Afghanistan: From the Great Game to the Global War on Terror
April 26, 2017
Robert R. Reilly:
It’s a special pleasure to introduce our guest tonight because he’s an old friend. I had the privilege of working with him at the Voice of America and I’m happy to welcome the Voice of America Persian service here tonight, as well as Afghan television, as well as the members of the Afghan Embassy who are with us. Ali Jalali was the director of the Persian service at VOA, one of the most distinguished services that he ran so well. And in my brief tenure as the Director of Voice of America I asked him to please take over the Afghan service, the Pashto and Dari, with which there were some problems. He did that so capably he became head of the Radio Afghan Project, which included the construction of two giant transmitters outside of Kabul and of course that was another big success. And then he left us to become Minister of the Interior of Afghanistan. As you shall hear he is currently serving as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Germany and is the designated special envoy of Afghanistan to NATO. He served as the Minister of the from 2003 to 2005 during which time he oversaw the creation of an Afghan National Police of 50,000 men. In addition to a 12,000 border police force to work in counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and criminal investigation. He’s served for many years as a professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University. He’s a former colonel in the Afghan Army, was a military planner with the Afghan Mujahedin in their struggle against the Soviets, and he is the co-author of a seminal book on the tactics used in that struggle by the Afghan resistance called, “The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahedin Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War.” Now he is here with us… there- there [are] many other distinctions that he has earned in his career but he is here tonight to talk about his new book, which is just out. We have copies of it available in the other room. I’m sure Ambassador Jalali will be happy to sign them for you. The book was released at $35. Through a special arrangement it’s there for $20. For those of you who would like a copy I can simply tell you that Dr. Fred Starr, who is one of the great scholars of Central Asia, sent me a message when he found out that Jalali was talking here tonight, saying that this is <en>the</em> book on Afghanistan and I quote him, “the best history of Afghanistan in any language.” Please join me in welcoming Ali Jalali who will tell us about the military history of his country.
Director Reilly, Ambassador Mohib, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for coming here and [giving] me the opportunity to speak about certain issues in Afghanistan. Any issue- any issue about Afghanistan is both complicated but at the same time probably interesting, and news, the news. I am very pleased to have Bob Reilly here with us. We worked together during very difficult times. After 9/11 when Afghanistan National Transmissions were destroyed and he asked me to head that project for which we actually got about $20 million and then contributed to this during the Tokyo Conference in 2002. And I went back- when I went to Afghanistan later and I saw how effective that project was. I remember that one day the head of the- Chief- Chairman of- Director of the BBG came to Kabul and assured him of all the issues and this all because Bob believes in a war of ideas and he has done a lot on this issue. Now first thing first, a disclaimer. My remarks today represent only my own personal opinions and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any any official institution, any government, or anybody else. Today the news from Afghanistan is not encouraging. Sometimes when people ask me how is the situation in Afghanistan, which – everybody asks that – I say, “In one word, good. In two words, not good.” So… but good and not good both has very, very charged words. So they have different aspects, different dimensions, and others. And it is a complicated country. And it is in a complicated region and international environments. So if you want to understand that, okay, good luck but you have to put it in a historical context. That’s what I try to do, to put it in historical context.