Imus asked Doug Stanton, author of the book “Horse Soldiers” about the successful Special Forces mission in Afghanistan in 2001, what the endgame is now in that country, where last week the United States launched a major offensive on Taliban-held towns.
“The endgame is a country where it doesn’t look like Minneapolis or the United States, but it looks like Afghanistan the way they want it to look,” said Stanton. “Kids can go to school, and you can walk to the store without getting shot at.”
The problem in Afghanistan is more social than anything else, requiring the type of stable government that President Hamid Karzai has been unable to provide. For that reason and others, like its proximity to Iran and Pakistan, the U.S. has taken on the responsibility of “fixing” Afghanistan.
Stanton is encouraged by the U.S.’s new “door-to-door” approach to finding weapons and militants in Afghan villages, and by President Obama’s new counterinsurgency tactic, which goes beyond the typical “clear, hold, and build” mantra.
“They’ve added ‘transfer’ to that, which means, give it back to them and let them run it,” he said. “That’s the one thing they’ve never really done throughout the eight years we’ve been in that country.”
American soldiers are following new rules of engagement that prohibit them from firing at somebody unless that person is holding or picking up a weapon. Asked if this handcuffs the troops, Stanton said critics will have to wait and see.
In the long run, Stanton said, it’s better than taking out innocent civilians; gaining their trust is key to winning this battle like the Special Forces did in 2001. “They got the locals with them, and they did that by not killing them,” Stanton added.
Ultimately, Stanton believes Afghanis can be successful, and he was optimistic about a $100 million aid package that will develop agriculture in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“If you create legitimate agriculture, then the government gets legitimate, and the people believe in the government, and they drop the gun and don’t work for the Taliban,” he said.
Last week, Pakistani forces captured the alleged number two leader of the Taliban in their country, though Stanton thinks the Pakistanis nabbed him just to get to him first. “He knew too much about the ISI’s relationship with the Taliban,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s intelligence operation.
As for the best way to elicit information from this guy, Stanton recommended building a relationship and focusing less on “the physical stuff,” aka torture.
“So torturing them, while it might be fun, is just not very productive,” Imus deduced. It’s a good theory to keep in mind when conducting interviews on this show, too.