'There will be only semblance of elections in Afghanistan'
On March 29 four Taliban fighters attacked the Independent Election Commission HQ in Kabul, engaging in a gun battle with the security forces. The number of attacks has increased as the April 5 presidential election draws closer.
RT:With the Presidential vote coming up, is the Taliban going to run an election or a terror campaign or even both?
Eric Margolis: Well, so far as we know the Taliban is not involved in this vote, they have urged their supporters to boycott it, there probably will be attacks on the polling stations. In the view of the Taliban, the vote will be another rigged vote from which the Taliban has been purposely excluded. I think if the Taliban were included in a fair vote, it would probably win the election.
RT:Could the Taliban do enough to completely undermine the elections? And if they did where would that leave the country?
EM: No, I don’t think Taliban can completely undermine the elections, particularly in areas it doesn’t control, like in Tajik and ethnic Uzbek areas. So there will be votes, there will be the semblance of an election but the election in my view won’t mean anything because it doesn’t represent the majority of the Afghan people who are the Pashtun tribes.
RT:12 years of war haven't destroyed the Taliban, in fact it is now a major force in Afghanistan. Had the coalition pulled out sooner would it have been more successful in battling terrorism?
EM: I don’t think that the US should have ever gotten involved in a war against the Taliban. The Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. It was embarrassed by Osama Bin Laden’s presence in Afghanistan, it offered to send him to justice in a different country, it put out peace feelers, but an angry US needed a target for revenge for 9/11 and the Taliban was it. So the US waged what I call a pointless war against the Taliban who, by belief, are more inclined towards the Americans than some of the other Afghan movements. Anyway, the Taliban is there, it will not be defeated, it has clearly come out of this war and it has a lot to be proud of.
RT:Has America's drone program driven people into the arms of the Taliban?
EM: Definitely. I believe entirely that the drone attacks were counter-productive. President Karzai who was installed by the US in Afghanistan himself said that the only thing the US has achieved in Afghanistan is to kill civilians. That’s perhaps an exaggeration but the high numbers of deaths of Afghan civilians and civilians in Pakistan, in Pashtun tribal areas, has infuriated people and every person killed generated eight new enemies.
RT:The war in Afghanistan cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives. Yet now the US wants indirect talks with the movement - what has actually been achieved?
EM: Unfortunately nothing. The US should have begun speaking to the Taliban from day one, as I said it shouldn’t have been involved fighting them anyway. Both sides in this war are reluctant to talk to each other. The extreme elements both in the Republican Party who will scream at President Obama if he dares talk to the Taliban, and the Taliban will say “You betrayed the cause by talking to the Americans”. Nevertheless, I’m sure some talks are going on in the background by the intelligence agencies.
It is a bitter defeat. The US has spent one trillion dollars on this, one of the longest war in American history. Up to 4,000 Americans have died, thousands of them have been wounded, tens of thousands of Afghans have died, and the US cannot point to anything that it has achieved from this war. I’ve been writing for years the best thing the US can do is declare victory and leave. A month after that no one would ever remember the Taliban just like nobody in the US today remembers anything about Vietnam.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.