NR: "You're not going to win the war in Afghanistan IN Afghanistan; you have to win it in Pakistan."
July 10, 2009
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Michael talks to Ali Velshi about the realities of trying to stop the Taliban in Afghanistan when they can just drift across the border into Pakistan, where US/NATO troops cannot follow. He also explains how important India is to the war in Afghanistan.
ALI VELSHI: Winning the war in Afghanistan could mean taking the war out of Afghanistan. What am I talking about? Our Michael Ware just got back from the Afghan-Pakistani border, getting rare access and plenty of insight. He joins us now from Baghdad, where he's based. Michael, you say the U.S. cannot win the war in Afghanistan alone. What are you talking about?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, militarily the war cannot be won with bombs and bullets alone. Obviously, it's going to require much more than that. You're not just going to kill the Taliban away. And that's eminently recognized by all U.S. commanders and is inherent within the new American counterinsurgency document -- doctrine.
Much more important than that, Ali, you're not going to win the war in Afghanistan in Afghanistan. You have to win it in Pakistan, because it's in Pakistan that the Afghan Taliban have sanctuary. It's in those mountain valleys from where I've just returned that the Afghan Taliban can live and train and from where they launch their military strikes against the nearby U.S. forces just over the mountain border. Now, to get to them where they're living, U.S. forces cannot operate on Pakistani soil. And for now, the Pakistani military establishment sees a benefit in tolerating their presence. So, you need the Pakistani military to get on board. President Bush waited for this almost for his entire administration, but there's a new development, a potential breakthrough.
The Pakistan army's official spokesman went on camera with me and acknowledged for the first time ever publicly that, yes, the Pakistan military is talking to Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, and the other top commanders. More importantly, he said, we can deliver them to the negotiating table, and in return, they want concessions on India's involvement in Afghanistan.
Because Ali, what so many people back home don't realize is that whilst for America the war in Iraq is about -- in Iran -- in -- sorry. In Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan is for America about the Taliban and al Qaeda. But for many in the region, it's really about Pakistan and india competing for influence -- Ali.
VELSHI: And Michael, when you talk to the Pakistanis, it's very interesting how they take a very different view. They have a view that they will manage the Taliban. They will manage that border, that porous area that you've discussed. But when India comes up as part of the discussion, they tense up a great deal. As far as they are concerned, that is the enemy, and that is the problem.
WARE: Absolutely. I mean, that's what America needs to understand. And I think the American national discussion or debate about the Afghan war needs to shift and focus on this. The Afghan war is much more about India than anyone realizes. The Taliban are the ones fighting the war. It's Pakistan, by simply doing nothing, who is facilitating that.
Pakistan does that because it sees in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, an Afghan government that is very closely tied to India. And the Pakistanis feel that India is in Afghanistan playing games with Pakistan. So, America needs to start addressing this if you want to have any hope of bringing your troops home soon -- Ali.
VELSHI: Very important point, Michael, that you will continue to make. But it's one that is important for our audience to hear. Thanks so much. Michael Ware in Baghdad.