. and one of those is a lack of what i call strategic patience. we're good at going in with drums and bug lz when the campaign starts and when it gets hard, costly and blood and treasure and it's taking way too long, meaning it's not over a week from friday, we start finding other things we want to do. now, what has happened in the greater middle east over years of this, this is something our allies fear in us and our
adversaries count on. so our greatest contribution to negotiations is not really being part of it. it is demonstrating to friend and foe alike at this time we're in this for the long run. because that is the only way the calculus in pakistan and among the taliban i think is going to change in a way that would make a negotiation first possible and ultimately successful. there is something i think we can do if and when serious talks are held. and that is to be sure the afghan government understands the importance of involving women in the negotiating process. i talked about this before. you know, what happens to women in afghanistan in the long run is very much a concern of ours.
and this is not measured in employment opportunities. it can be measured in lives. and if we want to facilitate and foster a solid negotiation and ultimately the prospects of a solid agreement the other half of the afghan population has got to be an integral and key part of this process. >> at this point we're going to entertain your questions. i'll ask you to stand and identify yourself. please keep it short. if you wish to direct it to a particular panelist, do so. so right down in front here. please wait for the mike. yes. >> u.s.m.o.d. and both
afghanistan in iraq from 2008 to 2010. i was appalled from the start when i heard we were planning to go to war in iraq. i thought it would be a disaster. and i was particularly concerned about what happened pretty inevitably which is we pulled back from what we were doing in afghanistan. it became sort of second place. i'd be interested in your view as to whether -- i don't know how productive it is. but whether this really did set things back in afghanistan whether things might have worked out better had we not distracted ourselves. >> i will speak first because i
know the least about it. you know, the united states was and is capable of doing more than one thing at a time. yes, iraq soaked up a great deal of resources. but i would suggest from my perspective, this goes back to something zal said. what really affected our engagement in afghanistan was the initial position that this was going to be an economy of force mission and we were very slow to come off of that. iraq may have been a contributing factor but i think it was that initial mindset that we were going to keep our investment and exposure in afghanistan to a minimum. i will always remember in those early days in 2002 we had a --
having taken a shot at the british i will now give them a pat on the back. an enormously capable isaf commander, a british major general named john mccall. and he and i kind of looking ahead to some of the challenges of the extension of government authority came up with this idea of essentially a two-battalion u.s. force. one kind of based in kabul air mobile, with the assets to ensure that mobility and the other battalion deployed on the key provincial centers. kandahar mazar al shareef, harat. kind of the level of a company plus. very able to hold their ground against any likely force. and if there was a serious challenge you had that air mobile battalion set to go in
and really kick some posterior. so two baattalionsbattalions. we sent our messages to london and washington. and like four hours later i had my response. which was crocker, go sit under a tree until this insanity passes from you. there was no way we're going to send two battalions into afghanistan. and i just think it was a very long time before we realized what we were up against. >> i believe that it has been exaggerated that because of iraq afghanistan suffered. i believe that because of iraq at least during my period as
ambassador i was to a degree successful in increasing resources for afghanistan saying -- and that given what we're doing in iraq, which was huge, that afghanistan needed more attention perhaps, not as much as iraq given the challenge at that time in afghanistan wasn't as great as the challenge in iraq. the level of violence was not as high. there was concerns about resurgence. there was concern about misbehavior on the part of what was called warlords at that time, that we needed a greater level of effort. i got a positive response more on the civilian side by increasing the reconstruction budget by over a billion dollars dollars. but on the military front ryan's
analysis is quite right and there was not only an unwillingness to send more forces along, the concept that ryan talked about, but even to accelerate the creation of the afghan national army because there was a pugssh to get an agreement before doing anything on the final number, which the afghans were pushing for 100,000 plus and we were saying it should be 50 or lower. and i finally i remember at one meeting, got a little despondent and said we can't get to 100 before we get to 50, so why don't we get started rather than hold the start of the project to get the afghans to agree to 50. we're not going to get to 50 in three or four years so we need
to move earlier. i do think that iraq may have had some impact -- and i'm not the right person to ask this. whether some assets that are particularly relevant to the conflict part were diverted. it may be that on the reconstruction side afghanistan benefited because the numbers became so large that adding a billion to afghanistan for the two conflict didn't see -- although i see ron's complaint about his issue during his period. but at least in my time we got -- we didn't suffer on the economic reconstruction front. there may have been some suffering that may have occurred on the military -- on the military side. but i don't know in detail what that was -- i think there was
some, however. >> i think we did hurt for the diversion. but i think when one tries to say exactly how much or how much better things could have been, that becomes very proikt, very hypothetical. on the military side unquestionably we hurt. we lost and could not get the overhead observation that we needed needed. in fact, that was drained off. we were losing special forces. we were having great trouble getting the conventional force maintained, let alone expanded. economics gets to be a very complicated question. i salute the political and bureaucratic skill of my predecessor, who was able to get a very large increment. i was then told, well, if you don't spend it all you don't need any more.
yes, we know where we're going to spend it. this is a frequent u.s. government problem. if you have a lot of money people say you've already got it in the pipeline you don't need any more even if you don't know how to spend it. and if you spend it quickly people say look at the waste. so you're under pressure to spend and then criticized if you do so. it's hard not to get out of. the most complicated question, though, is one i absolutely cannot answer, and that is the degree of afghan government response, afghan political responsibility for the fact that by 2005 and 6 you had a situation ripe for increasing the insurgency as well because of a lot of ruinously bad governments. you had people who put down their weapons after 2001. part of the taliban's problem was a lot of people just went home. a certain number of hashed khor
people in 2001 under the bombs looked around and said where are my buddies? many of those people were treated very badly. now, that's -- you know after years of civil war that's to be expected inment respects. but the rapacious score settling of people who came to power with us drove many other people back into the insurgency and helped create the conditions for an insurgency. whether we could have actually done very much about that, whether anybody could have done very much about that you could have a very long discussion. but we should not in kicking ourselves for taking our eyes off the ball forget the afghan share in creating these conditions. >> may i add one footnote? >> briefly. >> yeah. i think ron has made an excellent point.
that in addition in a general point in afghanistan we were involved in two things that may be in iraq too. i don't know whether ryan would agree with me. which is that we had a state and nation building almost which were terrible words to mention at that time, that in fact we had a situation in which there was no state in fact and we were trying to help the guns set up a state. and a nation building to some extent to get an agreement, a compact among them what it means to be afghan or what it means to be iraqi how they're going to organize that state and how they're going to participate in it. but at the same time increasingly we were doing counterinsurgency operations as well. and sometimes the requirements of one was in tension with the requirements of the other. meaning in order to do
counterinsurgency we could cooperate with people that were not necessarily desirable. and sometimes people say why are you working with ex-mini warlord or a big warlord or whatever names you gave them? because you needed to get things done in that area. from a security and counterinsurgency point of view. but your state and nation building project would have required to -- and we had a strategy for how to decrease their capabilities and make them be political participants, accept the new rules, and not to be a source of instability and problems for the local population that would then help the insurgency in a sense because of their misbehavior in turn created that. the afghan responsibility as ron said quite correctly their
behavior but there was also these conflicting requirements that -- demands on us as well and the way we responded to it. >> you know there's another piece that i don't think my colleagues would disagree. ryan mentioned this light footprint or unwillingness to engage. that meant that president karzai had no ability to confront political troublemakers because we wouldn't help him do that. so political appointment became his only tool. it's not completely foreign to america if you've noticed some of our ambassadorial appointments. but -- no, that's not yours. >> political appointee. >> i'm not talking about who -- i'm not talking about the fact of political appointees but the question is the competence. as you know. but this was his only tool because he had no force no
money, and we didn't want to provide force or money for political discipline. so there is a huge afghan responsibility for the condition that's grew but also a responsibility with us for not having helped provide any tools that might have given an alternative. >> in the very limited time we have and the large number of people who'd like to raise a question, i'm going to take three questions and hope we can get through at least those. >> let's flip a coin. one of us won't talk. >> [ inaudible ]. the one country you haven't mentioned here is iran. which raises the question of the security interests of the countries around afghanistan. i think the proposition that we have a vital interest in afghanistan is debatable. it's probably not the place to
debate it. but certainly the iranians, the pakistanis, the chinese, the indians, the russians have a vital interest in iraq and afghanistan. of course afghanistan even more. do you see us going back for some sort of regional strategic architecture architecture, do you see us cooperating with iran and the chinese in an arrangement where the major powers of iran and afghanistan can cooperate? >> let me have the question over here. all the way in the rear. the gentleman there. >> u.s. army service member. i served in afghanistan, iraq, pakistan, and my question is given what president ghani's sincere efforts in -- how sincere pakistan is of historical awareness about long-term commitments to support afghanistan and pakistan for that matter. and our short-term commitment of extending the relative and small
number of forces to the end of 2016. >> lou did you -- >> the iran question got covered. >> let me take another question here. right here. yes. >> i'm a professor at the college of william and mary. [ inaudible ] >> is your mike on? >> it is. thank you. that we don't have much of a negotiating position left to bring the taliban to the table. but i would say that the aid that we give to pakistan is a way of bringing them to the table. and i would like to ask the panelists what would it take for us to use our support to pakistan more strategically with
regard to afghanistan? >> i'm going to take one more question and then we'll somehow divvy up the responses. all the way back over there. that gentleman right there. wait for the mike, please. >> with respect to the political cohesion of the unity government as an institution, do you see abdullah abdullah as having a certain breaking point in terms of his relationship with ashraf ghani, and what would it be? >> okay. that's a lot for you to chew on. why don't you choose which ones you would like to respond to? zal, you want to -- >> thank you. well, on pakistan, as i mentioned at the beginning that was a great source of frustration for me. that we couldn't make more progress with it on dealing with
the issue of the sanctuaries that were being developed. and i think at the present time i am uncertain myself as to has pakistan made a strategic decision by people that matter that a reconciliation in afghanistan is a critical or a vital interest of pakistan. there is evidence that the internal situation has deteriorated, the security situation, that extremism and terrorism poses a huge problem for pakistan. 165,000 troops now, pakistani troops are on the duorond line,
near the line fighting. therefore with a government in afghanistan that is clearly anxious to improve relations with pakistan, i mentioned some of the steps. there's a whole range of others that i did not mention on the economic front, the economic front that the current government has thought about and is open to and is actually advocate of increased economic cooperation with pakistan and the whole idea of actualizing this idea that this is almost from the day we went to afghanistan this land bridge that afghanistan could be a transit point for regional economic integration and development. and that whether given the change in afghanistan with the new government and the worsening security environment in pakistan that they would have made a qualitative shift. i'm not sure. there are indications that yes,
maybe. there are also lingering perhaps evidence or concerns or indications that maybe that the desire to dominate afghanistan to a proxy maybe still there. and we'll see. we'll see. on the u.s. leverage i hope that it will be the former, that they will have made a decision. on the u.s. assistance i think it is a key factor. pakistan is in terrible economic shape in terms of the insecurity of worsened economic situation sort of discouraging investment in pakistan and trade has been quite problematic.
and there is more of a need for external support although the lowering of oil prices has been temporarily at least for now helpful. we have been reluctant to push that to the maximum extent possible. and because of the fears of the consequences of economic collapse i have been an advocate more of using more of a leverage because of the importance especially when our people were getting killed, allies were getting killed by forces at a sank chuary in pakistan. i understood and the complex calculation that informs our relation with pakistan including security of nuclear forces that collapsed could create unintended consequences that would make our job that much harder. while i was sitting in kabul i
was obviously concerned with we need to stop the sank chuary. i understood why people in washington had the broader calculations that they did. >> at last the difference in views. and here again history i think is very instructive not just history objectively if there is such a thing but how history is perceived and influences decision makers of today. in pakistan the navter of the u.s. pakistani relationship and it is their narrative and not saying it corresponds to the reality is that we're not a reliable partner. and this goes way back.
1970 we did not stand with pakistan in their eyes in the struggle that led to the creation of bangladesh and that dismembered pakistan in their view. as we have said we pulled out. we were very much engaged in the anti soviet jihad and pakistan was our partner in that. then we sanctioned them on the way out. what that means is my assessment is that we have to be darn careful how we use assistance as a lever because we may think it is a lever. they would see anything moving in that direction -- we have experienced this -- with some initiatives in congress as absolute proof positive there go the americans again. they are getting set to really stick it to us and that is a
threat and we are going to hang on for life to an asset. not necessarily because they like the taliban. clearly it has bled over to security problems but they could see far worse coming in afghanistan if we bull pitched in pakistan and afghanistan. we have to be very, very careful with that mpt. >> i guess that means i have to raund to the question you guys walked around. on iran i'm not sure that -- i tend to think that iran does not see afghanistan as anywhere near in the same category that it sees iraq. iraq has been the geographic space occupied by mesopotamia has been a threat to the shi'a world since at least the battle.
the years i was in iran under the shaw every year [ inaudible ] every year the iranian army drilled retreat from iraqi invasion. so their view of iraq as a potential strategic threat is ingrained ingrained. there is no similar view of afghanistan partly because afghanistan hasn't really had that level of threat maybe since it held off the last siege of iraq and that was over 100 years ago. iranians are neuralgic about what we may do with iraq. there is no potential of threat from us. they do intervene. they court influence, but they have also been helpful in creating better conditions in afghanistan. they were helpful. the dialogue which we had with
them in kabul continued until after i got there but then i was ordered to stop it which i thought was a mistake. the short answer is i believe cooperation is definitely possible. there are lots of ways you can mess it up from both sides. on the question of is there a point at which he will find he has to break from the alliance? in theory of course there is such a point. point of which he feels he is taking too much political embarrassment that it destroys his career and potential of his alliance having a bid for power that simply embarrasses him. but these are all questions of degree. they are all dynamic questions. there is an absolute make or break issue that you can easily define. there are some issues that are particularly important to him, i
believe. the issue of a new election system is very important to him. the reformed election commission. these were issues that he used to sell his supporters on their requirement to take a secondary position in the government. so if he is too embarrassed in the outcome of those issues that could be a problem. but he also has every reason to hype his presentation of those issues when talking to us because he wants us involved. so analysis of this has to be very careful. the bottom line is yes there is such a point. no, we don't know where that point is. yes, we need to be involved in order to try to avoid getting to that point. and no we shouldn't be panicked at any particular moment to rush in in desperate fear.
there is a point but it's also a point that is important to the ghani side of the government. collapse of this government is going to be i think potentially fatal to both of them. we need to keep reminding them of that and hope to god that they can sort things out between themselves. it's there. we have to work on it. it's not automatic. >> i started this afternoon's program by likening the three ambassadors to the three tenors. whatever the differences may be i'm sure you see the connection here in that we have had this afternoon three gentlemen with strong voices clear voices and most of the time in harmony. let's join me now in thanking them. [ applause ]
>> now i can eat. with congress out this week for their spring recess we are featuring american history tv in primetime. up next a seminar on the closing of the civil war in 1865. this took place at longwood university in farmville, virginia and was co-hosted by the university and appomattox courthouse and national historical park. chris calkins talks about the battles that took place as part of the appomattox campaign. this is about an