President-Elect Biden's Policy Challenges in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India |

President-Elect Biden's Policy Challenges in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India

Watch our show Mujahid talks with Imam Malik Mujahid in conversation with Michael Kugelman

Interview Date: 11 AM Central Time Tuesday Nov 11, 2020
Guest: Michael Kugelman - Deputy Director Asia Program and Senior Associate South Asia at Wilson Center Specialist on Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan and their relations with the United States
Host: Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid -- President of Sound Vision and Justice for All.
Like, Share, and Subscribe to our YouTube channel:
Muslim Network is the only channel through which America can discover its Muslim neighbors. Muslim Network airs on Galaxy 19 Satellite covering USA, Canada and Mexico. It also streams on Amazon FireTV, Apple TV, and Roku.  
© Sound Vision Foundation
Views expressed are those of hosts and guests, not those of Sound Vision Foundation.
Watch Us 24/7 on Link Below MuslimNetwork.TV

Unoffical Transcript

Abdul Malik Mujahid  00:01

Salaam in peace. This is Imam Malik Mujahid, and you're watching Muslim network TV on galaxy 19 satellite, which covers coast to coast not to south east to west, the whole United States of America, as well as Canada and Mexico. Also on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and of course you're on iPhone, you can download an app on also or website,

Abdul Malik Mujahid  00:35

Most foreign policies of the world don't change when government changes. But US foreign policies, however, in the last four years have a different type of right. So it's a good question to ask what changes President Elect Biden is going to bring this a more predictable person has been in politics for 47 years, which I didn't know how to count, but Trump knows how to count and he told me well, America logic, but he got elected anyway. So President Elect Biden's policies, what are they going to he something he has said already, climate change the Paris climate change agreement he want to reenter, of course, reconnecting with his earlier administration with President Obama. He wants to strengthen the United Nations increase cooperation with the World Health Organization, which we are disconnected with. And maybe United Nations, some people will be hopeful that he will increase funding from the US as well, for that, and he, you know, going to be better with NATO and Western allies. And all of that work. Maybe on China will continue some of the existing policy. But we want to talk about the areas not many people in America talk about these areas didn't even pop up in any democratic presidential debate or in the presidential debate between Biden and President Trump. Questions like, what will happen to war in Afghanistan? What about the Kashmir conflict between the two nuclear powers? And what about human rights in India with Dalits and Muslims are lynched in broad daylight while policies watching or sometimes actually participating in that? To help us understand all of this is a distinguished leader from Wilson Center. The Wilson Center is chartered by the Congress in 1968. It's an official memorial to President Woodrow Wilson. And it's the nation's mean, nonpartisan policy forum for tracking global issues through independent research and open dialogue to inform action. I would like actionable ideas for the policy, community policy community. That's a good question in itself. Our guest is Michael Kugelman. Welcome to Muslim Network TV.

Michael Kugelman  03:16

Thank you. Great to be here with you.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  03:18

Michael Kugelman is the deputy director of Asia program and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center. How long have you been at Wilson Center?

Michael Kugelman  03:31

Well, it's hard to believe but it's actually been more than 15 years. I entered the Wilson Center soon after I concluded graduate school. So July 4, July 5 of this year marked 15 years.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  03:45

Okay, well, you'd like to be steady. Are you like Woodrow Wilson so much?

Michael Kugelman  03:52

It's a combination of both. I've been very fortunate to have a great experience there. And when you're having a great experience, you know why change is a good thing.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  03:58

Like that's that's a good one. That's exactly what President Trump is saying, when you're having a good experience. Why do you need a change? So tell me the, you know, is the Obama administration. His record, I know that you need to be non partisan, I'll throw and now Biden administration is, you know, Biden is President Elect. If he is indeed survives all the electoral challenge, you know, judicial challenges to his election. Do you think there have been major changes in the way us handles human human rights?

Michael Kugelman  04:44

Well, there's good reasons to think the answer is yes. I mean, as you've as you've alluded to, before, President Elect Biden made a big deal out of the issue of democracy promotion, and human rights promotion in his campaign messaging. You know, he did really focus all that much on foreign policy and his campaign, which is not unusual. I mean, US presidential elections tend to be focused on domestic issues. And certainly given everything that's going on in the United States now, particularly with the pandemic, and the economic crisis and the racial tensions, one would expect Biden to focus mostly on domestic issues. But he did say on a number of occasions that one of his big goals, one of his big foreign policy goals is to strengthen democracy and strengthen human rights at a moment when both are under significant assault around the world. But of course, the big question is, when does the real politic aspect of this take hold? I mean, he can say he could talk a good game about wanting to focus more on strengthening democracy and strengthening human rights. But if he does that, will he really be consistent? And will he be willing to criticize countries out there across the board everywhere, that are not doing a good job with democracy and human rights orally be selective and only focus his criticism on the countries that tend to be rivals of the United States? I think that's that's a big question that will, will play out.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  06:05

Well, don't you think this is consistent with the history of US foreign policy, that we are selective in promoting democracy and selective intersizing human rights and selective in condemning people for human rights?

Michael Kugelman  06:20

Oh, yeah, you're absolutely correct. I think it comes down to the idea that outrage is only selective that the US government will naturally call out human rights violations where it wants to call them out. And if you look at this most recently, it could be the plight of the Uighurs in China is very troubling to be sure. And the Trump administration has been relentless in criticizing the treatment of Uighurs because China is the key US rival now. Whereas you look at other cases, Palestinians Kashmiris, you don't really hear much criticism from us administrations. But what's a bit different now is that in recent years, the US has not really tried to play the role of the world's moral conscience. You haven't had this sense of you haven't had US government's trying to do the whole democracy promotion thing in a big way. I think you'd have to go back to the Bill Clinton administration, right after the Cold War ended when there was this big focus in US foreign policy on democracy and human rights that the Trump administration clearly had no interest in, in playing the role of moral Crusader. But Biden, in terms of his rhetoric, at least he suggests that he's going to go further than Obama did. And further than any recent US president since Bill Clinton, and perhaps even back to the days of Jimmy Carter, when morality and moral issues plays such a key role in US foreign policy. But you're absolutely right, the US position on these issues of rights and democracy tends to be very hypocritical.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  07:47

I mean, you mentioned Uighur name, I'm in now on my personal Facebook page a lot. I'm a human rights activist, a lot of Uighurs have been quite concerned because they were very happy. What President Trump has done with China, and they are quite wary of what Biden will do. Do you think, Biden, there is some chance he will continue and translate into better action towards China when it comes to not just a trade, but human rights and what is happening with the Uighur for you know, 3 million people up to 1 million to 3 million people in the concentration camp? Definitely the largest camps since the Nazis. Do you think there will be some continuity in that area?

Michael Kugelman  08:41

Yes, I do. Certainly, we could get into this, I feel that Biden may be reluctant to criticize certain countries such as India when it comes to their human rights violations. But with China, no Biden will look at China, very similarly to how Trump has looked at China, he will look see China as a competitor as a rival, and certainly as a threat, as well. And so, but Biden is not going to hold back. And in fact, in some of his some of his writings, he published an article on the Foreign Affairs journal earlier this year in which she spoke very explicitly about human rights violations in China is his desire to push China on that. So I do think that he will continue to pressure China on that issue. Now, of course, the just the fact that a US president whether it's Biden or Trump or anyone else, calling out for the sizing China for its treatment of Uighers. It's not unfortunately, I don't think that would have an effect. China is an authoritarian state. It's not going to pay any heat or any mind to external pressure, including from the United States. But no, I do see the pressure and the criticism coming from a Biden administration. I think that there's certain marginalized, persecuted oppressed Muslim communities around the world that we could be very confident that Biden will take up the Cause and one is the wiggers and other is the Rohingya community, which as you know, has suffered extensively and in Burma and beyond as well. I think he'll focus on those as well. So, so yes, I do think that, that those those people that are concerned that Biden will try to give China a pass, or that he'll ease up on the pressure on China when it comes to the wiggers. I think I think there will be some continuity there between from Trump to what divide and he will continue to be relentless in his criticism of China's terrible, terrible policies toward the weaker community.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  10:32

But when it comes to genocide, of Rohingya in Burma, and it is in sort of  stallment, but all of that started when President Obama lifted all the sanctions in Burma, trusting more in the personality and the person and the beauty and what else of  Suchi. And that's sort of a giving, giving light to, to the military there who was still in 100%, in control. So him being a part of Obama administration who carried out the policies. Do you think Biden will be more aggressive, then? Because it will, he will be essentially changing what President Obama did, because there were zero sanctions left when when he left. And actually he rewarded them with  GSP general system of preferences, while the country which took all those million plus people Bangladesh did not does not have a GSP. Burma does, and why not? I mean, President Trump didn't change anything from there because McConnell has personal friendship there. Do you think the knowledge of President Elect Biden who spoke very passionately in support of Bosnians, when Europeans were utterly silent, actually criminally silent, when the genocide was going on? He used the word genocide, he, he pushed for action. He was successful in that area, though, Senator Lieberman, and I think a congressperson McCloskey and in house were also championing that in a bigger way. Do you think that he has this similar type of passion which will push him beyond the policies of President Obama? visibly, Burma?

Michael Kugelman  12:36

Yeah, it's a great point. And you're absolutely right, that it was under Obama, Obama's watch when the US tried to reach out to a berm known and loosened up. It's its policies toward that country. You know, it's hard to say I but I am quite confident that Burma is not going to be a priority country. For Joe Biden. Certainly, I think it's clear that what the efforts that the Obama administration had made to try to encourage more liberalization and more democracy in Burma didn't work. I think that's quite clear. And I don't think that Biden's going to want to make another another goal of it. You could talk about certain countries that that that the Obama administration, including through the efforts of Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at that time, efforts to try to improve relations with with traditional enemies, whether you're talking about Burma or more, more prominently Iran, I think they are I think with Iran, you're going to see Biden trying to replicate what what his former boss, did, I imagine that Obama will try to get America to come back into the Iran nuclear deal. I think he's going to try what he to do what he can to ease tensions with Iran. But Iran is a very different kind of country, from Burma, so to speak. And I think that Biden who I imagine would have had a lot of admiration for Aung San su Chi, you know, of course, the the democracy, the hero for democracy for quite some time. She's going in a very different direction now. And I just imagined that a President Biden will conclude that there's it's just doesn't make sense. It's too risky to try to go back to Burma and to try to do more of these efforts to liberalize given what's happened with the ro hanga. I mean, Biden knows exactly the terrible things that have hadn't happened to the ro hinga over the last few years in the year since the Obama administration made those changes. So yeah, I am quite confident that we will see criticism from the from the Biden administration focused on on Burma toward the the Rohingya issue may not take it up as much as he does with the Uighur issue. But I do think that he'll he'll take it up and bottom line is they'll conclude that what what Obama the Obama administration had tried to do by reaching out extending an olive branch in an effort to promote more democracy. It didn't work, and I think he doesn't want to make the mistake a second time.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  14:54

You know, Indian media is talking about what to expect They have high expectations that whatever Trump did those policies will continue because Biden was the the one who got the nuclear deal passed through Senate. And he was in the Obama, Vice President. When, you know, defense pact came into being one of this model expectation, I was surprised to see was that the Trump a cancel their GSP general system of preferences and, and is Biden going to restore to that? Do you have any idea of Trump administration get that because Christian missionaries all over the country are crying that India is persecuting Christians, and of course, Muslims and Dalits. And that's how their GSP got canceled on the human rights basis, or it was more Obama, President Trump's consistent policies of doing a hard bargain on trade.

Michael Kugelman  15:57

But you know, it's a good question. I don't know the answer for sure. to your question. Certainly, it's true that the Trump administration hasn't really taken much of an interest in religious freedom issues, but the issue of, of Christian minorities and their persecution and countries including India, certainly that is an area where there has been a lot of noise made by the Trump administration. So we can't rule anything out. But no, I do think that the reason why the Trump administration revoked GSP privileges was for the other reason that you mentioned that it was part of this broader trade war. And Trump's consistent focus on on high tariffs and any type of trade policy that he feels imperils American jobs or the American economy. And indeed, he did sense that India had very high tariffs on certain goods, including all things Harley Davidson motorcycles, and he was very unhappy with that. Been a Yeah, no, this is true. There have been a series of negotiations for him. Pardon me?

Abdul Malik Mujahid  16:55

It seems that that motorcycle issue seems to be very personal for President Trump.

Michael Kugelman  17:00

Right, exactly. And especially, which is interesting, because so far as I know, he doesn't ride motorcycles, at least I've never seen him on one. But at any rate, there have been a long number of failed negotiations between Americans and Indians to try to work out pre existing differences over trade. And I think that they didn't they didn't go anywhere. And then I think President Trump decided to take a to take a harder line, which is a pretty big deal. And the two sides are fortunate that that move to revolt. gsps did not add further tension to a relationship that otherwise was in a pretty good place during the Trump years.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  17:38

Do you think Biden will restore the GSP for India?

Michael Kugelman  17:44

It's interesting, try. I think that people like to say that Biden is a real free, robust supporter of free trade, that he's going to try to undo a lot of these trade wars that Trump found himself in, particularly those involving us partners like India. But I don't know, you know, Trump, Biden has been very careful in his messaging to say that he's going to be very cautious with trade agreements and trade relationships. And he's not going to sign on to any new trade agreement, until he sure that there are assurances for environmental considerations and labor considerations. So that suggests that he's going to be cautious. So I think that he'll be, or his administration will be a more flexible negotiator and the Trump administration, one will be mean the Biden ministration, will not be nearly as protectionist as the Trump administration, which is probably more protectionist than any US administration for quite a few years. But I don't think I mean, for those in New Delhi that think that with a free trade or in the White House, that all of these trade, tensions are going to melt away. I think that would be a mistake to make, I think it could take time to work out these trade issues, which at the end of the day, have long been the Achilles heel of the US India relationship has been a lot of progress on the security side, a lot of arms sales and that type of thing. But you've there's there's these trade issues predate the Trump administration by a long time. It's always been an issue since the early 90s, when when the two countries started to get their relationship on on a better position.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  19:11

Senator Warren in in one of her, you know, presidential, Democratic presidential debate, mentioned, she would like to appoint a human rights advocate in each trade negotiations. I thought it was pretty applied aspect of I'm in very clear action items here added to that. I did not I don't remember if anybody else, committing to something like that, but when you mentioned what Biden administration might do in trade negotiation, you also did not mention human rights. Do you think there is any possibility of anyone picking on that idea?

Michael Kugelman  19:55

Well, I mean, as we've discussed, human rights has been put out there by the body. By the binding administered by the Biden campaign as a key priority area for foreign policy. And so, you know, I think that the Biden administration risks causing some some harm to its foreign policy agenda if it goes out there and promotes democracy and human rights is a big priority and yet is then selective. It doesn't bring it up as an issue in a country like India, even if that's a partner. So I think that there will be a lot of pressure for vote from within a Biden White House to bring out the human rights issue in the Indian context. But I do think that there will be limits to how far that criticism will go.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  20:38

Thank you so much. You're watching Muslim network TV. This is among Malik Machar, hip and we're talking with a scholar from Woodrow Wilson Center. Michael Kugelman, and we'll be right back after these messages.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  21:31

Welcome back to Muslim network. This is Imam Malik Mujahid, with Michael Kugelman from Woodrow Wilson Center. I keep saying Woodrow Wilson Center was the name change or there's some other institution with woodrow Wilson name?

Michael Kugelman  21:45

Well, I mean, our formal name is Woodrow Wilson International Center for scholars with the ideas. That's a bit of a mouthful. So the idea was to come up with a shorthand to call the Wilson Center. But yes, we are oftentimes confused with the the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, and I'm happy to be mistaken for a Princeton institution. But that's that's the one that people confuse us with the most.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  22:07

Okay, like, Yeah, I was in a thinking meeting in France, and ACLU secretary was with the Secretary of the board and her job was at, you know, Wilson Center. And we talked quite a bit about that. And she sent me some books. She has written about, I think some Palestinian and Israeli woman she herself was of Jewish heritage, and she was very proud of her work there. Tell Tell me, this little bit about Afghanistan. What are the current year's goals in Afghanistan?

Michael Kugelman  22:44

by you know, I think the US goals in Afghanistan are very simple. And they're also bipartisan in the sense that both major political parties feel the same way about them. The first goal is to support a very fragile, but nonetheless fledgling peace process in Afghanistan, which began in just the last few weeks, it started with a US negotiation with the Taliban, the lead to an agreement with the Taliban calling for the withdrawal of US forces, with all of the men to leave by the spring of next year, so long as the Taliban upholds commitments to deny space to terrorists. So that's the first goal is to support a peace process in Afghanistan with the hope of facilitating and to the war. And the second goal in Afghanistan, quite frankly, is to get out. You know, as I mentioned before, there is a deal with the Taliban that stipulates that US troops leave, you know, as I'm sure you, you would know that the US war in Afghanistan, it's barely discussed here in the United States. I mean, it comes up in the in the headline sometimes. But it's very, it's barely discussed. It's very unpopular here in the US, and Biden certainly will want to get out Trump and wanted to get out. But the challenge will be how to pursue that goal in a way that it doesn't make people think too much about the very ugly us withdrawal from Vietnam, the idea is to to develop some type of withdrawal plan, which US forces can withdraw gradually, and peacefully and preferably with violence not taking place on the ground, as those US troops withdraw, because a lot of critics think that the US simply got to deal with the Taliban that not to surrender, it basically stipulates that US troops are going to get out at a certain time, even though there's no guarantee that the world will end when they do.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  24:31

So. So you mentioned two goals. How would Trump President Trump see those two goals is the second goal of getting out of it is will be his top priority, because he promised we will get out by Christmas and there are about what 4500 people left. Do you think he will see that as a priority goal than the first goal which is stated?

Michael Kugelman  24:58

Well, I mean, I think that Trump and by And see eye to eye in the sense that they both want to withdraw. But I do think that the difference lies in the pace and the scope of this withdrawal. And indeed, President Trump, you know, has really wanted to get out. And you know, he had said that when he first became president and announced his Afghanistan strategy, he called for US troops to stay in Afghanistan, he actually even increase the number of US troops by a modest number. And when he did that, when he announced that strategy, he said that he went against his own instincts to stay. So he clearly is wanting to get out. Now, of course, when he announced by tweet that, you know, he wanted, he basically wanted to bring all US troops home by Christmas, that was really a political message, not a declaration of policy, he was trying to get support from his rank and file who don't support the idea of extending military presences around the world. It would be wholly unrealistic, if not impossible, logistically, to remove a large number of US troops from Afghanistan within just a few weeks that simply could not happen. Like

Abdul Malik Mujahid  25:54

up in 4500 people divided by a jumbo

Michael Kugelman  26:00

likes, right? Well, no, this is true means sort of taking it as an isolated case, indeed, you can move 4500 people somewhere where you've got equipment material, you know, large weaponry, to work out how to remove that how, what paths to take to get that material out. So it would it would simply be unrealistic. You know, there are many, including myself that think that a President Trump if push comes to shove, and if had he been reelected, he probably would have been convinced by his advisors that it doesn't make sense to take all troops out that there's a need to try to keep some troops in the country as leverage visa v. The Taliban basically by saying, Well, look, we're not going to take all of our troops out of the country until you've made a major a more of a commitment to reducing the violence that you were waging against the Afghan security forces and Afghan civilians, I do think that Trump would have been willing to accept this idea of a small contingent, mostly counterterrorism focused. And that's exactly what what Biden wants, he wants to bring troops out as well. But he has long called for this idea of counterterrorism light presence, meaning a force of 2000 or so maybe even less for troops in Afghanistan, they are only to provide this counterterrorism assistance to the Afghan security forces if desired. Now, of course, that could present a dilemma, and that the Taliban has insisted per the agreement is signed with the US and every single us troop must be out of the country by next spring. And it would not agree to this idea of a small but nonetheless residual presence of US troops in the country.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  27:39

And onto the issue of, you know, Taliban were call a terrorist and all that before, I mean, we were supporting them, then they became enemies, then now we have a negotiation. So what terrorist could we applied to anybody if there are 2000 people, and again, you're going after terrorists. And we are not the smartest of the drone attackers in the world are we, and we droned wedding parties through drone attacks and things like that. So differentiation between a gentleman with "shalwar kamiez" Afghan dress, you know, terrorists will dress that way, and so is the different factions of Afghanistan. And sitting in somewhere in Wisconsin, operating a video machine to kill people. And fighting terrorism is going to create the type of environment in which more terrorists will prevail. So the question will come then people will start attacking those 2000 US troops that hey, you know, these are the people who are killing us. So war and terrorism, don't you think it is going to be a very difficult type of decisions in terms of policy, and the war technology?

Michael Kugelman  28:58

They make a great point. And and there's so many reasons why the US war effort has gone wrong over the years. And I would argue that sort of reflecting your own point. One of the reasons is that the US has simply never had a clear strategy and a sound plan for for Afghanistan has never really appropriately defined why it's there. Why it's fighting. It didn't do that. Initially, when US troops first entered Afghanistan in October 2001, there were two clear cut goals. One was to eliminate the al Qaeda sanctuaries used to help plot the 911 attacks and to to remove the alkaitis Taliban hosts from power when the Taliban refuse to give up but al Qaeda leaders but then after those two goals were achieved fairly early on in the war, you had this extended mission creep where the Bush administration and Obama didn't weren't really able to define why exactly US troops were still in the country and still dying in the country with no clear plan. But to your question about terrorism. It's a good point and the US government has never thought of the Taliban as terrorists. I mean, it'd be weird has never designated the Afghan Taliban as a as a terrorist organization. But when you hear this focus on counterterrorism, the focus is really directed toward the ISIS terror group Dinesh, which, you know, as you know, had had for quite some time, been doing horrible things in Syria in Iraq and beyond the five or six years ago, it It established a faction, an affiliate in Afghanistan. And it's done some pretty horrible things. It's staged a number of attacks, it's been able to carve out a bastion and Nam gohar province in eastern Afghanistan. It's not as potent as the Taliban is, but it is there, and it does pose a threat. And I think that for, for us policymakers, whether you're talking about those, and Obama and Biden administration or Trump administration, they would really worry about that ISIS threat. And because this is a threat

Abdul Malik Mujahid  30:54

right now, according to recent news items, that United States is providing air support to Taliban action against the ISIS presence in Afghanistan. So so so o it seems that we not only had agreement with Taliban of some sort, but also cooperation infield against a common enemy. You know, so what is the state of relationship with Taliban at this moment?

Michael Kugelman  31:30

Well, this is where things get really weird with this war, that the US is willing to look at the Taliban potentially, as a counterterrorism partner, because it's true that the Taliban like the United States opposes the Islamic terror group. And it is true that the Taliban has actually been it's fighting as war against the Afghan security forces, but the Taliban is also battling against ISIS. Why would that happen? Well, I mean, ISIS is a terror group, as opposed as a rival of al Qaeda and Taliban, the Taliban has long been closely aligned with al Qaeda. So the Taliban would oppose any terror group that is not aligned with al Qaeda, which is why it's going after ISIS. But in terms of the relationship between the US and the Taliban, you know, I had been joking on a number of occasions in recent weeks that at times, it appears that the US government has a better relationship with a towel bond than it does with the Afghan government, right? That's because the US and the Taliban negotiated and written a successful negotiation or leading to an agreement in which the Afghan government was not involved in the negotiation at all. The US has been very frustrated at what it perceives to be obstructionism from the Afghan government toward launching and sustaining the the current peace process, whereas the Taliban has the US has actually praise Taliban for being a responsible peace partner, which sounds a little weird. And I think the Biden administration wouldn't get into that that type of rhetoric.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  32:54

But why does it sound weird to you? Because according to a whole lot of scholarship out there, US was involved in creation of Taliban with support from Pakistan. If that is true, then we came in conflict with them. And now we are allies. So maybe some of the old guard who may not have died or their children are in good contact with the United States. What's the possibility of that?

Michael Kugelman  33:23

You know, absolutely. And indeed, you're right. I mean, the US along with the Pakistanis, and the Saudis, and some others work with, with Mujahideen fighters to target the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. And of course, those fighters later morphed evolved into the Taliban. So yeah, absolutely. The US didn't used to, to work closely with the with what became the Taliban. But when I say that it's sort of weird, and, you know, not very good optics, when you have senior US officials praising the Taliban is that when you're doing that, but and when you're not doing that with the Afghan government when you're being critical or something like that, it does create the impression that you're siding with the Taliban over a government that may be very troubled and corrupt and so on, but is a democratically elected government, whereas the Taliban, of course, is has done horrible things. So I think that the the optics of that are not very good at all. But again, it goes to your point that the US has had a very complex relationship with the Taliban and it's precursors, certainly for quite some time.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  34:25

How did they remove those Taliban who were arrested? After Taliban's defeat and the US invasion were brought into Guantanamo Bay, or some of those Afghans and their partners is still Guantanamo Bay ?

Michael Kugelman  34:41

Yeah, I mean, I don't know the the exact identities of all of those that are still at Guantanamo Bay, but certainly there have been there have been Afghans there and I believe there have been some cases of Taliban fighters that had been in Guantanamo Bay that have been released, including those involved in a SWAT for the US POW Bowe Bergdahl. And I believe that some of those Taliban fighters have actually returned to the battlefield and in fighting against they should not have been doing for the Lehman's. But I don't know, the exact number if there are still Afghans Afghan nationals that are in Guantanamo Bay. But this is a problem. there's so little transparency when it comes to that place that who knows what's really going on. But I'm certainly not inclined to think that there are good things happening at that facility right now

Abdul Malik Mujahid  35:26

is through transparency when it comes to the actual Deal, US has with Taliban. I heard of some provision being referenced in different media reports that Taliban, according to the peace deal, are allowed to continue their attacks against the Afghan government. Is there a provision?

Michael Kugelman  35:51

Well, you're right. No, there's not transparency. All we have all that has been come into the public domain from that us Taliban negotiation, a deal is a three page document that lays out certain things. But there's plenty that does not appear in that three page document that us official suggests is still the case. I mean, what is that the publicly released documents. It does not oblige the Taliban to do anything in terms of reducing violence or anything like that. All it obliges the Taliban to do is to deny space to terror groups that pose threats to the US and its allies. And yet, you've had US officials, giving statements and making speeches in which they say that the this agreement with the Taliban obliges the Taliban to reduce violence and not stage attacks here and there. So there's a lot of inconsistency. And there also, there have been these reports of so called secret annexes. This idea that there are parts of the agreement that were never released to the public, and that contain additional provisions. And I understand that some members of Congress on certain committees have been given access to these secret annexes and have read them. The Republicans that have read these have not said much. But a few of the democrats that have read them have said that, oh, there's nothing really meaningful in the secret annexes. But bottom line is no one really knows what's going on here. No one really knows what features are included in this agreement beyond what we have in this sweet page publicly released document.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  37:21

how critical has been Pakistan role in in the US negotiation with the Taliban?

Michael Kugelman  37:29

Well, I mean, initially, it played an instrumental role. President Trump actually directly contacted Imran Khan and president of pardon me, the Prime Minister of Pakistan to request Pakistan's assistance in helping bring Taliban negotiators to the table to talk to the United States. And as I understand it, Pakistan complied on all levels. And what's particularly notable is that there has been a there's a senior Afghan Taliban figure we've been in prison in Pakistan for about a decade. His name was Mullah, Baradar, he lives the Pakistanis released him from prison. And right after that, he traveled to Doha, where he became a top negotiator in talks with the United States. So I think that shows that that Pakistan was helpful. But I would argue that while Pakistan was helpful in that regard, we shouldn't overstate that assistance, just because the Taliban itself have long been open to direct talks with the United States. So for Pakistan to just try to get the Taliban to go there sort of like pushing open a door that's already halfway open, certainly releasing Lula Baradar from prison was a big deal. But that

Abdul Malik Mujahid  38:36

he will that will then connect to the point that have been, you know, the Taliban were willing to let bin laden you know, disconnect with been Bin Laden. At the eve of the US invasion. Is there a truth to that information, which has been repeated by many people?

Michael Kugelman  38:59

Well, I mean, there's still a lot that it's not clear. And I know that US officials have long leaned on Pakistan to try to pressure the Taliban to do certain things that would better things the US wants them to do, including giving up in London. And that didn't work. And I think more recently, the US has pressured Pakistan to push the Taliban to agree to reduce violence or even to agree to a ceasefire. And none of that has worked. And that's not a surprise because you know, the Taliban, it's got the upper hand, it's involved in negotiations at the same time that it's fighting a war that it thinks is winning. So it's happy to just give up on toxic it doesn't like really going. And so that puts Pakistan in a difficult spot where it has to try to push the Taliban to do something that's unlikely to do. And if Pakistan doesn't succeed in that regard, probably the US will blame Pakistan for things not going well at the negotiating table. But that's a whole separate issue that gets to the rather tricky and oftentimes dysfunctional relationship between the US and Pakistan.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  39:57

You're watching Muslim network TV. This is Mr. Mulligan, enjoy talking with Woodrow Wilson scholar Michael Kugelman and we'll be right back after these messages.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  40:31

Welcome back to Muslim network TV. This is Imam Malik Mujahid and I'm talking with Woodrow Wilson Center. But now, President Trump has publicly stated more than once that he is willing to mediate between India and Pakistan to nuclear powers and Kashmir issue. He has also said that India did not like the idea which India in terms of dialogue and conversation with Pakistan, it seems to continuously abstain or deny. Now, Biden has issued several a statement about India's what India is doing in Kashmir. Do you think President Elect Biden will have any difference result? Or any other effort? Do you think he will invest any of his capital? Being a long term friend of India to have some settlement and relationship with Pakistan on Kashmir issue?

Michael Kugelman  41:34

I know that the that Pakistan is hoping the answer to your question is yes. I don't think that we should get our hopes up so to speak, I really don't think this is an issue. Kashmir is not an issue that Biden is going to want to push. This is an issue that most US administrations don't want to touch with a 10 foot pole. And particularly in more recent years, as the US India relationships continue to grow. And as there's a bipartisan consensus that's emerged in Washington, it's important not to, to rub India the wrong way not to antagonize India. And there's no better way to antagonize India than to put yourself out there and suggest that you want to be the one that mediates the solution to a dispute for India is not even a dispute anymore at this point. And I would argue that, that Trump actually did not really go against long standing policy of not getting involved. I mean, yes, you're right. Trump did say several times, I think two or three times that he would be willing to mediate. But he Oh, he would couch that in this in this caveat that he would do it, he would mediate it, both sides ask and of course, envy will never ask. So to me, that seems like it's not really an offer of mediation if you're basically saying something that, you know, is not gonna happen. And he is not going to ask, but in terms of Biden, you know, getting back to the point we discussed earlier in our conversation about the issue of rights, I think that if Biden ministration is to invoke the issue of Kashmir, it would be in the context of rights, it would not be in the context of, of territoriality, or the Kashmir dispute itself, it would be in the context of rights, I think that we can expect, perhaps a Biden White House to bring attention to the fact that, you know, you've got what seven 8 million Kashmiri Muslims in the Kashmir valley that live in terrible conditions and are oppressed in a context that many people describe as an occupation. Biden would not describe it as an occupation. But I do think that if he were to bring up Kashmir he would be in that context of the human rights violations that take place every day. Do you think?

Abdul Malik Mujahid  43:30

Do you think there is any chance that Kashmiris themselves will have a voice in this matter, or it will be just India dictating the opinions they have?

Michael Kugelman  43:40

I think you've hit on such an important point. And this is something that I try to bring home so much, I feel that Kashmiri views are so often undermined, if not silenced, and hijacked by these dominant narratives that are put out there by not just India, but also by Pakistan. Of course, as you know, it's very difficult for Kashmiri voices to get out there just because of the the the frequent communication bans and the internet bans and all of that those worries intensified after the revocation of Article 370. So Kashmiris have to depend on those in the diaspora, those that live abroad in Europe in the US, but that's not the same thing as hearing from cashmere is on the ground. So unfortunately, the answer to your question is no, I don't think we're going to hear Kashmiri voices in the way that we would like it's important to hear voices from Kashmir as to what do they think their region should look like? What do they think their relationship with India should be? Do they want independence? Do they want to join Pakistan? What do they think Pakistan's role should be? We don't have Kashmiris answering these questions and even when they're given an opportunity to address those questions, I think many of them would be very fearful that India would retaliate against them and their families if they were to say things India would not want to hear.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  44:48

It India's issues of human rights are not limited to the occupation of Kashmir. It an India and Pakistan both Have escapements but not voices of Kashmiris which are clearly there. I agree with you there. But India's issue of human rights are broader and broad daylight. lynching of Dalit who are a former untouchables takes place and swathes of Muslims attacks on places of worship takes place. But when the US International Commission on religious freedom  tries to go there, they are not given a visa even to visit India. When US senator wants to go to Kashmir he is not allowed to enter Kashmir. Now, Amnesty International How come? Amnesty International is biting India, what is happening in India when it comes to human rights?

Michael Kugelman  45:51

I think we're seeing the manifestations of a government that reflects very strong authoritarian tendencies. I think that's quite clear. And some of the issues that you mentioned, I mean, the the lynchings and the communal tensions and the communal violence that, of course, has always been there, festering either below or above the surface, and you've been horrific communal riots that have taken place on a number of occasions over the years. But what you have now is a government that really subscribes to this idea of hindutva Hindu nationalism and trying to elevate the position of Hindus in both society and politics to the detriment of the very large religious minorities in India mainly beat the Muslim community for sure. And, you know, I think the concern is that India is starting to undercut the secular pluralistic traditions that are meant to be protected by its by its constitution. This and this is certainly very concerning. And I think what's really worrisome is the rhetoric coming from very senior Indian leaders, not necessarily Modi himself, but someone like Ahmed Shah is interior minister who's probably the second most powerful political figure in India. They're saying the same things like referring to, to Muslim migrants as termites. And if you have the chief minister of one of the biggest states in India, saying that he hopes that Muslims drown in the rivers. I mean, this is just incredibly nasty over hate speech. It doesn't get any worse than that. And I fear that that has emboldened hardliners to look for Muslims that attack them, that type of thing. Very, very dangerous, very, very dangerous.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  47:30

So yeah, I mean, it is known I mean, first time probably in American media, some of those news is coming out as well. And but a prestigious institution in Washington, DC genocide watch, has issued two genocide alerts on India on Asam as well as Kashmir. But do you think human rights in India is going to be one of those countries where Biden administration is going to ignore human rights and focus on relationship with India in terms of selling more arms, and ammunition and nuclear cooperation, and maybe debate a little bit on the trade is going to be one of those untouchable country when it comes to human rights in India?

Michael Kugelman  48:20

So first, I just to clarify one of my points, I would not argue that human rights violations in India are going to get to the point of the situation where we have to worry about genocide, you're talking about huge numbers of people that would have to be impacted huge numbers of people that die. I don't think we're at that point. Certainly not to understates the the the seriousness of human rights violations to your question. You know, as I said earlier, I do think that the vitamin ministration will be much more willing to call out India for its human rights violations, not just in Kashmir, but in terms of, you know, new laws and policies that discriminate against minorities against religious minorities. I think you will get criticism criticism from the Biden White House, but there won't be all that much of it and when you have it I think that the tone when it's expressed publicly, will be relatively muted and I think that Biden would look as a guide to what his former boss did five years ago brock obama when he made a trip to New Delhi as president he made a speech I'm sure you remember this, he made a speech in New Delhi, in which he very gently called out India for its religious freedom record and even though he was very gentle, it was very subtle, very restrained, even that got a lot of people in New Delhi angry which shows the the degree of sensitivity here so Biden won't won't hold back but he's also not going to go all out either with his with his criticism just because, you know, it's it's a very simple matter. This is this is cold, hard interests within the day here, if for any US government, whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats will see India as a key player that is going to work with us to try to counterbalance that. What's perceived as a rising threat posed by China?

Abdul Malik Mujahid  50:04

So it has been a long term continuity in that policy between multiple administration. One of the things which eriks Pakistani tremendously was when President Elect Biden's boss, Obama administration has started calling Af-Pak. This simply hated and negotiation will not go forward. Do you expect that Af-Pak will be coming back?

Michael Kugelman  50:32

Yeah, good question. It may mean that formally, but certainly, you know, I'll be very honest. And I think this is a mistake that, you know, so many us administrations look at Pakistan and the relationship with Pakistan through the lens of Afghanistan. And I think that, at least initially, a Biden, White House will do that, too. Just because when it looks at its relationship with Pakistan, it'll be thinking Above all, what is Pakistan doing to try to help us Afghanistan? How can we get Pakistan to push the Taliban? If they're not being grouped together?

Abdul Malik Mujahid  51:01

So then they will keep asking another key phrase, which would Pakistanis hate "do more"

Michael Kugelman  51:08

Yes, yeah. I think that the tone will be a sharp No, of course. I mean, Trump was it was the Obama administration that was doing the do more stuff than it was not the Trump administration. And I think there are some quarters in Pakistan that actually appreciate the Trump administration for sort of letting up on that, on that pressure rhetoric. It was there for the first year of the Trump administration. But then when the US decided to work with Pakistan to get its its interested fever in Afghanistan, then the tone changed, the relationship improved, and the pressuring and the name calling and the do more ism and all that it stopped very suddenly.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  51:45

All right, so the last question, very helpful, it has been very, very interesting and learn from you. Does the US still maintained basis in Pakistan?

Michael Kugelman  51:59

Well, so far as I mean, me, as an analyst, I don't have access to classified information that could tell a different story that I'm not aware of. But indeed, the US does not use bases. So far as I know, in Pakistan, it had for quite some time, the CIA had used several bases, with the law to launch drone strikes. But But things changed in 2011, when the US Pakistan relationship was it was a big mess. And you had, as I understand it, a large number of CIA operatives who were basically forced to leave the country at that time, the US intelligence presence in Pakistan is nowhere near what it used to be some years back. But at the end of the day, who really knows what's going on, but officially, at least in the US is not using these these bases. And the drone war, of course, is also winding down is there's hardly it's very rare when we have a drone strike these days, so that the US need to use bases in Pakistan. It's not It's not what it had been. But one big question is after you hit withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, if the US wants to maintain a counterterrorism capacity in Afghanistan, and if the Taliban says that the US can no longer base troops in Afghanistan, would the US ask Pakistan to let the US use bases in Pakistan to for counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan? I imagine the answer from Pakistan would be a very quick No, but it does raise an interesting question.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  53:25

Well, thank you so much. It has been a pleasure to talk to you, Michael Kugelman, and, you know, look forward to talking to you in future as well.

Michael Kugelman  53:36

Well, thank you. I appreciate you having me and I really enjoyed the conversation.

Abdul Malik Mujahid  53:39

Oh, thank you so much. And thank you Sherdil and Dr. Abdul Waheed for producing today's show. And thank you for watching. You have been watching Muslim network TV on galaxy 19 satellite, which covers the whole United States, as well as some amazon fire tv, Apple TV, your own iPhone and Android app of Muslim network TV and our website peace Salaam


Add new comment