The Taliban insurgency started before the US troops came in and it’s a mistake to think that if the US troops leave today, then tomorrow there will be peace, with Taliban ceasing to fight, Afghan presidential frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah told RT.
RT: Outgoing President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a proposed security pact to keep thousands of American soldiers in Afghanistan after 2014. You have spoken in favor of inking the deal. So if it is eventually signed, will it mean the US will just continue its deadly drone strikes and night raids, all while enjoying immunity from Afghan law?
Abdullah Abdullah: In regard to the bilateral security agreement with the US, there is no doubt that Afghanistan is in need of the continued partnership, for continued support from the international community, including the US, in order to raise our own security institutions to the level that will be able to defend the county against terrorist groups as well as providing security for citizens of the country. At the moment we are not at that stage, so I’m in favor of signing the bilateral security agreement with the US and military security cooperation from the international community is needed for Afghanistan.
RT: But the complete withdrawal of foreign troops is one of the Taliban's key demands for peace in the country. How much longer will the US presence keep provoking insurgency in Afghanistan?
AA: The Taliban insurgency or terrorism in Afghanistan has started before the presence of the American troops in Afghanistan. Between 1995-96 to 2001 there were no single foreign troops in the country and Afghanistan was turned into a hub for all the international terrorist groups, including the ones from Caucasus, Chechnya, South and Central Asia and the Arab world. That’s the fact. It’s an ideology, the program. Of course they can use their presence as an excuse but to think that if the US troops leave Afghanistan today, then tomorrow there will be peace and Taliban will say, “Oh, now there is no reason for our terrorist activities.” That’s an illusion or disillusionment. It’s a reality, unfortunately, that the war continues, there needs to be a reconciliation process but at the same time the citizens of Afghanistan should be assured that their rights will be preserved and protected and the achievements of the people of Afghanistan will not be reversed.
RT: Your country remains the world's number one supplier of opium, it accounts for around 90 percent of global supply. The drug trade is also said to be the main source of income for the Taliban. What are you planning to do about it if you gain the presidency?
AA: The opium trade, the drugs problem is an international problem. At the same time Afghanistan is at the center of it in a way as a supplier, but transit countries, those or the receiving end, the consumers – we all have responsibilities in order to deal with this challenge. Within Afghanistan part of this issue is providing alternative livelihood for the farmers, part of it is law and order, law enforcement agencies in cooperation with the neighboring countries of Afghanistan and the international community to deal with this challenge. I don’t think that there is a quick-fix solution to this menace but it all will be there for the future government of the country and hopefully we will be able to deal with it with the cooperation of the international community and regional countries in powers in due course of time.
RT: According to several reports, some NATO soldiers were told in the past 10-plus years of war not to destroy the opium crops because they are the livelihood for many people in Afghanistan. How will you go with this problem understanding that much of these crops shouldn’t be touched?
AA: As I mentioned earlier, if part of it is destruction of the opium fields, part of the problem or a more prominent and sustainable solution will be to provide alternative livelihood for the farmers in that part of the country, alternative development so those areas are developed, the issues of unemployment and poverty is being dealt with. There isn’t a quick-fix solution for it, an overnight solution for it, it takes a lot of efforts and a course of time before we are able to get rid of this problem.
RT: The US and its allies have poured billions of dollars in aid into your country over the past dozen years. But Afghanistan remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Where's all the money gone and what do you plan to do about the corruption?
AA: Afghanistan is much better off than it used to be before 2001. Afghanistan was destroyed many times during the earlier years when Afghanistan was occupied by the Soviet troops and later on by the Taliban and terrorist organizations. Then of course the issue of corruption has been one issue, the issue of not prioritizing the developmental needs of Afghanistan was another. Now we are half way and the future government, which will be result of the legitimate outcome of elections, will have the opportunity to deal with the challenges. Afghanistan is potentially a rich country in terms of natural resources, its trade and transit location will help the region if it is utilized in the best way. So it requires a multi-faceted development program in order to move on and take Afghanistan forward.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.