News / Asia

Former National Security Adviser Scowcroft Discusses Afghanistan

Former US National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft (File Photo)
Former US National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft (File Photo)

The war in Afghanistan continues to be at the top of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy agenda.  In this report from Washington, Senior Correspondent André de Nesnera spoke with former National Security Adviser General Brent Scowcroft about the conflict, now in its 10th year.

The United States has 97,000 troops in Afghanistan.  The latest U.S. strategy review on Afghanistan says American forces will begin a scheduled drawdown next July - but the exact extent of the drawdown is not known.  The goal is to hand over combat operations to the Afghan security forces by the end of 2014 - if the situation permits it.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden emphasized that point during a recent news conference in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"Hopefully, we will have totally turned over the ability to the Afghan forces to maintain the security of the country," said Vice-President Biden. "But we are not leaving if you do not want us to leave."

Former National Security Adviser retired (Air Force) general Brent Scowcroft says the current U.S. strategy is right for the country.

"But the question is whether or not we have the resources to implement it within any timeframe that we have available to us," said Brent Scowcroft. "It is a counter insurgency strategy which has been changed somewhat from the counter terrorism strategy.  So it involves clearing the Taliban - the bad guys - from areas and holding them while you reconstruct local government and local security."

Scowcroft says the problem has been holding those areas after clearing them of Taliban forces.

"As soon as we leave, bad people come back in," he said. "But holding them requires additional forces and that requires training Afghan troops to be able to move in and hold the areas that we have cleared.  Now do we have enough force both with our forces and trained afghan troops to be able to make that work - that is the big question."

Earlier this month, the Defense Department announced it will send an additional 1,400 Marines to shore up gains, especially in the southern Kandahar region, a Taliban stronghold.

On another issue, many experts question whether Afghan President Karzai is up to the task and is a reliable partner for the United States. General Scowcroft says Washington has little choice.

"We have had problems with him from the very beginning," said Scowcroft. "It is a question we can not do much about because he is the president of the country and we are going to have to deal with him.  We have a common interest and that is if we do not succeed, he does not succeed.  But he does not have all of our interests at heart, he has his own interests at heart.  And we just have to live with that difficult situation."

Karzai’s government has been accused of widespread graft and corruption.  General Scowcroft says it would be a difficult task to root it out and probably is beyond Washington’s capability.

"It is corruption, but there is a different sort of cultural aspect to it, because one of the first responsibilities in that world is to take care of your family," he said. "So if you get a good job in the government, you use it to take care of your family.  And so it is corruption, but it is not always exactly the same motivation as ours.  But it is a huge problem."

The former national security adviser says one way to fight corruption would be to focus on the opium poppy cultivation.

"It is always been a mystery to me why we have not investigated buying the poppy crop instead of trying to destroy it and therefore destroy the living of the people who grow the poppies," said Scowcroft. "The poppy economic structure of the country feeds the corruption."

Experts say Afghanistan produces 85 percent of the opium in the world.

Looking ahead, many analysts are debating what kind of country Afghanistan will evolve into.  Scowcroft says in the final analysis, the United States should not try to build a modern nation state.

"Afghanistan has from time immemorial been a loose collection of local tribes, interest groups, presided over by a very weak central government," he said. "We ought not to take that on.  That is the way Afghanistan has been and for us to transform it would be too big a task."

Brent Scowcroft says as the United States begins its withdrawal from Afghanistan, followed by some European allies, the American public will demand answers to such questions as why are we there and what exactly are we doing in that country?  And whether it was worth it in human losses and monetary costs.  

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs