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tv   Afghanistan Outlook  CSPAN  August 31, 2014 3:23am-4:14am EDT

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>> michael? >> systematically support dissidents and freedom movement inside iran. and start at the top, from the president on down. every top policy maker and spokesperson for the american government. and the two international meetings, whatever they might be. whether it is the olympic games or nuclear negotiations, go with lists of political prisoners and demand their release and keep at it. >> i want to thank our panel. [applause] thank you all for coming, we will be in touch for another session before too long. thanks again. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014]
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>> the potomac institute brought together former defense department and fbi officials to discuss the growing strength of the terrorist group isis. group'smine the evolution and discuss why the international community did not detect them earlier. you can see the discussion today at 10:30 a.m. eastern on c-span. now, new york times reporter matthew rosenberg on afghanistan. he was expelled from kabul recently after the publication of his story on the formation of an interim government. the two candidates now vying to be providence -- presidents say they welcome the reporter back to the country. this is 50 minutes.
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>> i am the president of the national press club and host for today's newsmakers news conference. first, as we always do, here are the guidelines. after this biggest presentation, open the floor for q&a. when you are recognized, please identified yourself and your organization before asking your question. no speeches please. just a question. our guest today is matthew rosenberg who was expelled from kabul by the government of hamid karzai last week. the two presidents of candidates
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in a rare display of unity said they would allow back into afghanistan. the afghanistan government attributed to expulsion to an article mr. rosenberg wrote reporting that officials are forming an intern government as a possible solution to the government to the country's current electoral crisis and action that would effectively mount to a coup. he would discuss his own situation and the outlook for afghanistan based on his many years of reporting from the country. he has been covering afghanistan since 2008. first as a south asian correspondent for the wall street journal and then for the new york times which he joined. he did a stint in afghanistan in 2002 when he was a reporter for the associated press and eight in nairobi . weekshould statement last
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first criticizing the expulsion by the karzai government and welcoming the statements by the presidential candidates of july beulah and they said they would rescind the order. thank you for accepting our invitation to be the guest at today's newsmakers. i hope you had a chance to govern jetlagged but we welcome you today and the floor is yours. >> thank you. i can't really promise i've had a chance to get over the jet lag, so i will apologize in advance for any incoherence. one of the things i've been working a lot the last few weeks is related to the story.
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we have been trying to track down these villagers for a bigger project we were working on that was taking forever. day after day we would get people to come down and we would sit for hours, having their guys track these specific people we were looking for. some of these guys, we would drive them up or slide them up and they would just sit for hours and our house, tea and coffee and bread and then more tea and lunch and then talking. i learned about an expression in pashtu, and if anybody speaks pashtu, correct me, and it is "how are you," and after four hours you run out of things to say and "how are you," and keep going. afghans are pretty good at talking and negotiating for quite a long time until they reach what a good negotiator does, a solution that nobody is particularly happy with but sort of works for everyone and keep things basically ok. right now what we are seeing in kabul is a total breakdown in the process. i know this morning the abdullah camp pulled out of an audit that was to untangle the vote and the deal that john kerry had brokered. and now ashraf ghani's guys have been told, well, you guys go home, the u.n. will continue this without you. it is beginning to feel like where do they go to from here? the election is working, president karzai is leaving next week -- to where, who knows? if he really is.
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you are approaching a situation where the fields that the worst-case scenario for afghanistan, and i don't say that lightly. i know a lot of the western press can be or is perceived to be unduly pessimistic about a place like afghanistan. i think in this case, i know personally we have tried to take it at face value and be optimistic to a degree. with each render the election, well, people are voting. this isn't a failure. sure, that's got problems, what country doesn't? the process seems to have broken down that it doesn't seem you can walk it back, that the capacity to sit and talk forever
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is being dried up. partly it is that these are a series of imposed deadlines set by president karzai himself, set by the americans. we have got this 2014 date coming and in nato and they have got to that this deal done to keep the troops there. what do you do if there is no president? president karzai doesn't want to sign it. that is where my story came in. over the summer, as things have not looked to be going on a good trajectory, people within the government -- these are very senior people, people who are close to president karzai, people who have been around for years, began to think, well, we need another option. we need to think of a plan b, because the u.s. and the u.n. are married to this political deal that kerry brokered and the candidates seem unable to compromise. what do we do in case we get to september? there is no compromise?
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that discussion began as early as june, and it really intensified about the middle of june, when you had afghan election commission kind of the clear preliminary results they gave mr. ghani of 1.3, i think, 1.5, about a one million vote lead, substantial lead. by most accounts, some of abdullah's supporters -- when i say "abdullah's supporters," i don't mean the mass of people who have gone out and supported him -- we are talking the discreet actors. people we spoke to said that they were maybe 24 to 48 hours from taking action, saying, you know what, we are going to declare our guy president, we
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are going to walk into the house and the ministries and provincial capitals and their security forces to shoot at us. had that happened -- they were backed by serious muscle and weapons -- that would've inched the country close to -- always seems like the chicken little scenario, "the americans are leaving, we will get to civil war" -- but that would've gotten it close to that. then they create this deal. but within a few days the deal is falling apart. the audit, which was a conflict process that the u.n. and the election commission and partners in the european union were trying to spin off while moving it forward, and the political deal come each candidate went around saying whatever their constituents wanted to hear, and it is like they were talking about 2 totally different deals, because who knew what was really in it?
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in this environment with a dangerously close march in an attempt to take power by one group of supporters and continued uncertainty with the election and everything else, you had a number of senior officials who stayed out of the election publicly, although they definitely have their likes and dislikes among the candidates. we need a plan b unless this doesn't work. these guys have done well in the last 13 years, and the last thing they want to do is see that they can get blown up. what invariably came up was world war i. nobody wanted world war i. it was going to destroy everyone, but it still happened. that is what they were intensely worried about, and are still intensely worried about in kabul. this was brewing there, and it wasn't really a big secret.
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the political elite, everyone is talking about this. it didn't take a lot to get people to open up. so we put out the story. you know, i think whenever you are working abroad, it is very easy to be alarmist, use the word "coup" lightly, and those are the stories that get you thrown out of countries. we tried to be as measured as possible, present this as discussions, and the people we spoke to said that their first option was to have ashraf ghani and abdullah to make a deal. but if it didn't, here is plan b. we presented it like that. i figure, honestly, before the
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story came out, that president karzai had to have known what was being said about him. it was too openly discuss. apparently, he did not. what we heard since is that he hit the roof. he called in his cabinet, threatened to fire half of them, threatened to put people in jail, said to cut it out and stop talking. then we got a phone call from the attorney general. it came from one of our afghan reporters, who is the sweetest guy. he isa bit obsequious. "somebody is trying to call you." "could you give me a few minutes?" "it is the attorney general's office." "we just want to talk to you a little bit about the story." me and my colleague, our bureau chief there, we discussed it. we have a kind of safety advisor as well.
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ok, we're going to go over there. casual, they are giving us all kinds of assurances. we are getting there and the whole city was -- this was afghan independence day so the whole city was shut down. we were told we would have a chat with a mid-level official. we get there and it is 2 senior officials, plus an advisor to the actual attorney general. it is definitely not casual. they sit us down in a room with bulletproof glass and steel doors. they immediately start asking the sources were, they want to verify who wrote the story. "i did write the story, i am matthew rosenberg, i'm refusing to reveal my sources." and we were not going to sign anything. is there a criminal charge, an investigation? they wouldn't tell us any of that. they went to consult with a confidential source, as they put
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it -- hard not to notice the irony, they are giving us a hard time about anonymous sources and then they consult with somebody and they won't tell us who he is. it was apparent we were not free to leave pretty quickly. they eventually did let us leave, and said "you have got to come back tomorrow with a lawyer." the next morning, fearing arrest -- we were not really sure, we didn't know -- we sent them a letter, partially because our lawyer was in the country, saying "we want to come back, we want to cooperate," and we meant that, "but we want our lawyer there." i realize my jet lag is kicking in. i missed a point of the story. after he left the attorney general's office the first afternoon, they didn't say anything about me not being able to leave the country, no investigation, don't worry about
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it. we were writing a memo for our bosses in new york, and we see a tweet from an afghan news station -- the attorney general has banned matthew rosenberg from leaving the country. huh? they didn't tell us that. it took us a few hours to confirm that that was the case. the next day we obviously didn't go, we send this letter. again, they went to the news media to say that i was being thrown out of the country. they never told us this straight. i found out later. what really struck me here -- i will go off on a little tangent here -- was also, one of the problems, problem with this election, problem with, i guess, the state in created in afghanistan, is that it has laws, very good laws, detailed laws. but they are not very respected often. there is a process in afghanistan for if you want to go out and investigate a
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reporter or throw out a foreign reporter. you have to go to this media commission and serve a notice to this reporter and the media commission would recommend it to the attorney general's office and under criminal law, they would have to send me a letter three times before they could compel me to show up at the attorney general's office for questioning. the attorney general on his own does not have the power to throw out a reporter. it is a country of laws, or it is meant to be. but in this case, president karzai wanted, from what we were told, action taken, so action was taken. that is part of what goes to the problem with the election as well. you had an incredibly well-designed process to elect a new president. a very senior you and i said
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that the level of transparency there is -- senior u.n. guy said that the level of transparency there is unknown in most of the world. it makes the u.s. elections look completely corrupt. but the officials in place have to be willing to respect them, and that has not been the case to date. you have a member of the election commission caught on tape committing fraud in favor of one candidate. you have an incredibly partisan environment. you have, by all accounts, the president helping support one candidate as well. throughout the process, both candidates have known that the winner ultimately has control of a vast government, and the constitution as it is written, the one that the u.s. helped the design and really help force through over the objections of players in afghanistan and some of our european partners, is an incredibly centralized government, where the president has near dictatorial powers. he hires and fires everyone from school teachers to cabinet ministers. there is vast systems of patronage that, because he is in charge of all this, he basically presides over. it is completely winner take
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all, there is no room for a loser to kind of gracefully step down, because regarding who supported that loser, the loser of an election, their jobs, their security, the physical safety of their own family, is in many ways dependent on their man being in power. in a weird way -- i don't want to present myself as a horrible victim. i got thrown out of the country. it is unusual, but it is hardly -- it is not a tragedy that one cannot recover from. but it is a pretty good example, a stark illustration of how powerful that executive is in this country, 13 years after we set up a democracy that on paper it should work. he wanted me out, so i am gone. the laws, they weren't the issue. nobody even pretended to try to
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follow them. a government official called to apologize. it is something that we need to, we in the united states to lead this effort, need to reflect on. getting an actual estimate of how much we spent, $600 billion to $700 billion in total prosecuting the entire war. over 2300 soldiers and service members lost. other civilians, far, far, far many more afghans killed, thousands. before this nato conference is supposed to end, there is no deal there to keep the troops to train, and what was supposed to cement afghan democracy is in shambles. and i guess what i am trying to figure out going forward is what role can the outside help play with afghans, and what role can afghans played to move past this?
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i always see a way forward when i look at what is going on there, because there is so much progress that has been made. all the government officials are totally right about women educated, the value ability of cell phones or whatnot, and the gdp per capita is gone up four or five times. i remember driving around the city with these satellite phones, these little handheld things come out the window of a car trying to make a phone call. now our cleaning lady who does not read or write has a cell phone. there is tremendous progress
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there, but it depends on a stable central government, and that government is incredibly weak right now. even if they get a compromise out of this, and everyone certainly hopes they will, the enormity of the problems that have to be tackled within the government, it seems impossible when you have a leader whose mandate is incredibly weak. if you have a clear leader, they are not going to emerge with a strong mandate. it said the government, problems need to be fixed, and the level of corruption -- kleptocracy is the word political scientists use, where members of the government are involved in business enterprises and the enterprises thrive because they have protection from their family and the government. people will also say that their corruption -- zero corruption is a fantasy.
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it doesn't exist. i grew up outside new york city and the people who picked up my garbage were not picking up with open contracts, but the garbage got picked up, the cost to taxpayers was not that great, and when things got out of hand, the police cracked down on whoever was fixing this contract. in afghanistan, there is a contract to pick up garbage. it just doesn't get picked up. contract to build a road doesn't happen. it is just outright theft of state resources. you have senior government officials who are handing out contracts for major work, making sure their relatives and associates and networks get these contracts, and then the work doesn't get done. it is patronage at its worst because it is patronage that filters out and not down. it is not like the cop from tammany hall got a piece of the action from boss tweed. boss tweed and his family gets it, nobody else does. with any kind of government who
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can tackle the problem, i don't really know. for most of the year, the taliban had not been doing well. the elections they had a not manage to disrupt. there was a little bit of violence, but not major violence. a little bit before the first-round. they did not kill the candidates for anything, which is quite remarkable. even more important in afghanistan, because there is an actual law that if a candidate dies before assuming office, you have to restart the entire process. that law was put in place because they do voter lists, and they were worried -- let's say you have 40 candidates and they were worried that number 41 would try to kill number 40 two move up the list.
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if you had to set up this law, which is good intention, but it does create risks. you have the taliban making serious pushes, wide parts of the south, the north, eastern and central afghanistan, and afghan security forces are finding themselves very hard-pressed. they are not crumbling. they are decent and they have gotten better. but they need western help. they cannot function on their own yet. even if they could, they'd still need a massive amount of money. and that is not money afghanistan has. if the west doesn't stay engaged, they will fold. i don't think there's any debate about that. what little money afghanistan does have is withering, or being drained away by the election. the election, the vast uncertainty -- this year was going to be uncertain enough for most afghans. people are disengaging, western combat troops are going home.
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that was driving the economy down already, and this has destroyed it. the tax revenue and customs revenue is down so sharply that they are probably a month or two by most accounts from being able to pay civil servant salaries. some embassies are running out of money to pay rent, and especially towns like washington and in new york, they are going to have trouble if something doesn't turn around soon. this happened last year as well. i don't know if they will get it this time. into that whole kind of mass, it all comes down to basically 2 men who are back at it. they are both pretty reasonable people, and i would be the first to thank them both for saying it would let me back in. i'm eager to go back there and i want to go back there and keep reporting. it is a fascinating place. they, unfortunately, have supporters on either side who are far less reasonable.
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you have perfect parallel conflicts. take example of northern afghanistan. on one hand, dr. ghani's vice presidential running mate is, i guess, this warlord for lack of a better term, militia leader against the taliban, cia proxy. he has been put out to pasture just a little bit but still has our men by most accounts he has been in this area not doing wonderfully well, not doing terrible, but just fair. and on the abdullah side, you have someone from the same area as dostum, and he has been doing phenomenally well, governing one of the richest parts of the country, very powerful. dostum wants that action.
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those 2 alone are pushing those guys to not compromise and if any of them compromise, one of them is going to lose. it is a zero-sum game. they're looking to step on each other's -- businesses, whatever you want to call it. how do you get these guys to compromise? so many of the supporters are saying don't compromise, we need to keep our position, our power. i guess that is -- i guess i should be happy i don't have to make these decisions. if the white house called and said, "what would you do," i have no idea what i would do
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today. it is a difficult situation, and one of the effects of writing news stories is the heisenberg principle -- the act of observing something changes it. by all accounts, i'm told that president karzai told everybody to stop talking, shut up, i don't want to hear another line of this interim government nonsense. those people are still planning to make a move, they are being awfully quiet about it. i don't know, but then again, i am over here in washington and the not in kabul. it adds to more uncertainty because plan b is not there. plan b carried with a lot of risks. everybody who takes power says they are doing it to save democracy, but we have seen time and again that it is not the case. where we are now, you have 2 candidates who will compromise,
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a government who says it is leaving our next week, as president karzai said, the u.s., which insists that this setup of doing an audit and a political deal that the candidates cannot make work is the only way forward. amid all of this, you have got 13 years in a country with nearly 30 million people, and a lot of them have glimpsed what a better life could be. but they are not there yet. this doesn't work -- if we are at that inflection point, they're not going to get there. even with this working it is going to be probably difficult. the country is poor, lacks any resource that can make it rich quickly. if a compromise isn't reached to move forward, you get dangerously close to the point where 13 years worth of work is
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very much at stake and very much at risk of just disappearing. i think on that note, i will stop blathering on and open up the questions. >> thank you. that is perfect timing. i know as a fellow journalist that we don't -- we like to report news, not to make it, and i would say for my 40 years as a foreign correspondent and now teaching at gw, matthew, i greatly respect how you are handling the public side of your work even though you much prefer to be behind the computer. we used to say behind the typewriter. but thank you for coming, and the floor is open. please identify yourself and the organization you are with and ask your question. yes, please? one minute.
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i know we have a good setup here. i was looking for a hand-held mic -- >> from georgetown university. i was also in afghanistan for 16 months. i appreciate the fact that even though you painted a grim picture of what is happening in afghanistan, that there is a lot of progress, like you just mentioned, is going on. my question to you is, even though, let's say the situation becomes unstable, don't you think afghan people are different now because the young people, there is a media, a free press, young people who are very educated and they are going towards democratic transition? it is going to be different, they are to stand up for themselves. i would like to get your view on that. >> that is a very good point, and in the cities that is absolutely true. that is the promise of this election, this year, that you are giving people the space. young people -- when we say "young," we are talking people into their 20's and 30's as well -- who want to build a better country.
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even these guys i have known for years are operating like you would imagine an american political operative to operate. [ringtone] that is an awesome ring tone. even to the point where you're getting on an airplane to write about the candidates, they try to spin you on what you should and shouldn't write about, and the person you are not to write about sits down next to you and talk for a while. they're not that great at managing it. you have this younger generation, but that is an urban phenomenon. that hopefully will grow and change. that is how cultures and society change. but right now it is pretty small. if you have a situation that is destabilized, where you have armed groups on each side of the political divide, plus the
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taliban, coming in, i don't know if the critical mass behind those people is their to sustain them saying no. in rural afghanistan you don't have that set of people yet. you are not there were you have villagers who know much more than what they have on their back. they are peasants in the truest sense of the work, people without disposable income, without education. you have whole provinces where the male literacy rates are in the 10s. that will not engender modern generation, i fear. so i think they would be desperate to avoid -- including some of those actors, because they have to know that you look around, people who would be
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leading any kind of fight are incredibly wealthy. they've had a great 13 years. they have houses in dubai, fighting dogs. they have done well. any kind of conflict will destroy what they have got, will kill their source of wealth and power. they are desperate to avoid it but they know that if their guy loses, they will lose it anyway, so why not fight for it? that is a dangerous situation to be in. and that is the hardest thing about afghanistan right now, and observing it -- and writing about it for foreigners and the rest of the world, that you have that split between a scenario that is pretty optimistic, a scenario that could go pretty well, and one that is fairly pessimistic and grim. there's not a lot of middle ground there. that can be confusing to explain to people. go this way, not bad. go this way, terrible.
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sort of bad, sort of terrible, in the middle. >> do you view what has happened to you any reaction in the u.s. and around the world, do you view your situation as exceptional, or do you think this is precedent for what is likely to happen to reporters in the future, not only foreign reporters, but treatment of the press within afghanistan itself? >> given the evidence, we have to view it as exceptional right now. the respect for the freedom of the press and the government has been tremendous. it is one of the real achievements of the last 13 years. they have -- i think 120 newspapers, television channels, a diversity of opinions. more important, you have government officials who are
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willing to shut down the really nasty parts of the free press. for example, when a very pashtun nationalist tv station had pashtun general on saying that only pashtuns should be here, really supremacist stuff, karzai fire the guy. the tv channel that was trying to recruit staff and advertises from one of its rivals, funded by jews, they head went over there and said "we want a competitive price but that kind of thing, cut it out." this isn't the first time we have had run-ins with the palace.
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president karzai is really good at handling the press, too. i remember a year and a half ago we did a story on this slush fund that the cia had been paying for, dropping off bags of cash at the palace for, god, it must be over a decade now. that was used to pay off parliamentarian warlords. karzai, not only did he not deny it, he had is full press conference -- i had this exchange, "if all this is for good things, why not do it on the books?" "if the state department wants to give me cash, i will take that, too." for the most part they are good
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at handling the press. but this highlighted a power struggle within the government and it is hard to come down on people you off worked with and trusted for years. some of the closest people to you and the country. i provided a convenient external target to direct all that anger, so they threw me out. i think the danger here is that once you kind of get a sense of how weak a class of people are, you realize that we can do more of this. the safety and our ability to do our jobs depends a lot on the willingness of people in power to play along with that. but when they don't want us to do it, we don't really have a lot of options.
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even if we wanted to fight to defend ourselves, there are not that many of us -- a few dozen at most. if we put up a fight we will last about 10 minutes. some of my colleagues are not in great shape. that is the danger here, that the government, whoever takes power next, will be nice for a while. it is an easy gimme, it makes them look democratic. but when they start getting stories about things they have done wrong and things that people in government are doing wrong, they have seen how easy it is just to get rid of somebody, and for the foreign press, it always struck me as odd that you would want to keep me there to question the because then it is a story every day. throw me out, you get a few days of bad press. they have seen a now and it is a real risk of going forward. i think dr. ghani and dr. abdullah are committed to the idea of a free press. >> [indiscernible] maybe this is a completely naïve question, but if you found out you were being expelled by the news media, why didn't you just ignore them?
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>> we were absolutely going to ignore them. we were thinking about it. we had a long debate about that the whole night. first we didn't know, so what do we do? i will start i will start packing in case. we were supposed to interview the president on friday. this is the first time we have interviewed him in years. he finally said ok. that obviously got canceled. this poor senior editor was getting on a plane, actually coming from d.c., when this whole thing broke. by the time she landed, i was being thrown out of the country, and when she got to kabul, they canceled the interview on her, so it was really a waste for her. we sat there debating what do we do. we were having dinner with ambassadors and officials and we were trying to organize this dinner party and possibly being
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thrown out of the country, what are they going to do, will they arrest you, and in the middle of the dinner party, pickup trucks full of police show up with civilian officials at the door. i run into the house to try to stay in case they were there to arrest me. my colleagues go outside and they give us this expulsion order -- they couldn't even spell my name right. i don't read pashto, but i'm told it is filled with grammatical mistakes in that language, too. this is from the attorney general's office. there's nothing awful about this. maybe we should just ignore it. why don't we stay and see what happens? one of the good things about this story is we have good sources in government and we also had senior western officials have dinner with us there, who advised us that if
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you do stay, our understanding is that they're going to throw you in jail and they will try you for sedition -- there are a bunch of national security laws they can try you under. even how casually the government and attorney general had broken their own laws, w thought it was best not to risk to go to trial when we are dealing with an administration that at this point did not seem to respect its own laws, and that it was best to fight it from the outside. >> retired from georgetown university. i want to know, over your years of reporting on afghanistan, was there a point when it was more hopeful, more "progressive," than it has been moving downward?
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>> absolutely, especially in 2002. the taliban were mostly being wrapped up and pushed out and it was incredibly helpful. there was a time when the sight of an american bomber overhead was a good thing. they were chasing away to people who are making your life miserable. that went on for a while. even as late as 2008, 2009, people were pretty optimistic. even now, as another member of the audience pointed out, there is still a tremendous amount of optimism kind of built up there. people who want something better and think that the possibility of something better could happen. but on top of that, from 2009 onwards, as the surge came in, you had in some parts of the country tremendous spikes in
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violence brought on by fighting, basically. when before, the taliban were in control, it was not much violence because there was uncontested control. you had this tremendous rise of violence and casualties. on top of which, another part of the surge was to clean up government. one of the byproducts of cleaning up the government was you start looking into all the dysfunction and corruption in the government and people like me start writing out more about it, because we did not have the tools to investigate the government, but when the drug enforcement agency is training the afghan government on wiretaps, we find the details on things we did not necessarily know. that created a perception among long a lot of afghans, too, that things aren't very good. they didn't know the details, and now they had the details. you have gotten to this point where -- i don't want to -- a
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schizophrenic approach, but you have people with 2 minds where people are hopeful for the future and they think things can happen and it is a moderate country and people are free to do as they please as long as you don't inflict it on others. but at the same time, the country where people look around and see a lot of violence, where everybody has been touched by this war, where jobs are drying up, there was a massive economic -- essentially 13 years of massive stimulus spending going away. there's a lot of apprehension for the future because of that. on top of that, this goes back to the question also of young people and the forward thinking, that you have had this great edifice of people pushing for rights of women and minority groups and personal civil rights in the last 13 years. now, the edifice that supported that, the western rights community, is being pulled back,
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simply because of the west pullback, people get pulled back. there is a critical mass of afghans to sustain this push? i don't know. because you have the old guard inside the government pushing that, that maybe some of these rights aren't that great, maybe we can push back. are women going to be able to do what they've done in big cities, go to work, do things? you go to northern afghanistan or western afghanistan, women have jobs, they are getting ice cream, families are out at night, totally fine. it seems like a city in central asia. go to kandahar, you barely see women on the streets, and if there are they are in burqas. a lot of the optimism depends on where you are in afghanistan at any given time.
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>> [indiscernible] i wanted to ask you, both candidates, do you think they are going to affect the final results, the possibility of a kind of coup d'état? also, what is next for you? if you could come back to afghanistan to report, or what they have told you? >> i don't know if they would want to accept a final result that doesn't have them winning. throughout this process, western and afghan officials involved say that when the candidates talk about legitimate outcomes, they seem to mean winning, that each side seems to think that the only legitimate outcome is their victory. that is a dangerous place to be in, and i am not quite sure -- the abdullah guys have made clear they don't believe the audit is at all valid.
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they're not coming back into it. if they don't win, are they willing to accept it? i don't know. the ghani camp has had the luxury of being ahead, of being the presumed winner for so long, that they have not had to state anything loudly, but you get the impression that if something were to be reversed, they would see this as the international community robbing them of the election. both sides see it that way. no matter what happens, the u.s. is going to be blamed for this. a lot of the u.n. people admit that part of their job is to take shots. given the level of international commitment that will be there for a while, it is not a great thing when everybody is saying the foreigners screwed this up. the foreigners have not helped, but everybody has created problems there. it is not a unique one set of factors that has messed things up.
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as for me, we are hoping that the candidates are being straightforward. we believe they were when they said they would let me back in. we will certainly go back there and see what happens. i had a colleague who was thrown out of pakistan last year, and i was chased out of there a few years ago when i was at the "journal," less officially. one thing that makes it hard there is the level of mistrust and conspiracy theory among the pakistan public that when the news media or government officials call you a spy, it can be harder to recover from that and work safely in pakistan again. in afghanistan, that has not been the case. i think they call this evil -- the evil "new york times," they called me a spy in gauged in espionage. the reaction as far as we can tell has mostly been scorn. it is like on social media, it is split between crazies on either side. that is probably a good sign. i will probably work there safely again.
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look, i would love to go back. after six years there, to be missing this kind of final event drives you nuts. but we will see what happens. i will take the candidates at their word now. >> any regrets about the articles? >> no, not at all, not one bit. it is a bit of a bummer to be thrown out of the country for a story that ran on page a7, but it happens. >> matthew, we are very grateful for you taking the time. you could well be resting at home with your family, but you chose to come down here. we're very appreciative. we have a tradition where we present to honor guests, distinguished guests, the traditional national press club mug. i believe president karzai spoke here years ago and i think that if you go into his office, maybe there is one there. but if not, yo


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