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Interview with Phyllis Oakley

DAVID BORGIDA: Now joining us in our studio is Phyllis Oakley, Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State. Thank you so much for joining us today.

PROF. OAKLEY: Nice to be here.

DAVID BORGIDA: What kind of a man is Hamid Karzai?

PR0F. OAKLEY: Well, I must say I think he is a perfect man for the job. I have worked on Afghanistan six years. I couldn't think of anybody who would be better. And I think the success of his visit here in Washington is due to three main things: One, the force of his character. He is a modest, humble man. He is not pretentious. He comes in, he knows what he must do. Second of all, he knows the United States very well. And the third thing is he says all the right things. He talks about future leaders, whoever he or she may be. He talks about tolerance. He kisses babies. He talks about help, and don't leave us. So he has really, I think, hit all the right buttons.
DAVID BORGIDA: In a sense, is he somewhat of an amalgam, almost an American-style politician? You mentioned kissing babies...

PROF. OAKLEY: Well, I think he comes from a very prominent Pashtun family. They are used to being in the public eye. I think he was picked by his fathers, although he comes from a large family -- and I think everybody has noted that most of his siblings are in the United States -- but he grew up with this kind of thing. There are certain people who have that training, they know how to do it naturally. He is a true patriot. And I think, deep down, he is a tolerant and democratic man.

DAVID BORGIDA: So you're telling us he won over official Washington. Let's talk about the challenge ahead, though, in Afghanistan, where it's a much different situation.


DAVID BORGIDA: What are the key challenges for him in the next few months?

PROF. OAKLEY: Well, I think he has, as everyone would tell you, he has three major challenges. First of all, it's the politics. And it is to get all these diverse groups, who have been so spread apart and independent for over 20 years, to come together and to think about the commonweal, the common good of the country, and perhaps giving up some of their own power and to get a process started. He faces a real military and security problem. Warlords have been used to operating off by themselves for a long time. They have troops, and those troops remain armed. He is going to have to figure out what to do about this. And I think that is why he has pressed for assistance for his own security forces and for his own army, so that he too will have the power versus the warlords. And the third challenge, and probably the biggest one, is economic. Afghanistan is a moonscape. There just isn't anything left. They have had a drought. There is no infrastructure. He has got to get people through the rest of the winter, until they begin to harvest, which won't be till the summer. And then he has to rebuild all of this, and figure our what is going to be the role for Afghanistan.

DAVID BORGIDA: Professor Oakley, let me ask you another question, and it's a tough one to answer, I'm sure, but the question is: Is there a fear for his personal security?

PROFESSOR OAKLEY: Oh, I'm sure there is, not only from the remnants of the Taliban, disaffected Pakistanis, but Afghans who would bear a grudge. And I think it is a great concern for him and for us.

DAVID BORGIDA: Do you think the West is responsive enough in terms of the multilateral aid that it has been giving, particularly out of the Japan donor conference?

PROF. OAKLEY: I think, immediately, yes, it's on the horizon. Those things have not yet been delivered. But if you listen to what he was saying, it was: Don't desert us, don't stay just for the short haul, to get things started. We need you for the long term, to stick with us, to help us rebuild. And, above all, we want your assurance that you are going to do that. Now, the interesting thing is that a lot of people in this administration say, whoa, we're not into nation-building, we don't want to do that. And yet you have both Secretary Powell and the President saying: We won't forget you, we are your friends, we're there to stay with you.

DAVID BORGIDA: Thank you so much. The views of Professor Phyllis Oakley, of the Johns Hopkins University here in Washington. Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate your time.

PROF. OAKLEY: You're very welcome.