email a friend iconprinter friendly iconTen Years of Adventure: The Afghanistan Decade
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What do you remember most about meeting Massoud?

The effect Massoud had on everyone around him was like passing a magnet through a saucer of metal shavings. Charisma’s kind of a cheap word, but there was something incredibly compelling about his manner of speaking, the look in his eye, the way he moved his hands when he spoke. I watched him talk for two hours straight to his commanders and had no idea what he was saying. But I was riveted.

How do you think the past seven years would have been different had he survived?

The Karzai government is just riddled with corruption. [President Hamid] Karzai’s more or less spineless when it comes to warlords. Massoud was a pragmatist. I think he would have taken a much harder line not only with the drug lords and the warlords, but also with the U.S. military. One of the problems Karzai’s running into is that he’s seen by Afghans as a bit of a lapdog. Massoud would have made it very clear that the Americans were in Afghanistan on his terms.

Speaking of Karzai, the upcoming elections have been postponed and rescheduled twice. Are conditions anywhere close to being safe enough to hold them?

The security situation has fallen apart radically since 2006. The Americans have trouble protecting Kabul right now. I don’t know how they’re going to go out into the provinces and collect ballots.

In your view, what should President Obama do now?

He needs to take a very uncompromising line with Pakistan. I think the U.S. military needs to seal the border and let Pakistan implode on its own. The Taliban are a Pakistan-based movement, and they hire local Afghans to fight the Americans, which is easy because Afghanistan’s a very poor country. If you pay an 18-year-old $5 a day to carry an AK, he’ll do it. It’s a movement that for the most part is coming across the border: personnel, ideology, and ammunition. There are people on the left who scream that we should pull all of our forces out of Afghanistan. And what the people who espouse that view don’t understand is that they would basically be condemning Afghanistan to an incredibly violent and repressive bloodbath at the hands of the Taliban.

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