It’s almost 16 years since the US invaded Afghanistan to fight terrorism. At the moment the country is even more unstable than ever. The Taliban controls more territory than at any time since 2001. Civilian causalities are the highest level since first being tracked in 2009.
RT: What is happening in Afghanistan now?
Jim Jatras: Well, the situation is deteriorating. It reflects a failure of vision – what are we trying to accomplish there? I think the idea was that we go there, kill whoever we need to kill after 9/11. In my opinion, that is what we mainly should have done – turn the keys over to the Russians and the Indians and have gotten out of Dodge.
We didn’t do that, we decided to stay, engage in nation building, to learn all the wrong lessons from Charlie Wilson’s War. If we just build enough schools, hospitals, roads, and bridges, it would turn into Holland or something. And that didn’t happen. That is still a very tribal society, factional society, a warlord-driven society. We’re not going to stay there forever. There is no way we can create a kind of a society that would be stable that we’re going to leave behind. We put in over 100 billion dollars of US taxpayer money into rebuilding Afghanistan. It clearly hasn’t worked, and more isn’t going to change that.
RT: Somebody once said that Afghanistan is where ‘empires go to die.’ For two thousand years, no one has been able to control that country. Is this just the perfect breeding ground for radicalized people who hate the US and the West?
JJ: It is. I think it goes back to the question: what is the minimum we want from Afghanistan? Is there anything we want and need? No. What we want is it for it not to be a base of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which are both there, by the way, as well as the Taliban. I think part of that relates to who are our partners there? Initially, we went in there with the Pakistanis. They are the ones who created the Taliban in the first place with the assistance of Saudi Arabia. This grew out of the mujahideen movement that we used against the Soviets in Afghanistan at the time. Those were not the right partners. You have to have countries like Russia, like India that themselves have the interest in keeping those kinds of forces down. And they are local – they can’t go away. This is part of their job description.
RT: This is not the situation, where the US can just disengage, is it?
JJ: No, I think we have to find some way to hand off to more stable hands who can babysit the place with us, and they’ve got to work with the local factions that they consider reliable to try to keep it as tame as possible.
RT: Yemen expressed concern over the US commando raid, which took place over the weekend, and there were civilian causalities. Now, Yemen is telling the US: “no more raids unless they are approved by their government.” What does this mean?
JJ: Well, first question is when they say “their government.” Which government are we talking about? If you could tell me who exactly is the government these days in Yemen, that would be a big accomplishment. You’ve got the Houthis, you’ve got two competing presidents; you’ve got the Saudis, who’ve come in and trashed the place. This raid was against Al-Qaeda that only had a foothold in there because of the Saudi incursion against the Houthis, whom they accuse of being puppets of the Iranians, which is simply not true.