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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Afghan Taliban, Pakistan, America & India: What Next in Regional Game? Moeed Pirzada Big Debate

Dr. Moeed Pirzada assembles a panel with Ex-CIA station Chief, Robert Grenier, Ambassador Omar Samad, and Imtiaz Gul, CEO of CRSS.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada, Editor and CEO of GVS news, assembles a cross-cultural panel on April 7, 2024,  with Robert Grenier (EX-CIA, Station Chief, Islamabad), Ambassador Omar Samad, and Imtiaz Gul, CEO of Center for research and security studies (CRSS), to debate the past, present, and future of Pak-Afghan & American Relations and how an increasingly assertive India can and may exploit the growing tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan and Pakistan’s internal chaos. The discussion has been watched by more than 23000 people until now.

The panel discusses the American Vision for Afghanistan, what were the US’s main objectives after 9/11, and how it impacted the presence of the Afghan Taliban, who were in charge of Afghanistan before 9/11 happened. The discussion then argues how the presence of NATO shaped the region’s reality and determined Afghanistan’s affairs for the next 20 years. The panel also discussed the growing threat of TTP, its safe havens in Afghanistan, the ultimate aftermaths of this changing regional dynamics, and where China, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan fit in with all this.

Robert Grenier
Robert Grenier has been the station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Islamabad and has served as director of the counterterrorism center with the CIA. He also served as the Middle East and South Asia Deputy National Intelligence officer. He had developed that 8-page document that was accepted by the Bush Administration and became part of the plan to remove the government of the Afghan Taliban after 9/11. He is also the author of a top-rated book, 88 Days to Kandahar. He has written and spoken extensively on the issue of Afghanistan worldwide; he was also the chairman of ERG Partners, a strategic Consulting.

Omar Samad
Omar Samad is from a very distinguished family of Afghan politics and administration. He has served under both the Hamid Karzai and Asharaf Gani administrations and was the Afghan government’s spokesman. Then, he was the ambassador of Afghanistan to Canada, France, and the EU. He has worked with more than one US think tank in Washington and is currently a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council in Washington.

Imtiaz Gul
Imtiaz Gul the founder CEO of Center for research and security studies a strategic think tank and Consulting that has published extensively on Regional and international issues and issues related to Pakistani democracy. He has traveled extensively across Afghanistan and has met with the Afghan leadership, and he knows them at all levels.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: I will throw the first question to Robert Greene. You can take it anyone can take it. But Robert, I want to start with you. I read your book long time ago as well. 80 days to compile it again, you know, gone through most of it. And what was the vision and you belong to an Intel and you have worked for almost 30 years, with the world’s most supposedly the most powerful, the most informed the most insightful intelligence community. You know, and when you have written the document in literally three hours, when George Trent, who was I think then the CIA director, you written that in three hours, that means you have a lot of information available to you on the history and politics of Afghan and Pakistan and interaction. So, what was the vision, the American Vision, the CIA’s vision for Afghanistan, and how to deal with Taliban immediately after 9/11?

Robert Grenier: Okay, well, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it seemed to me and this idea was accepted by the war cabinet in Washington, that the Taliban should be given an opportunity to join the entire international coalition against terrorism, if you will, the thought was that if the Taliban would be willing to change its policy and to hand, bin Laden, and his senior lieutenants over to international justice, that that would be acceptable to the United States. So, it was not the thought immediately that the Taliban had to be punished. It was not the thought immediately that the Taliban had to be overthrown. Much the contrary, because I think there was some understanding that if we were to get into an all-out struggle with the Taliban, no one can be sure what would follow afterwards. But that sentiment only lasted for perhaps a couple of weeks, because in a very short time, and we could go into this in much more detail you the meeting of, of the Ulema in Kabul and all of the sort of the internal machinations that took place within Afghanistan. But it quickly became very apparent that Mullah Omar was not going to change policy and in fact, I was in discussions with Mullah Omar’s number two Mullah Akhtar Osmani. And in fact, at one point I asked him to overthrow Mullah Omar to launch and basically to launch a coup a benign coup, a bloodless coup.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: So, you were sitting in Islam about and conspiring this thing against Omar?

Robert Grenier: Yes, actually, I was. I was sitting down in in Quetta conspiring against Omar. Because that was where I met with Usmani. And so anyway, so he, we had long, long discussions expressed over two days. And we spoke for over eight hours. And by the end, he was really quite despondent. And he said, what should I do you tell me, what should I do?

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Well, why was he despondent?

Robert Grenier: He was despondent. And again, this I’m, I’m putting a number of different things together. So, some of which I could see some of which I only knew about, some of which I was informed about by Pakistani intelligence. But I think that the impact of 9/11 and the very strong possibility of war with the United States was particularly of concern to the Taliban in virtue of the fact that just before 9/11, they thought they had won. Because they when they had one.

Omar Samad: Well, you’re going to put the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud?

Robert Grenier: Exactly. So, so when Ahmed Shah Massoud was killed, and this was explained to me, by that by the chief of the ISI, who had just met with Mullah Omar and others in general Mahmoud, sorry, and surely definitely had a lot of made a visit to Kandahar, I met with Mullah Omar, he met with the with the other Taliban, senior members of the shore. And he said, he said, the impact of a 9/11 and the prospect of war with the United States has concerned them even more than it otherwise would have, because they thought they had just won. Because when Ahmed Shah Massoud was just killed. They though finally victory is at hand.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Okay. And so, they went from nothing. So, victory within the context of Afghanistan, they will not be looking I mean, not victory in the context of US.

Robert Grenier:  So here all because it remembers the Taliban, they did not find 9/11. They really had nothing to do with it, other than the fact that that they were playing host to, to bin Laden, and the so-called Afghan Arabs. But now all of a sudden, 9/11 happens. And it looks as though it’s a strong possibility that they will have to go to war with the Americans. And remember, they’ve gone through the defeat of the Soviets, they have defeated virtually all of their enemies in Afghanistan. Masood is dead. It feels as though ultimate victory is in their grasp. And now suddenly, this happens, and it looks like they’re going to go to war with America. So, it really threw them into despondency. And although when I was speaking with Mullah Osmani, he was putting on a very brave face. And he was saying, oh, we will defeat you the same way that we defeated the Soviets, et cetera, et cetera, you could tell that he really didn’t want to have this war. And so, he was trying to find ways, you know, is there some formula here short of turning them over to the Americans? Is there some way to dodge this bullet so to speak.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Why it didn’t happen, why it did not happen, why could they not sacrifice Osama bin Laden?

Robert Grenier: You know, I think, frankly, it was a lack of imagination. You know, obviously, under those circumstances have given their culture, given the close identification between bin Laden and Islam, inside Afghanistan, to simply turn Bin Laden over to the Americans would have been a great humiliation for them. Yeah, I think anyone can see that. I think and I think we’ve tried to find ways for them to do it.

Imtiaz Gul: We are now discussing Osama bin Laden and Taliban, apparently, as Robert said, strategizing as to how to find a middle ground to hand him over. Right, you were, I understand part of the delegation that visited Sudan, and basically pushed, the American delegation apparently pushed Sudan to send Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan. Why was that?

Robert Grenier:  Actually no, I did not participate in, in a delegation to Sudan. Okay. And so, I wasn’t involved in any of those dynamics directly. I only knew about it vaguely because I wasn’t even working on South Asia at that time. And I know that the US government and maybe CIA in particular, were putting pressure on do something about Bin Laden, I don’t think that, to my knowledge, there was no specific plan. For instance, they didn’t say, well, let’s send him to Afghanistan. I think they were just making clear that they were unhappy with the fact that bin Laden had safe haven in Sudan, they could already begin to see that he could pose a threat. And so, my understanding you may know, far better, was that the Sudanese decided, okay, we need to we need to send this man away.

Omar Samad: The story of Khartoum in Sudan is, is for almost five years before 9/11. And so, so this happened way before it happened, actually, at a time when the Taliban had not even captured Kabul yet. And Rabbani was the head of the Kabul regime, let’s say. And there are, you know, credible claims that when Bin Laden arrived, he was welcome by Rabbani. So, the Taliban at the time were not in charge. And it was later after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, that bin Laden basically played allegiance to mullah Omar and was given refuge. So, there’s a time lapse here that I wanted to clarify so that people are not confused about what happened first.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: If you have interjected, I have a quick question to you, Ambassador, you should button into it. Where were you at the time of 9/11. And when this happened? What was the hopes and as what are the hopes and aspirations of the Afghan liberal elite about Afghanistan? Right. Yeah.

Omar Samad: Well, I, first of all, I had at that time on 9/11. I spent more than 35 years. Again, knowing that I started pretty young, under the communists and, and being active against the communists and then having to flee Afghanistan. But I had spent many years since the 80s. Active in regards to Afghanistan. So, I was very much involved. I was running an Information Center, which involved radio and Internet, even a website. Back then, on Afghanistan program. I knew I knew all the players, so I was intimately involved with Afghanistan issues. And so, on 9/11, I was two miles away from the Pentagon. And I was talking on the phone with Qayum Karzai, Hamid Karzai’s brother, called me and said, are you aware of what’s happening in New York? And I said, yes, I’m watching what is happening in New York. And that’s when we heard the band, the noise that hit the Pentagon, and I said, something happened close by to me. And then a few minutes later, we heard that the plane had hit the Pentagon. So as soon as that happened, I told Qayum Karzai, would you know what this means? We, we Afghans know what this means. This means that this is most probably al Qaeda, and that this is going to change the course of history. And unbeknownst to no to any of us as to what was going to happen. It did actually, of course, changed of course, history. They changed the course of history for all of us individually. I ended up back in Kabul four months later, as you said, as a government spokesperson and part of the new foreign ministry team. So, so for somebody like me, who just a few months earlier, just a few months earlier, and during a visit to Paris when Ahmed Shah Massoud for the first and last time visited Europe, the West. I went there, and I spent three four days with him. I traveled with him from Paris, to Strasbourg and to Brussels. And at a press conference in Paris, I asked that very fateful question that is still playing out there in virtual World. I asked Massoud what, you know, there’s a new administration and the bush in Washington. The Bush administration has just taken office. This is April 2001. And I said, what is your message knowing that al Qaeda is a threat? The Taliban? Obviously, you’re fighting the resistance forces are honest on is still in a state of civil war. But there are foreign elements involved now focused on his playing a role. Other countries have taken position pro or con. What is your message to the American administration? He spoke? He said, well, my message is that they should not ignore Afghanistan, first of all. Secondly, the terrorist threat from Afghanistan is a real one. It is not just focused on Afghanistan, it is focused beyond a focused on it could be focused and could hit America one day, this is exactly what Massoud said he said, to my question in April 2001, in Paris, So, I so some of us already were somewhat uneasy and concerned about how things were developing in Afghanistan.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: But you all have heard, but you also heard, you also heard Robert saying this thing and he was very, he was very, he was very candid in saying this, that Afghan Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. I mean, they were responsible to the extent that they had housed the AV fighters in the al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. So, but the administration’s you then serve the Hamid Karzai administration, and the Ashraf Ghani administrations were born out of a war in which the Afghan Taliban were displaced. If they have run Taliban were not displaced. You know, as Robert had been writing continuously in his book and his articles, then the then the series of governments and administrations, which brought these hopes and aspiration of a liberal Afghanistan, a democratic Afghanistan would not have also been born. How do you look at that?

Omar Samad: Well, it’s hypothetical, right? It’s very difficult for me to tell you exactly what would have happened in Afghanistan. Massoud was dead. As Robert said, the resistance was very weak at that point, and the moralized the one thing that helped them was the US decision made the decision to get involved militarily, and to oust the Taliban that made that was a strategic decision, if that had not happened. And if the Taliban had played ball with Washington, I think that Washington would have still played, you know, an important role in trying to influence events in Afghanistan, what that would have meant, I don’t know, whether the Taliban would have been weakened further, or they would have been given free hand to pursue their agenda, which was very difficult to accept the Taliban agenda back then, as some of the elements of it right now are unacceptable to most Afghans and most people around the world was not something that was very productive, or could help Afghanistan, the region, the world. So, I think that there was a need for change. In any case, whether the Taliban were involved in the change, or whether the Taliban were asked one way or the other to leave, which is what happened. There would have had to be some change in Afghanistan. Climate change, of course, how significant change were, you know, the same way that in 2021, the idea in the plan was to not hand over to the Taliban exclusively, after the American Taliban deal, the Doha deal. The idea in the plan was to put together a more representative government in Afghanistan minus Ashraf Ghani, who had to go the same way that Najib had to go in 1992. Minus Ashraf Ghani, everybody else including Karzai, Abdullah, others, were supposed to sit down the Taliban in agree to a government of national reconciliation, national unity and share power after the American Taliban deal the Doha deal.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Okay, some people so let me Imtiaz, you have been in Islam Above all this time period, you just heard Robert Grenier as well, I can tell you and remind you that in his book, he had expressed a lot of doubts about the whole the mission of nation building. What do you think what went wrong? What was the America’s plan and what went wrong from the Islamic point of view from the Pakistani point,

Imtiaz Gul:  But who don’t know what the actual American plan was? But what, you know, there’s still a lot of speculation about that. Whether they really, you know, came after Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda. When we don’t, it’s still a matter that it has to be debated. Very interesting whole, as a whole. It was, I think, big disappointment for Pakistan because once the Taliban had come to power, they had taken Kandahar then they took Kabul, coincidentally, I Together with a few other journalists was in Mazar e Sharif, when they took Mazar e Sharif. We happen to be in Kabul, when the Taliban took the capital. And you know, there was a lot of euphoria about it, in there, and that’s why, you know, the Pakistani Prime Minister at that time, next day sent his ambassador to Mazari Sharif to congratulate them and recognize the Taliban government was that captured Mazar e Sharif. So, there were a lot of accompanying hopes. But the problem was a Pakistani establishment took everything for granted. They thought we have now Afghanistan under our thumb. But what they had forgotten what they did not learn lesson from was how good within Gulbuddin Hikmatyar and some of his people, commanders, as have treated Pakistan once they had crossed over.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada:  Any hopes! you said the Pakistanis are jubilant?

Imtiaz Gul:  Hopes were that they will be applying compliant administration in Afghanistan once Najib goes, but when these people the seven Mujahideen in April, this was April 1992. They crossed over and took positions in different parts of the world and Rabbani became the president or the Prime Minister. So there, we could see as generalists as observers, that of hands, you know, once they are over the border, they were behaving like their own bosses. They were not listening to anybody. And this is where I think Pakistan is went wrong. This is where they the Pakistanis went wrong again, when they were cozying up or coaching the Afghan Taliban. So, there’s a lot of miscalculation, you know, and the Americans did the same mistake, they committed the same mistake. They thought, you know, by throwing money at everybody. You know, the way CIA was also doling out money. And I know a lot of cases were, in the pretext or in the real pursuit of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. They were embracing every Tom, Dick and Harry wherever they could.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: American revolution for having so much money, actually, even in the James Martin movie, you know, I was one point that basically say that the CIA a guy says to the British intelligence, that do you think you’re short of money?

Imtiaz Gul: Here is the money. So, quickly, ended up creating a constituency, a whole class of new era, new rich people? It was one was the traditional elite in Afghanistan. The other was those who benefited from all these massive contracts, whether they were the Italians, whether they were the Germans or from elsewhere. So, I think they are calculations of a lot of people went wrong, and Pakistan continues to suffer from the miscalculations.

Omar Samad: I wrote a chapter last year for a book on the great power, competition, volume for lessons learned from America’s longest war and the collapse of Afghanistan. And in the chapter, my focus is on sovereignty, I’ve found yearning for sovereignty and independence, and regardless of all the meddling all the interventions that have taken place, this is one thing that I think a lot of people have not understood. So, every collapse that you see, has an element of wanting to regain the sense of sovereignty and nationhood and independence that Afghan have sort of inherently in in their DNA. It goes at the national level all the way down to tribal. So, so this is why it complicates Afghanistan further. And so, I think that what we saw was also an attempt to make sure that the lessons are learned. And not many came and learned the lesson direct lessons about Alphonse about what really drives them? What makes them go in resist and in blues their life for something for a cause? I don’t think we understood Africans very well, after all the bigger side. All right.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: You have been telling me some very interesting things about the Doha dialogue, you know, which bin Zalmay Khalilzad and his team side with Oliver, I’ll come to it, but I just want to come to this very interesting question, which entails is thrown for Robert Grenier, and he shouldn’t be allowed to, you know, run away without answering this question. As station chief CIA, do you speak or do you understand will do? No, you don’t understand? How is it possible? I mean, Pakistani suspect every CIA jabs was understandable that they sent him with a chip in his head, you know that he? Yeah.

Omar Samad: Because you guys speak English. So, well.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Thanks for that, then the ISI speaks English as well. Right. So, there was a famous Pakistani general, the only Pakistani general that had become a public figure and media figure after his time in general Hamid Khan, you must have met him. He was a very, very interesting character. I must have interviewed him something like 10 times you know, I must have met him dozens of times. He created a slogan after 9/11 in Urdu, I will say it so people will remember and then I can translate that for an English he said 9/11 Bahasa Hey, Afghanistan take on I have Pakistan, Nisha Anna hey, 9/11 is an excuse of Ronnie stone is a location is a convenient place and Pakistan on the main target. Right. So, Pakistan is a target of Afghanistan is a place America has chosen to target Pakistan and 9/11 was an excused did it ever reach this this paradigm ever reach your ears and heads?

Robert Grenier: Well, I’ve heard in fact, I heard directly from Hamid ghoul. I’ve met him at some conferences, particularly in Doha. Okay. And, and quite frankly, I mean, my personal view is that virtually everything that Hamid gul ever said make no sense. I think that this statement is no exception.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: So, what else he said to you? I mean, so he met you face to face. So, he must have said you. I mean, you were conspiring against Pakistan?

Robert Grenier: No, well, actually, he and I, we spoke a little bit, but it was mostly about the cooperation back in the time of the anti-Soviet Jihad and that sort of thing. But appearing together on panels, of course, I heard quite a bit of what he had to say. And, of course, I think he was in that particular conversation. That particular conference said he was doing what I thought was a lot of posturing. And he was talking about the importance of jihad, etc., etc. So quite frankly, I never really quite knew what to make of me, I wasn’t sure how much of what he said was actually genuine. Again, I never I never fully understood the man, I suspect that our other guests here probably understand them a lot better than I ever did.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: He had become very ideological in Islam, as you know, towards the end of his, okay, but Imtiaz has just repeated more or less the same thing. He said that we don’t really know, what were the actual American plans. Right. What would you really be thinking? And I think the Pakistani view is this, that because of the Afghan Taliban resistance of the 2005, and because of the Pakistani support to them, the American plans and the intentions kept on changing and redefining themselves. How do you how do you comment?

Robert Grenier: I think that is that is exactly right. And forgive me, you know, it’s I have a constitutional difficulty in giving short answers. At the outset, immediately after the war, the feeling was okay, we have to neutralized bin Laden and al Qaeda. And if the Taliban is the best vehicle for doing that, then so be it, that’s fine in the US will support them. And in fact, I think we could easily have seen American aid flowing to a Taliban led government after 9/11 If they had found some way some formula of getting rid of bin Laden, but it became very clear very quickly, that will Omar was going to do no such thing. And so, the question then became, okay, well, how can we help to establish a new political dispensation in Afghanistan, which will do what the Taliban refuses to do, and that is to keep Taliban from being a home for terrorists, and specifically benign? And so in in the policy recommendations that I made to the Bush administration, I said, look, if the Taliban will not cooperate, and I didn’t think they will They did. In fact, they did not, then we must find some sort of new political dispensation that will, that will for its own reasons, Afghans for their own reasons who will deny a terrorist safe haven. And so, what I stress very strongly was that this must be an Afghan led effort. This cannot be a US invasion of Afghanistan, where we reach out to Afghans to try to support us. No, it has to be led by Afghans. And I said in further, obviously, Northern Alliance, they were willing to ally with the Americans. But the concern that I had was if we simply allied ourselves with the Northern Alliance, then potentially all of the poor students would consolidate around the Taliban, to resist the foreign invader. And we know what happens to foreign invaders in Afghanistan. And I was very much aware of the history of the British, the history of the Soviets. So, I said, we have to have a very broad opposition within Afghanistan. And it appeared to me at the time, and I think it was true to some extent that there was a lot of opposition to the Taliban, including among pursuing traditional Christian tribal leaders in the south. And we have CIA, we’d actually lined up a lot of relationships with a number of these people. And so, he said, it’s very, very important that we have pursued involvement in this uprising against the Taliban. Now, there weren’t nearly as many person leaders who rose up against the Taliban as we hoped there would be. But there were two prominent ones. One was Gallagher shares, and the other one most notably, was Hamid Karzai. And so ultimately, we end up ended up throwing our support behind them.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: What was America thinking of sitting in Afghanistan for 20 long years?

Robert Grenier: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. And so not initially. And so, I have to say, though, when we really had no idea, if we succeeded in working with and supporting Afghan opposition is to overthrow the Taliban, we had no idea what would come after not.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada:  who found who found Hamid Karzai, by the way, I mean, was it a CIA fine was an ISI find Hamid Karzai?

Imtiaz Gul: I think both tried very hard, actually, to get people who could go inside and fight and eventually they find, found Hamid Karzai was living in quitter. I had met him a couple of times. But I would actually endorse what Robert is saying that people had not enough knowledge of the Afghan society. Everybody had knowledge, but lack understanding, even we Pakistan is our questions, they lack understanding of how the Afghan culture works.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: how the Afghan culture is different from our Pashtun culture, isn’t it the extension of each other?

Imtiaz Gul: Not necessarily. It’s a different setup. So, we people forgot that the Afghans, particularly the Pashtuns you know, they, you cannot coerce them into towing your line. So, we’ve been saying since 2009, and 10 that, for instance, the American the peace effort has to be de Americanized, that you have to find local recipe, local leadership, for getting somewhere because you cannot fight endlessly. I had met one major general who was advising President Barack Obama in those days. So, we had a close meeting. And I just laughingly said the journal, how long have you been fighting? And he said, Yeah, it’s 10 or 11 years. I said, look, you know, the insurgency cycle is around 35 years. So, you haven’t fought even for half a half that time. So, forget about, you know, defeating this country, even Pakistan is won’t be able to really pressurize it. They want the Afghan Taliban or more the Afghans themselves. So, there is a culture that you can take them to Paradise, you can take them to hell actually with love, but you cannot take them to paradise or to heaven with pressure at gunpoint. Right.

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Dr. Moeed Pirzada: So let me bring this thing. I have a I was I was looking at this Council on Foreign Relations had created a whole summary of the American war in Afghanistan, which is the US war in Afghanistan, right. So, on this I found something very interesting. This is on September 2005, democracy and Afghanistan Summit. Right, this. It basically says that more than 6 million Afghans turn out to vote for the jirga, the Council of people, the measure Ronald jirga, the council of elders, and the local councils, considered the most democratic elections ever in Afghanistan, nearly half those costing the ballots of women. My first question to you is Ambassador Omar, is this true? Or is this an exaggeration of falsehood? And if this happened, then how can the administration’s you work for failed so badly in securing the liberal democracy in Afghanistan, who is to be blamed, you are the Americans?

Omar Samad: All of us, I think that the blame is collectively can’t point to just one person on one side. you know, we have fake Democrats, like other countries have to we have people who tell them about democracy and human rights all day long. But when the day comes, they’re the most corrupt of all people. So, we learned those lessons. And then they were obviously there was not enough political will in Washington or other countries as well, to make sure that the Afghan democracy that we’re trying to build, has strong foundations is popular.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: I mean, they spend close to a trillion dollars, they spent close to a trillion dollars, they lost 1000s of American soldiers 1000s more injured. And you know, they spent 2020 long years of, you know, occupation, despite the fact that yes, the story is still more you wanted from the Americans.

Omar Samad: Yes, we only know a little bit of what really happened. And everybody’s trying to revise and rewrite history as well. So, there’s a lot of people who are trying to engage in blame gaming and trying to rewrite history and try to, you know, sort of tell a false narrative. The reality is that we failed democracy together, we failed good governance together, we did not have very good leadership and, you know, went for people who could sort of pursue an agenda. The whole Ashraf Ghani issue in 2014. Election 2014 was a fiasco was because there were forces outside of Afghanistan that wanted him to replace cancer, because Ghani  had become critical of certain aspects of American involvement. He was critical of, you know, the military. During that race, he was critical of P going into people’s homes, you know, when you talk about Afghan culture, you don’t go into an Afghan home in the middle of the night and get their children and women out, and then assassinate the man in front of them. So, a lot of these things, unfortunately happened. Both Afghans were involved in this. And remember, this was a civil war that had never ended, is this a civil war that was treated as, of course, for a while it was treated as a war against terrorism. And there were there was good reason to treat it as such, but then the Americans would push by some, both Afghans and not have funds to continue this war, for reasons that had nothing to do with really real terrorism. It had to do with a civil war that Afghans had not finished. And they took sides. And that’s why, as a result, unfortunately, the side that was weaker lost, and they didn’t have any more the will to fight in the butt and the reason to fight.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: That’s what I’m saying is that your administrations and your liberal lead, could never negotiate successfully with the Afghan Taliban to bring abroad.

Omar Samad: And to be honest, there were some Afghans who saw the prospects of a denouement that was a total collapse, and try to steer the country towards a political reconciliation, political settlement. We needed a political settlement. Every day for the past 20 years of the Afghan Republic. Until the last day of the collapse, we had an opportunity to do so and we failed in some of some people played the role of the Cebu term. They didn’t want an Afghan settlement because it didn’t serve their purposes. So, there were a lot of agendas at play, you know, and we don’t have time to go into all of that, that did not want the Afghan crisis to end. They wanted this to turn into a Forever War. There were a lot of there was a lot of profit to be made. There were other agendas at play, and ended in failure because we lost every opportunity along those 20 years to make peace and we could we could have with leverage with a heavy hand with a lot more than what we had in 2021. But we failed to do that. And finally, some suffered Americans suffered. The donor suffered through Look on separate as well. The people who are honest are separate everybody separate.

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Dr. Moeed Pirzada: yeah. Yeah. Because wants to commit half the population What a tragedy half the population. You see the woman cannot be doctors, teachers, professors’ girls cannot go to school, after 20 years of a time period when the Afghan woman were policemen. They were diplomats. They were part of the International Conference system. They were lady doctors, they were anesthesiologist, we are back at this in the US.

Imtiaz Gul : Yeah, actually, I just wanted to say, you know, why this war prolonged and why it all imploded? Within a couple of days?

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Who do you want to blame the Americans of the Afghan elite?

Imtiaz Gul:  I would say in this case, I will say it was the American benevolence. A lot of Afghans who were benefiting from this war economy, took the American continued support for granted. cigar, I think, pointed this out in many of the reports, and coincidentally into sometime in 2015 16. I happen to be in Washington, I met a senior official of the cigar. And he said, look, we know how much money per se and Ashraf Ghani and others have and where is it sitting? But politics, political considerations prevent us from doing going after them. So, it was the American, this tendency to look away from potential partners and allies, which emboldened the war lobby, just because they were a few 1000 people, and you see them now sitting in the UAE, sitting in Istanbul, you know, the, or wherever the majority dominant majority of these people simply left the moment this implosion happened. So, this, I will say that the money, the kind of money that was thrown at this nation building project, created another corrupt society, another corrupt class of people, it was Afghans, none Afghans, Europeans, even American contractors, which basically was doomed to fail, just because the objective was not to end the war, but to continue it to fleece the American taxpayer’s money as much as possible. Robert?

Robert Grenier: Well, I don’t I don’t disagree with that. But it seems very clear to me that it might have been possible to find some sort of a political understanding with the Taliban immediately after the defeat, or soon after their defeat in December of 2000. I think we might. And no one was interested, no one on the American side, certainly the European side, there were some Europeans, I think, who were saying, look, we need to reach out to two elements of the Taliban. There were there were some substantial elements of the Taliban, I think that would have been quite willing to accept the leadership of Hamid Karzai, and to come up with some sort of a political dispensation in which they could participate in some way. But as the Taliban began to come back began in 2005 2006, to 2007. And as they gain strength thereafter, it seems to me that there was no desire, no willingness at all, on the part of the Taliban to reach a political settlement. Well, I mean, we could argue about when we crossed that point, and but certainly what you get to the point of the Obama surge 2011 2012, and then we start getting into the period, and in 1314, the Americans are drawing down their forces. I think that even then, the Taliban was irreconcilable, that the Taliban saw no reason to reach I don’t think it’s in their DNA, to have some sort of a political settlement. I don’t, I don’t see the Taliban is acting like a political party. It’s just not in their nature. They’re fundamentally a movement. And I don’t think that there was ever certainly after 2006 2007 there was ever a reasonable prospect for a political settlement with the Taliban.

Omar Samad: I sort of I want to disagree here, to some extent, partly, yes, it is right, that there are some Taliban who are irreconcilable. And they, they will go all the way. What we have seen over the past 10 years or so is a new crop of Taliban who probably think that the country needs to learn its lessons from history from the communist to the others majority and that it cannot be a monopoly that Afghanistan cannot be run as a monopoly and that is the narrative that some of us are trying to instill. I think that there were many occasions and how Karzai I had an interview last month last year that I did with him, gave me the examples of all those moments, all those occasions and opportunities that we had to steer the ship towards political talks in political a political settlement. At a time when the surge was going on was the time when we should have really let that office in Doha do its work, and we shut it down. So anyway, there were a lot of reasons why that of those opportunities was squandered. But having said this, let’s also not forget that it’s not all about Afghanistan, in the Americans. Our first one is in a very sensitive region of the world, very dangerous region of the world. I think that every country surrounding Afghanistan, including Pakistan, could also have played a better role. And they didn’t. They were countries who over time, started seeing the prospects of a durable American need to base in Afghanistan, a distorted reacting to that. And so, they started building relationships with the Taliban. And so, they were also trying to make sure that the Americans were going to leave as soon as possible and focused on was obviously, it’s obvious to most Afghans now in the record shows was sort of caught in between two, two currents, you know, the, the Western counterterrorism narrative versus Pakistan’s sort of own interest in trying to use Islamism, and use radicalism for its own purposes, because of India. And because of other issues in Afghanistan, of course, was one of those places with Pakistan had to play a double game. And any round got involved and others to this day got involved the Indians, of course, some each one for its own reasons in its own interest. So, the issue blew up and did not just remain an Afghan American governance corruption issue, which is all true, all true. But what they did, it became a much bigger issue. And it could have focused on Qatar, if they would have it might become another Vietnam.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Okay, Imtiaz had to leave for a doctor. So, before the series, I want to basically come back to this present situation, Pakistan to call the blame for 20 long years of playing double games. It’s just Investor Summit, almost summer just basically said, and Pakistanis are hope they’re going to have fun. Taliban will be in Kabul, they would have peace, they would have trade, they would have everything. And throughout the argument was that they had been sandwiched between an American Indian Alliance and Afghanistan, and in an aggressive India on the east. But now since the Afghan Taliban, or Pakistani relationship have steadily deteriorated with a war of words going on in the past several months, you know, Pakistan doing arithmetic only words this way. I mean, this is what I want to hear from you. Yeah. I mean, I mean, I could not have imagined as a Pakistani that Pakistanis would be doing airstrikes and reads inside Afghanistan. What how do you look at the centers? What kind of failure is this?

Imtiaz Gul: you know, I just two days ago, wrote an oped about what has happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s frustrations, I call it the rude awakening in Pakistan by the Taliban has returned to power. And that just because whatever Pakistan had hoped that it would be a quieter border, it would be a peaceful border, and that anti Pakistan elements would not be tolerated. It never happened. Even you know, they continue to pay lip service to counterterrorism. I was in Kandahar in August last year. I was in Kabul, also the same month. And the kind of stories that I heard, you know, from Xavier lungi from many other Taliban leaders, they all want to cooperate with Pakistan, they don’t want, you know, as they say, their word of mouth is we don’t want any hurt of our neighbors through any terrorist activity.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: So, why they’re not controlling TTP?

Imtiaz Gul: Let me let me come to that. Let me come to that. This is what I wanted to just hit right now, then its mind boggling that how can you officially host a terrorist group, which is carrying out activity inside Pakistan, but enjoying the hospitality of the Afghan Taliban whereby the Taliban say, well, we have nothing to do with terrorist activities inside Pakistan? And you know, and we cannot turn them away. But what essentially happened is that since they have been comrades in arms, they’ve been ideological partners, and the Afghan Taliban given the tribal nature of people in Afghanistan, this is the Another point that a lot of people don’t understand that number one, they are tribal in nature. And number two, there are certain Pashtuns.   Number three, they are very religious. So, this, these three elements, I think, make it very, very difficult for the Afghan Taliban now to turn their dark on the TTP or any other terrorist group that is hope that is sitting training and sheltering in Afghanistan. And this is where Pakistan eventually had to draw the red line, particularly with the fifth September 2023 Attack via Chitral Up in the mountains that the TTP launched, a lot of people were killed in that. So, their Pakistani security forces presented the Taliban with a lot of graphic video evidence that we heard that we were told, but the Taliban was still dithering, you know, it’s still dragging their feet. That’s why Pakistan had to then basically draw the red line, it went for very hard measures on the transit rate, it also went for this expulsion of all those Afghans. Is there anything here?

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Is it working? The Pakistani hard my use? Are they working?

Imtiaz Gul: No, no, this is what we said in the beginning that these hard measures will not work because of the nature of the border. This is, you know, neither the smuggling could ever be stopped. Because we have fenced the border.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: We have spent more than 100 billion rupees on fencing the border.

Imtiaz Gul: Well, I’m not going into that. But all I’m saying is that the heart measures, punitive measures and conditions placed on the Afghan transit, trade never worked. On the contrary, it helped, it helped smuggling go up. But also on the other hand, we constructed this fence, but with this terrorism never stopped. On the contrary, it has gone.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Robert, you chuckled in between that it’s going to get worse. So, were you expecting that even after the American withdrawal things will get not be right between Pakistan and Taliban?

Robert Grenier: Fully, fully? Yes. Yeah. Why? It’s funny. I mean, I’ll be the first to say that there are many things that the Americans have never really understood about Afghanistan, most of the people who were responsible for carrying out our policy in Afghanistan never really fully understood what they were doing. But one of the things that has amazed me consistently is, frankly, how little Pakistan, the Pakistani government, the army, really understand the Taliban. And I think that they actually did believe is I believe India has a saying that, that they could influence the Taliban, particularly once Taliban came to power. There was every reason to cooperate with Pakistan. I never thought that the Taliban was actually going to control TTP. And for precisely the reasons Imtiaz has just articulated far better than I could. It’s simply, I guess, the, the shorthand that I would use this is simply not in their DNA. I mean, for religious reasons, for cultural reasons, tribal reasons, that they simply cannot bring themselves to do it, to the extent that they actually have the capacity to do it. leaving that aside, I just don’t think that they would ever have the moral desire to do it, despite the fact that that controlling the TTP is clearly in their objective national interest, that having problems with scale.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: You have been traveling to Islamabad. Well, number of times you spoke over there. Did you not tell the Pakistani military decision makers, your analysis that have gone Taliban would not would not what you’re saying right now that they will not intervene in TL D TTP. Did you ever?

Robert Grenier: Oh, absolutely. I did. And the answer that, broadly speaking that I got was, first of all, I’m not sure that that what I said was particularly persuasive. But also, what was what they were articulate was that Oh, but you see what we have to have respect for Afghan sovereignty, and no for us to be attacking across the border. No, that this would be counterproductive, and we really can’t do it. And yet, ultimately, I think, out of frustration, that’s precisely what they have begun to do. And I think that again, I appeal to others here whose understanding I’m sure is much greater than mine. But my impression is that Pakistani frustration with the Taliban has reached a point where it’s being expressed in in very counterproductive Ways, you know, for instance, the forced repatriation of Afghan refugees. I think there’s a lot of suffering that has been caused by that. But I think that my sense is that the Pakistan Government is just frustrated. And they’re trying to find some way to exert pressure on the Taliban government and nothing seems to be working.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada:  I don’t know whether you were in the meeting, there was an extra ordinary briefing with general Bajwa and general Faiz and we both did in Afghanistan, in the Apollo headquarters. Were you part of that? Were you there? As I was, there was more than 40 more than 40 journalists and think tankers were there. And then suddenly, someone asked a question, I think I asked the question or someone asked a question about the Afghans are not reading in the TTP. Someone asked a question. And in a face expression with full of dejection and disappointment and with a sense of defeat, general Bajwa, along with the ISI chief said that of one Taliban are now asking us to negotiate with the GTP. They think that we should actually and they can help us with the negotiation. There was, there was an element of resignation, and sense of defeat and disappointment. Now, Robert says that he has been telling them, they should have known it, but to me, it ended somewhere in July, it was somewhere in the July of 2021, the Pakistani military establishment did not believe that a foreign Taliban will not crack down on TTP for them. They honestly and sincerely hope that whatever we have done for them, they will crack down on TTP. Why is such a disconnect? Mental disconnect?

Imtiaz Gul: Well, I think this was on the ninth of August 2021, just a week before, this was a week before. It was a week before the Taliban returned to power the it was ninth of ninth of August, and

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Pakistani officers are telling us that there is going to be a protracted war and then Kabul is not ready for Do you remember that?

Imtiaz Gul: Even a day before even on the 14th of August, almost everybody was saying is going to be a it will take another six months, six months or so before the Taliban takeover? Kabul, so they basically defied every expectation. And this surprised and shocked everybody, just because the system that had been built in the last 20 years was not based on faith on commitment. It was based on dollars. So, the moment you know, there was these scare mongers, you know, arrive got close to the to Kabul and back backed on, on the peace deal, you know, in Doha, because they were writing on the back of that peace deal. So this is what upset a lot of people, but  I would slightly disagree the way the regardless it was neither Bajwa nor the ISA chief probably heard there in wildest imagination that the Afghan Taliban would be, would defy the expectation of cracking down on Afghan Taliban because General Faiz  had told us in that very meeting, that the negotiations with the with the Taliban began on the request of the Afghan Taliban, and it had already begun in the first round had taken place in April between Pakistani officials and the TTP, and this is how they took it further. Until then, the TTP basically placed with conditions, which would not be acceptable to any state and the conditions were returned, or Fatah’s old status, restoration of old status, and then the pull out of the box on military from the FATA region, and that the military deployment would be done of the Pakistani troops on the on the on the plans that are given by the TTP itself. So, by God conditions, were totally reconcilable. And that’s where I think the Pakistan then said, enough. And enough, still Pakistan did not revoke the peace agreement. It was the Taliban, who did it. And this is what lead has led us to believe that they are actually a proxy terrorist group.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: proxy is someone’s proxy, what are you saying?

Imtiaz Gul: Just because the conditions that they placed on Pakistan would not be acceptable to any self-respecting, for that matter, any state, you know, Fatah was history, our military is, is a reality across Pakistan, whether it was in former Fatah or in Karachi or in Lahore. So, the conditions we interpreted at that time was that they’re irreconcilable. That’s a red line and there, this is where the negotiations broke down.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: It was great having you. It was great having you. And I would just go ahead and wind up this discussion, because there were some points I want to wind up with, with the investor and with Robert Greene. Yeah, right. Okay. Rob, thank you so much. And we look forward to have another discussion. I think I think this is very informative. So, thank

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: So, you just heard he’s saying this thing that the way TTP has put up these demands is definitely someone’s proxy. For the greater time period in the past 20 years, Pakistanis were made to believe or they kept on believing especially the old do Pakistani press know that the Pakistani military, in any official gathering ever said this? Because I’ve attended the briefings. They never said this. But Pakistani people were made to believe that TTP is either an American brainchild to put pressure on Pakistan, or it is being supported by the Indians. What are you aware of these insinuations? And what was your reflection on it?

Robert Grenier: Yeah, I, me absent any compelling evidence. My conclusion is that the TTP is operating on its own account. Now, I’ve heard stories from various academics, various people who, who have contacts with different extremist elements, whether it’s the Haqqani Network, or TTP or others. To suggest that TTP has been willing to accept assistance from others and possibly to include the Indians, I have no idea whether any of that is true. But I, all of my instincts and all of my area knowledge, strongly bring me to the belief that TTP whatever assistance that might have received from any other parties is not simply a proxy. They have their own motivations, that allegedly largely religiously based. And so, I, I just don’t see them as being a proxy in any.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: So, you’re saying the TTP has a mind of its own. It is organic in nature. It is used by the circumstances and the political contradiction in the area. It’s a product byproduct of the war and dissatisfaction. But it is ready to accept the help. And I don’t blame the Americans. But what about the Indians? Why would Indians especially a very aggressive regime in New Delhi at the moment, they almost admit that they help the Baluchi, you know, there’s much evidence that they support the Baluch. Yeah, why would not they push in a few million dollars, few weapons strategic advice to TTP to keep the Pakistani military under pressure?

Robert Grenier: I think if they had the opportunity that they would, and, and, and I don’t see if the TTP were offered, I don’t see why they would refuse. They don’t have to accept control. But if someone wants to come and give them money to support their movement and their operations, then why not? But again, I I’m sure there are others that have information on all of this that I simply, I simply lack. So, is it quite possible that that they would receive some sort of resistance from Indians and others? Absolutely. I think it’s possible. It’s great. But I don’t see them as being a creature of anyone else. I think they’re operating in in their interest as they see it. Okay.

Omar Samad: So, I think that that is just something to worry about TTP. I think, from an Afghan perspective, I agree with Robert on this. I don’t see them as a proxy, if they were a proxy. Obviously, before the fall of Kabul, they would not have been aligned with the Afghan Taliban against the US back then India backed government in Kabul. But circumstances change, of course, and the one day, you may be on one side, and the next day, you may be accepting help from another side, the same people who you oppose before, but I think that this at the origin, or the origin is a Pakistani issue. Of course, some of these people have crises crossed the border and some of their families are in Afghanistan. The question to ask is whether the Taliban administration right now is actively using them against Pakistan. And that’s where I think there is not enough evidence to show that the Taliban want to create such a mess or the or provoke Pakistan to the extent where it might eat, you know, that turned out to be very problematic for them.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: So  why? Why are they not using the influence on the TTP to rein in and to give them on the equation?

Omar Samad: What exactly they’re doing? You know, we don’t have I don’t think any of us here right now have that intelligence that is needed the data that’s needed to know what exactly is it that the Taliban are doing to help or to provide any type of we do know that some of their families and some of their fighters are in Afghanistan, they come and go, but auditing armed in Afghanistan, are they being trained in Afghanistan? Are they being going through ideological schooling in Afghanistan? Those are some very specific questions that we don’t have answers to. And we can easily assume it’s easy to turn that into policy that can then backfire, which is what has happened over the last 40,50 years. We assume things we come up with policy that is not based on reality, and then it backfires. And then we wonder why we failed.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Why refer? Robert, Ambassador just said that Indian backs on American backed government in Kabul, right, so my question to you is now looking ahead. With Pakistan facing an unprecedented political turmoil, the kind of turmoil for the past 24 months, it has never faced such a sustained political dissatisfaction with the kinds of elections that were literally stolen by the Pakistani establishment put up a dummy government, with the province KPK, which is aligned geographically with Afghanistan, extremely, extremely restive at the moment. And then when we look at that there is an extremely assertive RSS BJP regime in India, which is even has the will and the confidence to defy the rest. I mean, look at the case of the Sikh killings when FBI and CIA have bought one of the people and, and they hate Pakistan, they don’t like Pakistan. I mean, they are very different from the Congress in terms of the political animal. They’re not prepared to negotiate with Pakistan ever since Narendra Modi became the prime minister in 2014. Except for a small window, when he tried approaching Nawaz Sharif, embrace the Pakistani establishment and let him happen. So how do you see the future of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the present circumstances with this TTP?

Robert Grenier: I do I see things going for it. But it’s hard for me to imagine a change in in the current narrative. I mean, that’s, that’s always the greatest difficulty for a political analyst. And you’re, you’re a very serious professional political analyst, analyst. Thank you, it’s always very easy to, to make straight line projections based on the current situation leading out into the future, it’s very, very difficult to understand the factors, which if they come into play, we’ll change the dynamic and move things in a different direction. And right now, I’m having trouble seeing what could realistically change in a way that would change the dynamic among, among India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada : Do you expect the Modi government at some point recognizing and engaging Afghan Taliban?

Robert Grenier:  You know, I don’t, I can’t see why they would. Frankly, it’s hard for me to understand, it’s hard for me to anticipate that they would ever really have cooperative relations with Afghan with the Indians in the, in the Taliban, I’m sure there any number of tactical situations in which it makes sense for them to talk to one another. But developing some sort of joint policy, joint cooperation worthy of the name? I just, I just don’t see it. And I think part of it is really has to do with the ideological orientation of each side. I’m not sure that the Taliban ideology, the way they think of themselves would permit them to reach that kind of an understanding with the Indians, even if you could point out to them objectively that it’s in their interest to do so.

Omar Samad: You know, the argument the Chinese, Robert, so the same applies to Chinese and they seem to be getting closer with the Chinese and so the Chinese Taliban relationship could impact other relationships as well.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: I wanted to come to an ambassador that in December, President Xi Jinping officially and formally accepted the credentials of the Afghan Taliban ambassador who’s called Bilal karemi, his actual name is Mullah Asadullah. Previously he was designated for United Nation. So, and the Chinese have also sent a new ambassador to Kabul. So Chinese definitely warming up to two Afghan Taliban. So, what do you what do you what’s the future of the Afghan Taliban? What is the future of Afghanistan?

Omar Samad: Well, I think at least it seems to me that Taliban may not have learned many lessons about how to deal with society and ideology and education and human rights and women’s rights and all of that, and monopoly of power. But one thing I think they have learned is how to balance Afghan foreign policy and security policy. It seems that they’re going back to the old traditional model of Afghanistan, you know, trying to stay safe, without being aligned or drawn into any alliances, one against the other. So, what we’re seeing over the past two and a half years or so is a rebalancing, or I found the foreign and security policy, of course, for survival purposes, first of all, and for the fact that they are a de facto government, not the digital government. They are very vulnerable in some so many ways, but at the same time, they have full control of the country. So, you have all these different realities that they have to deal with. And in terms of trying to, you know, into geography, in the geopolitics in the geo strategy that our phones have had to deal with over all these years, I think has taught us that the best thing for us is to not allow too much meddling in a sector not to align ourselves with any one site, because then we run the risk of being overrun by one or the other. And so that’s what I think the Taliban are doing. I don’t think that they have any particular you know, interest in being way too close to one side or the other. Even in the East West competition that is going on, even in the great power competition that are going on. I think they want to maintain some kind of balanced Well, of course, it depends on how Washington looks at them, and in Brussels, and then the donors. And so, it’s a complex situation, but that’s the best option Afghanistan has right now.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada:  So, Robert, just the last set of questions, you know, Omar hasn’t mentioned but he told me in a dinner, that when the Doha talks started, the Trump team came out. And it blasted the Afghan Taliban in Doha. And I said, we are you don’t know the kind of power we have; we can blast you out to the earth. You need to listen to us. And the Afghan Taliban delegation kept on listening. And they didn’t say anything. At the end of the day. They said, okay, we’ll meet tomorrow. And tomorrow, the next day, it again happened the same with the American team threatened then they kept on listening. And then they left. And finally, the Russian team had to start talking of the other points. So apparently, I mean, a former US narrative is true. They are some sort of very smart people. And so, what do you think is the future of the Afghan Taliban itself? I mean, do you think the US and the West has any more desire to displace them? Looking at President Biden’s letter, and in Gaza is left but he told me that the British and the American diplomats keep on citing Afghan Taliban as a threat to the region, as in till a few months ago, he met them. So, what do you see is the future of the Afghan Taliban experiment?

Robert Grenier: Well, if the question is willing the Americans pursue a policy designed to somehow displace the Taliban replace it with something else? I think the short and definitive answer is no. Okay. No, the particularly this, this administration wants to wash his hands of Afghanistan. Yes, there are there are difficulties, particularly for Pakistan because of the presence of the TTP, but there’s nothing happening in in Afghanistan as of now that directly affects us interests now. they’re becoming considerably more active, more aggressive, who knows where that could go. So, we’re perhaps the one major terrorist outrage in the West away from the US rethinking its current policy, but clearly right now the American policy is not to get bogged down once again in Afghanistan, if they can possibly help it very so definitive, very definitely. Very definitively. And since you raised it a couple of times, that the Biden letter, I would caution strongly against reading too much into this letter. And, and let’s remember the specific things that actually were cited in the letter they talked about climate resilience, they After about sustainable agriculture, they talked about flood relief.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Reading your book and reading everything about the Afghanistan. The decision to withdrawal was there in 2012 when the Doha office was allowed to Taliban, right. And then, Obama wanted to withdraw. Trump wanted to withdraw and Biden did a review in February 2021 and came up in April 14, with a withdrawal plan. Why we are told in Washington by congressional aides and the other people that Biden was very upset with the Imran khan because of Afghanistan, what is Imran Khan’s rudeness? Why is Biden upset with Imran Khan?

Robert Grenier: Oh, well, I, I think my, my strong suspicion and based you know, to some degree and conversations that I’ve had with people who were in the administration is that, you know, Imran Khan, claiming that the US was playing some sort of a nefarious role and that they were responsible for, for collaborating and with the army to overthrow his government, etc. The Americans certainly claim otherwise. And I actually, I actually believe them. But, but no, I think I think that they were just deeply irritated by the things that he was saying and the charges that he was making against the Americans. And as you know, it got down to two personalities, they were talking about specific senior officials in the State Department who were conspiring, and I think that it became deeply annoying to them.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: If the Trump becomes the President, this animosity. So, if Trump becomes a president, it might change a bit against Imran Khan, the animosity, the heat the emotion?

Robert Grenier; Well, you know, I don’t think it’s interesting. That is, you will know, when Imran Khan visited Washington, he and Trump rather got along. Yeah. And with Trump, everything is personal. Everything is personal. Everything is personal. And transparent and transactional? Absolutely. Absolutely. So, there’s really no doctrinal orientation here. But I think that the fact of the matter is, under the current circumstances, the US doesn’t seem doesn’t see a strong national interest in in Afghanistan, or Pakistan. Now, obviously, Pakistan is a major country, huge population, nuclear weapons, etc., etc. Nobody would want to see Pakistan destabilize. That’s certainly true. So, and I think there is concern in Washington about the current instability in, in Pakistan, both economic and political. So, there’s a concern about that. But, you know, beyond hand wringing, and sort of trying to be helpful on the margins, there really isn’t a new policy oriented, a new policy orientation, that’s going to lead the US into any sort of major engagement with Pakistan at this point, right now, at least for the time being, it could change. But right now, for the time being. And that’s the way the to the extent that it has any influence over the future. That’s the way the administration wants to keep it.

Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Well, I do want to add something on the future of the Afghan Taliban experiment.

Omar Samad: Just shortly, you know, first of all, I agree to large extent with what Robert said, but the future, and what is possible right now, and what isn’t, what is needed and what isn’t. But, you know, we were talking about the unexpected that could happen in like 9/11. Right and alter everything, and let’s hope that that we don’t face that kind of situation. But at the same time, we also remembering that we are in the middle of an American election season. And obviously, there are some considerations there as to which issues to bring up in which issues are problematic, uncomfortable or comfortable. And I think also that to some extent, America has a sort of minimum requirements as far as Pakistan stability is concerned, and cooperation is concerned in TTP. And I think that they feel that they probably have that minimum requirement with Pakistan. And as long as Pakistan is fragility doesn’t not become worse and sort of head towards this disaster. They’re okay with what is happening as long as somebody like Imran Khan doesn’t come in rock the boat too much, which was, which is what we were doing. But nobody also is paying attention to the fact that he was extremely popular, his remains very popular. And as far as the Taliban are concerned, right now, there is no, there is no alternative to the Taliban on the horizon. And the Taliban seem to be entrenched, and they seem to be in control, there are sporadic, probably skirmishes, or you know, some body firing something somewhere, but nothing to the extent that could alter the balance in Afghanistan immediately right now. And even if something drastic came along, we are not in 2001. And Robert knows much more about the details 2001 On the ground, militarily, intelligence wise. But even if something drastic happens, it won’t be an easy 2001 type scenario, we have a very different situation and context, the context is very different. The region is very different. The players are not in the same mood, and they’re not in the same posture that they were in 2001, America had the backing of almost the entire world. And Afghanistan needs peace. After that. I’m saying this as an Afghan after 50 years of most of my lifetime. The Afghan want peace and stability. But also, of course, they want a normal life, they want the basic rights. And they will have to do more in that regard. So, all those basic rights of talking about include women and girls, and everybody. And so, there are some lessons that we seem to have learned and some that we don’t seem to be learning very easily. And so, what is it that the question is, how do you deal with such a situation? And the only answer that I have today is a strategic, targeted, thoughtful engagement, step by step gradual, that might open up space, that might change minds, and that might bring about the same type of societal ideological opening and realization. And there’s a role for the Islamic world to play this role to the almost around the world to play this role for Afghan what remains of the Afghan civil society to play this role, that there is no role for those failed politicians, maybe like myself, but even though I wasn’t a politician, I was just a diplomat, but who, who didn’t do what they were supposed to do to serve their country. So maybe we need to move to a new paradigm. And, and, and through engagement and dialogue, we need to learn our lessons and look at our history and draw our including our relationship with Pakistan, you know, I want to sit down with my other Afghans and say, where do we fail in our relationship with Pakistan or Iran or this country or that country? And what are the lessons to be learned about Pashtun stan about the tribal area, but economics about trade? We need to go back and start we need to enter yes, what I’m focused on right now, because otherwise, I don’t see anything else. Really. That is practice. Thank

Dr. Moeed Pirzada:  Thank you so much, Ambassador, Mr. Imtiaz and Robert Grenier, thank you so much. And also, thanks to Imtiaz Gul, who just left for this wonderful, detailed discussion. You should have more of these discussions and we definitely there were three different perspectives. Four different accents of the American view the American perspective, we have one perspective, the Pakistani perspective, and we need to have more of these sessions. Thank you so much for now. Thank you so much, and I greatly appreciate it.