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US foreign policy analyst discusses Afghan st -

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TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Last night we spoke to the chief of Australia's defence services Angus
Houston about Australia's deployment in Afghanistan.

Well today, Air Chief Marshall Houston had talks with a leading American national security analyst,
Anthony Cordesman, about the strategic situation in Afghanistan. Anthony Cordesman holds the chair
in strategy at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

He recently returned from Afghanistan where he served as a member of General Stanley A McChrystal's
Strategic Assessment Group.

He joined us a short time ago from our Parliament House studio.

Anthony Cordesman thanks for joining us.


TONY JONES: You've written about what's necessary for success in Afghanistan. The first priority is
significantly more troops, more civilians and more money over the next two years. Is it going to

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think first, all of the debates in the United States still call for at least
the level of reinforcement the President had announced in March. There's already been a significant
increase in the aid program, the civilian spending part of what we are doing in Afghanistan,
programmed for next year's budget. You have significant numbers of additional civilian advisers
going in.

The debate, if anything, is more over the number of additional US troops that will go in, than
anything else. It's not a debate over how to stay, or whether we need to change some aspects of the

TONY JONES: How hard will it be for a President who has just been given the Nobel Peace Prize to
significantly up the number of troops he sends into a war?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think, quite bluntly, it's nice to have the prize, it's also unfortunate you
have a major economic crisis, but presidents know perfectly well they are not judged on the basis
of a Nobel Peace Prize, they are judged on what happens in a critical war. This is a test of the
presidency, and the President is fully aware of that. That doesn't mean he has carte blanche. He
can probably go in for 20 to 40,000 troops once. It would be difficult to go in for more, but
that's the kind of figure that some people have talked about.

He already, however, has support from the Congress, it's quite clear, in doing things like getting
the money to double the Afghan security forces, to provide far more civilians to go on with the
build up - and it's still a substantial one ongoing - of American troops, and all of this in areas
where he can provide a lot more money where it's really needed, which is where the average Afghan
is in the field.

TONY JONES: What about this question of increasing significantly the American troop presence? The
President has asked for time to think about this, to look at the alternatives. He's been under
great pressure from generals, who are saying, "We need the troops and we need them now." How much
time does he actually have and what do you think he'll ultimately do?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I don't think he has forever, but he certainly has weeks if he needs it. It is
much more critical to get this right. And it isn't US troops which are the focus of this, it's the
overall strategy, it's how you work with allies, it's how can you reform the problems and the
international aid effort, it's how you approach the Afghan central government.

The fact you had this endless debate over US troop levels, which is often a debate over 20,000
troops, which, to be perfectly honest compared to 68,000 troops is scarcely the end of the world.
That's not the kind of strategic debate or set of options the President is examining.

TONY JONES: Let's just look at where this will fit in the President's legacy. He's inherited the
war in Afghanistan, he clearly doesn't want it. He's inherited it and all the bad decisions that
were taken during the Bush years about how this war was handled.

How big will this figure in his future legacy, do you think?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think it will figure in a very, very large way. I mean the defining aspects of
this presidency for the first term are likely to be Afghanistan and Iraq. Any President which is
seen as losing a war, and that would be the result of defeat or leaving Afghanistan, pays a price
tag in history which almost overshadows the domestic successes he does or does not have.

TONY JONES: Let me turn to what was effectively the mishmash of ISAF, this huge number of NATO
companies, NATO partner countries and additional countries like Australia and New Zealand are
involved in this effort. Now you have actually been rather scathing of what you call the
fundamental dishonesty of the ISAF countries which have disguised national caveats on the use of
their military in Iraq. Does that include Australia, incidentally?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: No, it certainly doesn't. I think Australia has been one of the actual first
countries, at least at a limited level to adapt this idea of shape, clear, hold and build. And it's
had some very recent successes in that area. Doesn't include Canada, it doesn't include Britain,
Denmark, or Holland or a host of other countries.

But in a 42-country alliance in tying this to NATO is a chronic misnomer when half of them aren't
in NATO. Far too many are either there for symbolism or there are countries like Germany, like
France, like Italy which really need to do more.

TONY JONES: The Australian Government has made the point in the past, and I think other governments
too, why should they send in more troops into a hot zone like Uruzgan Province, while these
European countries stand back as you've just said, the Germans are standing back with the best
defended garrison in the least dangerous territory.

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think we all have that problem. The United States could make the same
argument, so can anyone. Alliances are not perfect. When alliances are structured around symbolism,
the concept of peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction rather than actually dealing with a
risk of a rising insurgency, then those alliances are in many ways weak.

TONY JONES: Behind the scenes, pressure has been building for some time on the Australian
Government to commit more troops to Afghanistan, possibly to allow them to move beyond Uruzgan
Province as well. Given that the expertise they have acquired, the intelligence they have now
acquired within that province, first of all, would it be sensible to let them drift further a field
or should they concentrate on where they are, first of all?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think we need to be very careful here, because there's been no indication from
the President or the White House at this point that what you are seeking is really more troops. I
think you have a very effective contribution, you just had, as I said earlier, some very important
successes. I think a lot of what we need to do in Afghanistan is making the alliance more
effective. It is not suddenly bringing in more people to try to fight in remote areas.

There are a lot of areas where the issue is not more troops, it may be more aid workers, it may be
a larger aid contribution. How that should be divided among countries, I think, is fairly clear.
Those countries which can't, for political reasons, commit troops can commit advisers or mentors to
build up Afghan forces; they can provide more aid workers. There are a lot of options here which
can solve this problem, help develop and build an Afghan military and police force which can take
over, and build up the kind of governance at the local level this really is what Afghans want. Not
some kind of direction from Kabul.

TONY JONES: Well that's a critical thing isn't it, because it's pretty clear now that Hamid Karzai
and his supporters have used electoral fraud to effectively steal the presidential election, at
what point should NATO and the ISAF countries turn their backs on Karzai and refuse to deal with

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Well, at the point that you want to lose the war and leave. I think that to
start with, the reality with Karzai wasn't that it was stuffing the ballots that fixed the
election. Most of us thought that by taking warlords and powerbrokers into his government and
giving them positions and making deals for bloc votes long before the election, he had already
effectively bypassed legitimacy.

But the fact is this, is the Afghan power structure. We are going to have to work with the elements
of the Afghan government which are honest and effective. Unfortunately, those include the Ministry
of Defence, and elements of the Ministry of Interior.

We have to find ways now to work with the provincial government, district and local governments and
show the Afghan people that we'll empower local authorities, provincial authorities. Now a lot of
that means not replacing or ignoring Karzai, but working with him and around him. You can talk all
you want about anti-corruption drives, but one way or another we have to provide services and hope
to the Afghan people, and we are not going to do that by saying, "Oh, we don't like this, we are
all going to go home, and we don't care about the result."

TONY JONES: Yeah well, I mean, the US in history, hasn't always behaved in that way. For example,
there have been comparisons made to Karzai and president Diem in Vietnam, who was also a corrupt
leader and the suggestion is, of course, that we know for a fact that the CIA assisted the military
coup to depose Diem. I mean, America has used its power to get rid of leaders it doesn't like in
the past. Is it possible they could ever do that again?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think that, is it possible you could ever do it again, it depends on the
leader. Are you going to do it here? No, you are not. I think Diem certainly is an interesting
example because leaders that followed didn't prove to be necessarily better or more effective. And
I don't know of anyone who sees the solution here is to somehow tell the people in Afghanistan that
we can choose their leader.

What we can do is show the people in Afghanistan that the aid programs will be honestly
administered and in ways where the aid actually goes directly to them. We can show that we are
responsible to local and district councils, where they make the decisions as to what needs to be
done. We can, as we are, seek to not only make the ministry stronger but to have legislation passed
that would give provincial and district governments a real element of democracy, and all of that is
a key element of US policy.

TONY JONES: Put simply, you are saying it could well be an evolving strategy to leave President
Karzai in place, even though it's acknowledged that he is there corruptly and try and build
governance from the ground up.

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Well first, I think it's much broader than that, because you continue to build
it from the centre, in the middle. But let me just note that ...

TONY JONES: How can you do that if it's acknowledged that the President has stolen an election?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think it's very easily, because we knew they had these problems long before
they had the election. Why anybody expected the election would suddenly produce an honest,
responsive and capable government is a little amazing.

But long before that, we were able to work with ministries and achieve very significant progress in
areas like public health or education, not simply security. You can work with aid elements in the
Afghan Government. There are parts of the Afghan justice system which are quite effective. We do
have provincial governors as well, which have proved to be honest and often quite courageous, the
same is true at the district level.

We need to recognise the fact that while President Karzai is scarcely the perfect leader, as we
look around the world at the leaders we recognise from day to day, certainly he still, by
comparison, is often far better than what passes for presidents, a title often misused in much of
the world.

TONY JONES: So what you are effectively saying is that no matter what distaste there may be for him
and the way he has acquired power, you may be stuck with him and have to work with him for the long

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think one way or the other we have to work not simply with Karzai, but
Afghanistan as it is. Can we get rid of powerbrokers, ethnic leaders, people who seek their own
advantage, that don't have political experience or people who basically are going to try to exploit
this situation to their own advantage, of course not. This has not been a functioning government in
an ordered structured way since the mid 1970s. Holding an election doesn't create a legitimate
government in the sense that matters, one that serves the people with security, with prompt
justice, with actual use of economic aid and economic opportunity, and other basic government

And legitimacy in the real world doesn't consist of how people are chosen, it consists of how well
they govern.

TONY JONES: Yes, but it does make a mockery of the free and fair election push, and the tremendous
amount of publicity there was around these presidential elections.

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think in retrospect it would have been a lot wiser for everyone if we had
dealt with the Afghanistan that is, rather than the Afghanistan that is somehow supposed to
suddenly, on the basis of almost no background, become an effective government, an effective
democracy, suddenly rush forward towards development and solve all its problems simply because the
international community chooses to wave the equivalent of an ideological magic wand.

All we have to do is look at other examples like Cambodia or what is happening in the Balkans. You
deal with realities if you want to help the people of the country, not slogans, and not things that
decouple the political and aid process from the people.

TONY JONES: OK, a final question then, because it's an intriguing debate and discussion. Are you
simply saying there is too much idealism being put about by Western leaders for their own reasons?

ANTHONY CORDESMAN: The way you phrase it, no, but I think what you have is a very broad sense of
values in the West which often pay very little attention to what it is that the people of a country
actually want, what can really be put into practice and administered, how long history tends to
take to achieve lasting and stable reform, and just how fractured and damaged some states are and
how difficult they are to fix.

We should have learnt a lot from Afghanistan, hopefully this time we will. And certainly if we
confront these cases in the future, we need to remember reality is what dictates performance. Not
trying to impose values in a mirror image at impossible rates with far too few resources.

TONY JONES: Anthony Cordesman, unfortunately that's all we have time for tonight, it has been, as I
said, a fascinating, an intriguing discussion. We look forward to talking to you again, thanks for
joining us tonight.