Guests: Sgt. Maj. Michael T. Hall, Capt. John Thomas, Sgt. Sean Robinson,
Lt. Drew Mallon, Capt. Tadd Lyman, Saad Mohseni
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thanks very much.
And good morning from Camp Phoenix, which is fast becoming THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW‘s home away from home in Kabul, Afghanistan.
There‘s biscuits and gravy at the dining facility, there are “see something, say something” signs for the soldiers to watch out for extremists in their midst. You see uniforms from all over the world.
And among the Americans here, there is a possible distinction, you can see it on their faces before they tell you, between who‘s on their way home after their year here and who‘s just arriving, digging in for another year ahead in America‘s longest war ever.
There are some big news here about the war. We are fortunate to have NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, here to update us on what‘s going on.
Richard, thanks very much for your time.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It‘s a pleasure.
MADDOW: We have two incidents essentially to talk about. Let‘s talk about the friendly fire first.
ENGEL: There was a friendly fire incident. It took place in central Afghanistan, around 4:00 in the morning. And a group of Afghan soldiers were setting an ambush for the Taliban. And a NATO foot patrol was nearby, saw the Afghan soldiers, wasn‘t in clear communication with them, mistook them for insurgents—they saw Afghan men with guns—and called in an air strike. A helicopter came in, fired a rocket, killed these five Afghan soldiers.
Not a good start for General Petraeus. He had to apologize to the Afghan government for this.
MADDOW: And, obviously, I mean, unity of effort is the catch word here in terms of Afghan forces being in—not only in partnership with NATO forces and Americans forces, but they‘re supposed to all be working in the same direction and supposed to have sort of combined communication.
ENGEL: This is not the first time this had happened. And I‘m not trying to blame the victim. I‘ve been with American units. And they do often struggle to communicate sometimes with Afghan army—sometimes the Afghan army will just launch its own offensive, won‘t tell anyone.
And we were told that what happened this time is, it was dark and there was poor communication between the Americans and the—between the NATO forces and the Afghan troops.
MADDOW: Let‘s talk about the other development here. It‘s about British forces—British forces making a decision to withdraw some of their combat troops from a pretty critical region.
ENGEL: This is a major story, not just for the U.K., and it‘s getting a lot of attention in London, but also for the U.S. After taking a real pounding in one area in Helmand province, British troops have announced and the British government announced that they are leaving this area, an area called Sangin, where the Brits have lost 100 of their finest soldiers there and marines since 2001 -- 1/3 of all British deaths have happened just in Sangin. So, it has a great symbolic resonance for British troops.
They are leaving there and American troops are taking over. The handover is already beginning now. It‘s supposed to be complete by the fall. It‘s symbolic because a lot of people in the U.K. are saying that the British troops are retreating. The British government is saying, no, this is just a normal rotation.
But for the U.S., it means they are getting deeper involved in a very difficult guerilla area and taking more and more responsibility for war zones.
MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, this is the sort of thing that I could try to summarize these things and it would like cliff notes version, or we can actually go to you, the guy who understands these things.
ENGEL: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: And I‘m really grateful for your time. Thanks a lot, Richard. See you later.
Joining us now is Command Sergeant Major Michael T. Hall. He was recalled from retirement last year to serve here in Afghanistan. He is the senior noncommissioned officer in the United States military here in Afghanistan.
Command Sergeant Major Michael Hall, thank you very much for your time. It‘s a real honor to have you here.
COMMAND SGT. MAJ. MICHAEL T. HALL, U.S. ARMY/NATO: It‘s good to be here.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the friendly fire incident that Richard was just talking about. I don‘t know. I‘m not a military expert. I‘m not tactical expert for any means. But it seems to me that there are a bunch of different simple things to try to prevent friendly fire incidents, everything from, you know, reflective patches and tape, GPS beacons, that sort of thing. Is—how is it that these Afghan troops weren‘t identified as friendlies?
HALL: Well, we sent an assessment team out there to try to figure find out what happened. And the systems that are in place, for whatever reason, the system didn‘t work, obviously, you know, because we killed some friendly troops. And we‘ll relook at the system and try to figure out what happened.
I don‘t think it‘s a communications problem. I think—in most cases like this, you find that the standard operation procedures probably just weren‘t followed. And that‘s my opinion. When these things like this happened, it‘s almost always that we didn‘t follow our own procedures in a lot of cases, or someone along the line didn‘t follow their procedures.
There‘s a lot of investigation to figure out what happened because obviously, it‘s very serious. Any loss of life or any injury is very, very serious. So—
MADDOW: One of the things that has been talked about a lot in the
United States is the very deliberate efforts by U.S. forces and coalition
forces to reduce Afghan civilian casualties and try to make amends when
casualties do happen. What‘s the equivalent of that when it is military
casualties on the Afghan side? Is there some you think some extra effort -
not only to investigate it, but to re-establish confidence?
HALL: Yes, absolutely, because—I mean, partnering and getting this right is all about trust, mutual trust.
HALL: And when things like this happen, then there‘s obviously going to be trust issues. Do we really trust the NATO forces or sometimes when the opposite happens? So, you really got to get down there and talk from the leadership from the very top and get all the way down to the first line supervisor leader of those Afghan soldiers, to explain what happened—and, of course, you are sorry—but to explain what happened and put procedures in place.
So, not only does it—obviously, it‘s not going to happen there again, but to make sure it doesn‘t happen anywhere else.
MADDOW: In terms of that, the other incident that we talked about, Britain deciding to take its soldiers out of part of Helmand province. As long as there is still a coalition combat mission in Helmand, and there is a significant one there, isn‘t this action going to make it that much harder for American soldiers and marines?
HALL: I don‘t think so. I think it‘s going to make it a lot easier. I mean, in a complicated place like that, I mean, there‘s a lot of assets involved. So, what this really does is it puts a regimental combat team from the Marines up north, the British in the middle, and the regional combat team from the Marines down south. And it‘s just going to make it easier for the coordination of all the assets that are going to go in there.
So, it‘s simply an organizational thing, moving the lines and making it clear. So, it should make us much more efficient and make everybody much more efficient.
MADDOW: Does that mean, in the bigger picture, as more coalition troops leave, we‘re looking at the Dutch leaving, the Canadians essentially leaving at the end of next year—do you see it the same way, that it will just simplify measures?
HALL: You know, one of the important things that is going to make us successful in Afghan is to have coalition forces. So, you don‘t want to lose any of the other nations. But does it make it simpler? In some ways it makes it simpler because you have, you know, less chain of command. And let‘s face it, there‘s a language barrier, even an English-speaking country. So, in a way, it would make it easier.
But it‘s important—you know, the Dutch have been involved in counterinsurgency for a long time. The Canadians have been involved down in Kandahar for a long, long time. There‘s a lot of tremendous amount of experience there that we‘re going to lose, but hopefully, it will be recaptured before they leave.
MADDOW: In terms ahead about what happens long-term to the effort here—obviously, it‘s already been long-term.
MADDOW: Ten-year anniversary of this war. Is it possible—what I saw down in Kandahar was a lot of policing, building up policing, standing up Afghan institutions, but also preparation for what‘s expected to be a real kinetic combat operations, both Afghan forces but also American soldiers out there, you know, orchard to orchard, field to field, house to house in those rural regions outside Kandahar City. Is it possible that American forces, coalition forces could continue doing some of the standing up of the national army, standing up of the police, standing up for the institutions and not do the combat missions? Are those intrinsically related or could we be here in a noncombat function sometime more than a year from now?
HALL: Oh, I think we will be. I mean, it‘s going to take a long time for the Afghan national security force to be able to completely stand on their own. So, just like Korea or World War II or any place that we have been involved—I mean, our commitment and our resolve to be here as long as the Afghan security force and Afghan nation needs us, I think that‘s been clear by the NATO countries and by President Obama that we‘ll be here as long as we need to to support them.
I mean, Afghan—I‘ve been out of this country, you know, every year since we‘ve been here—and the Afghan soldiers are brave soldiers. And they don‘t have some of the enablers. We haven‘t developed leadership as quickly as we wished.
And—but what‘s different, I think, is the confidence in the Afghan soldiers is that a peak that I‘ve never seen before. I mean, I can give you many examples where we were leaving—one example we were leaving a fire base and we took fire. And actually, across the street, we took fire. We fired some yellow smoke to see where the enemy was. And I don‘t know where, here comes this Afghan national army company and they are in armored Humvees, just pulled up out of nowhere, seeing yellow smoke.
And we‘re on the radio saying, who is with these guys? You know, who‘s coordinating with them? And they just took off, moved to the sound of the guns and attacked the enemy. And, of course, it was well-coordinated because—in this case, all our signals worked.
HALL: And even though we didn‘t have physical coordination with them, we didn‘t have anybody with them, but they just took off and moved to the sound of the guns because they knew their coalition partners needed help.
MADDOW: Command Sergeant Major Michael T. Hall, you are a real senior officer here and it‘s a real honor to have this much time with you. Thanks very much for your time.
HALL: Thank you.
MADDOW: We really appreciate it. Thank you for your service.
HALL: Thank you.
MADDOW: About an hour south of here by air is the province and city of Kandahar. When President Obama put the weirdest bookend ever on the Nobel Peace Prize by sending 30,000 more U.S. troops into this war, he sent the bulk of those troops to the south. I embedded at Kandahar with some of our soldiers there from the 82nd Airborne.
What they spend their days doing, what their job is will blow your mind. Even if you don‘t think you care about the war for war‘s sake, wait until you see what these Americans are doing here, in the hottest part of it.
We‘re live from Afghanistan. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Part of our self-declared little cable news mission here in Afghanistan is to figure out what we can about things are like for the Americans who are serving here. You and me, civilians, because these Americans are here at the direction of our civilian politicians, we are incurring a debt—a life-long debt—to the American serving in uniform here to honor them and assume some public responsibility for them for the rest of their lives as veterans.
Part of that responsibility, part of respecting that service is understanding what exactly it is that we are asking them to do here, not just how much danger we‘re putting them in, but why we‘re doing it?
MADDOW: This is Sergeant Sean Robinson. He‘s here at Checkpoint 7-10. Checkpoint 7-10 is between the Arghandab district and Kandahar City. Is that right?
SGT. SEAN ROBINSON, U.S. ARMY: That‘s right.
MADDOW: How far does the Arghandab district start from here?
ROBINSON: Right, you can see it from here. That bridge right there, where that bus is now.
MADDOW: I see. So, right there.
ROBINSON: That‘s the Arghandab.
MADDOW: Arghandab is famous in the States right now because people know how much fighting is going on there.
MADDOW: The role of this checkpoint is to stop the trouble in the Arghandab from also becoming the trouble in Kandahar City?
MADDOW: We‘re at Checkpoint 74, which is on the southwest edge of Kandahar City. The idea of the checkpoint is that there will be 13 of them ringing the city, to essentially disrupt the freedom of movement of insurgents who may be operating between Kandahar City and outlying areas.
We are here with the company commander who is Captain John Thomas. Captain Thomas oversees or leads four platoons, one of which is based here, 19-man U.S. platoon that‘s serving alongside 30 ANCOP, which is the civil order police, sort of an elite part of the Afghan national police force.
Captain Thomas, thanks a lot of your time. I really appreciate it.
CAPT. JOHN THOMAS, U.S. ARMY: Absolutely.
MADDOW: In terms of what we are overlooking, this pretty nice paved road and this is heading out of Kandahar City, where does this go?
THOMAS: This is towards Panjuay.
MADDOW: OK. Panjuay and—
THOMAS: And Zhari.
MADDOW: And Zhari, are two regions where there‘s been a lot of fighting, a lot of insurgent activity.
So, what‘s the—what‘s the mission of this checkpoint and the other three checkpoints that you lead?
THOMAS: So, it‘s in my area of operations here in sub-district 7. Each of these checkpoints is strategically placed on one of the main routes in and out of the city with the purpose of interdicting or disrupting the freedom of movement, as you said, of the insurgents either coming into Kandahar City or going out. So, that way, we can kind of be that outer gate, so that if they were to come in, they‘ve got to come through us first to allow that outer cordon of protection.
And that way, the inner city police, the M.P., the ANA, the (INAUDIBLE) folks, can focus more on developing and establishing their inner security.
So, it‘s more of an augmentation force initially.
MADDOW: In terms of this checkpoint, earlier today, we were at a police substation. Police substation has a different mission, which is that they‘re static, they‘re there, they are there to be a resource for the community and also to be security.
MADDOW: You are here to stop traffic, check it, before you allow it to go through. What are you looking for? How are you—how do you know if a person you are stopping is trouble?
THOMAS: You never know. But there are indicators. What you try to look for is, you know, multiple military age males or a vehicle that looks like it‘s weighed down or a vehicle that‘s acting erratically, are some immediate indicators that should trigger the person to stop and then search in.
MADDOW: So, this is Lieutenant Drew Malon who is from Richmond, Virginia. And Lieutenant Malon is in charge of this specific checkpoint, in charge of the U.S. forces at this specific checkpoint. Again, this is checkpoint 74.
And as the platoon leader here, he‘s in charge of the U.S. forces, 19 men. They‘re partnered with the ANCOP, with the Afghan National Civil Order Police. There‘s a larger force of them, got 30 of them. Checkpoint 74 is just getting set up, right? It just arrived.
LT. DREW MALON, U.S. ARMY: It sure is. You should have seen it a week ago, there was nothing here. But we‘ve gotten pretty set.
MADDOW: Because this is brand-new, locals are just now experiencing what it means to have a checkpoint where there didn‘t used to be one. Have you had any reaction you can tell us about so far?
MALON: Sure. The compound that is right here to our right closest to our tower—
MADDOW: Right here, yes.
MALON: -- they were skeptical because of their culture. The tower would look over their compound and they had adolescent females in the compound.
MALON: So they had problems with it. So, if you can see, that one is lower than all the other towers to try to placate the local population.
MADDOW: I see.
MALON: So they came in, they saw how our tower didn‘t look in and it really gained us a lot of credibility instantly in this area with the people.
MADDOW: U.S. forces are supposed to start withdrawing this time next year. ANCOP is expected to lead here four to six months. Can you envision this being done by Afghans only, ANP only, and is working?
MALON: I can. And I would tell you, 10 months ago, I would have told you absolutely not. But when we first got in country working with the ANA, working with the ANP in Zabul province, to see the progression that they made is just incredible.
MADDOW: How they make it, through train?
MALON: Through training. At first, they were reluctant without our technology, without weaponry to go out. But as soon by the end of the time we left Zabul, they would go out without us and tell us about it later. They don‘t—they just needed the confidence boost to be able to go out independently. And we were able to accomplish that. So, I don‘t think it will be any different here.
MADDOW: Again, the point of a checkpoint like this is that the locals here will choose essentially to ally with the legitimate government, the legitimate forces, the Afghan police, the Afghan government after these guys are gone and actually after the elite Afghan police who are here with them are gone.
And there‘s competition for the local loyalties. This is a Taliban stronghold. A lot of fighting in Panjuay, spiritual home in Kandahar City.
When these folks leave, will the Taliban be offering more to the locals than this government and this police force stood up? That‘s the question of the successful work.
So, this is Captain Tadd Lyman. He‘s from Long Meadow, Mass., which is close to where I‘m from in western Massachusetts. He‘s been in Afghanistan for 10 months. He‘s been here in what I like to think of south central Kandahar City for three days.
Captain Lyman, first, thanks for taking time to talk to us.
CAPT. TADD LYMAN, U.S. ARMY: My pleasure.
MADDOW: In terms of—I mean, there‘s a bunch of—there‘s a bunch of local folks who have come out since we have been here, we drove up in this big convoy and walked over here to see you, and it‘s—the people feel comfortable being around these young men here, very happy to be around here, don‘t seem to be scared.
What‘s the interaction like between ANCOP, who you‘re working with, the soldiers, American soldiers, who you‘re working with, and the local folks? What are you asking of them and what has it been like?
LYMAN: It‘s been very positive. The locals—they are somewhat wary of our presence but they know that we‘re here to help support their government and help make them safer. So, some people, there are mixed reactions. Some people are a little wary. Most of the children are receptive and are willing to come up and talk to us and talk to my soldiers, and they feel safer knowing that their Afghan national police are beginning to protect them and offer an alternative to the enemies‘ security.
MADDOW: Do the—I mean, looking down here through the substation, through this checkpoint, I mean, I look at that, if I lived here, I would feel like this is a hassle.
MADDOW: I mean, yes, you are offering security but isn‘t this also sort of—do they feel put upon by this additional layer of militarized security that they never had to deal with before?
LYMAN: They are not excited about the level of construction and the noise, but once the construction is complete, and all these vehicles stop coming in and out, I believe there will be a return to normalcy. And change comes at hesitation and wariness but through time, and if we can show them the results we are hoping to show them, you know, hopefully, they‘ll grow more accustomed.
MADDOW: In terms of any resentment that is provoked by your presence, either in the short-term or long run and I hear you when you say that in the long run, you hope it will dissipate and it became as positive.
MADDOW: But in the short run while there is resentment, isn‘t that an opportunity for the insurgency to win more locals over, any resistance to you?
LYMAN: Right. There is a risk that our presence will aggravate some people and push them toward the other side. But we hope, since we‘re partnered with the Afghan national police that the people will see that it‘s not—it‘s not an American presence. We are here temporarily, but we‘re bringing the Afghan national police here permanently. And that they will provide the security.
And as soon as the people see the Afghan national police as a legitimate and professional force that‘s able to secure them, then my presence is no longer needed and I can go back to America with my family. And Americans can stop coming.
But, first, we have to give the Afghan national police the ability to secure their own area.
MADDOW: Captain Lyman, when you are back in Long Meadow, can I take you to the Student Prince and buy one of those steins of beer?
LYMAN: That sounds good.
MADDOW: Congratulations on everything you‘ve done so far.
LYMAN: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
MADDOW: I will buy him that beer at the Student Prince, too, wouldn‘t you?
We are live from Afghanistan. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We are in a max pro mine-resistant vehicle right now. A little bit of a jumpy ride heading up Highway 4 toward Kandahar airfield, toward Kandahar City, Highway 4 and Highway 1. Highway 1 is the big ring road which goes right through Kandahar. We are heading toward the intersection of Highway 4 and Highway 1.
And yesterday, we were in a RG33 mine-resistant vehicle, which is much bigger. This is tiny. It‘s just the driver, the other front seat crew member, a gunner and the two of us. And that‘s it. That‘s pretty much all you can fit in here.
The visibility is really low and as I mentioned the ride is really bumpy. This is a very—a very confining and sort of intense way to experience this ride in here, especially just seeing the contrast between the degree to which we are armored in here and the civilian vehicles which are minivans and Toyota Corollas.
But we are heading into Kandahar City to look at police substation, to talk to some of the men and women who are on the ground in this very frontline position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You can see from where we are right now, it is a bazaar right across the street from the checkpoint.
How do people who make their living selling things in this bazaar feel about the checkpoint across the street?
ROBINSON: From my interaction with them so far, they seem too like us here. We did have the gas station owner ask a few questions that he was scared, if we—if they try to blow us up, will it blow his gas station up.
ROBINSON: We tried to assure him, hey, we‘ll do our best we can not to blow your gas station up. But pretty much—
MADDOW: I would like to be a fly on the wall on that conversation. How do you translate that? We very much hope your gas station doesn‘t blow up.
ROBINSON: Yes. So, it‘s pretty much, yes. They like us being here so far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s Sergeant Sean Robinson again at Checkpoint 7-10, between Kandahar City and the Arghandab. That checkpoint is right across the street from a bazaar full of little shops. With a help of a Pashto translator, I asked the shopkeeper at that bazaar if he really does like the checkpoint being here.
Check out his answer.
MADDOW: Can you just ask him his name and thank him for his time.
MADDOW: Are you happy that the checkpoint is across the road or not happy?
TRANSLATOR: I‘m happy with the checkpoint which is over here, that you guys built it. He‘s saying I don‘t have any problems. But he‘s saying I have one problem like whenever you make the checkpoint, there‘s making a lot of traffic. Like tanks, Humvees (INAUDIBLE) keep coming there. So, because of these things, the suicide bomber and other things coming to the checkpoints, and whenever the enemy is at the checkpoint, they are hurting us, either. So we are requested that like so like anything‘s happened to you guys, it‘s hurting us either.
MADDOW: Will the checkpoint cut down on suicide bombers or will only attract them?
TRANSLATOR: The checkpoint, they can prevent the suicide bomber, but he says like sometimes, whenever they park their trucks on the road or on the side of the road, so the suicide bomber can come over there, and they can blast themselves over there.
MADDOW: Is the Taliban very strong here? What is the Taliban here like?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is saying that there is no Taliban, but sometimes a suicide bomber, he comes over here. So he comes, maybe he comes from another country, you know, getting the explosives and everything. And he comes here and explosives blowing himself up over here. But here is no Taliban.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Keep in mind, this guy is on the border between Arghandab and Kandahar City and he says no Taliban here. It would be like me standing up at a Grateful Dead show and saying, “Pot? I don‘t smell any pot. Hippies? What hippies?”
The American mission here is finding and killing or capturing or neutralizing Taliban fighters. But the bigger mission is neutralizing the whole Taliban movement, because the people here want a real government and a real police instead.
I asked the shopkeeper if when the Americans leave, Afghans alone can be good police where he lives. He answered, “Insha‘ Allah” - God willing.
MADDOW: Talking to Afghans, talking to NATO brass, talking to American brass since I have been here, everybody wants to show off how much Afghan institutions are being built up - the army, the police, services.
I keep asking how those things are going to be paid for when, ultimately, the west moves on to other things. The Afghans I have spoken with say they hope the west keeps paying. The westerners, NATO and the Americans, have a different answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(on camera): The people needed to provide policing, basic services, the kind of government jobs that you are talking about. Obviously, you need good, committed Afghans nationalists, essentially, to do that. People who want to do it for their country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
MADDOW: People who are brave and willing to see that transition through. Who is going to pay their salaries in the long run?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that‘s a great point. I think Afghanistan does not have oil, but they have mineral wealth potential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Afghan mineral wealth. It‘s not quite in the category of the mythical Caribbean walrus from BP‘s oil spill response plan, but maybe it‘s close.
(on camera): We are here on chicken street as you can - or approaching the chicken street district.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly.
MADDOW: Chicken - suited up again. Everybody always says this is where the tourists come. And Richard helpfully pointed it out on the way over here that, yes, this is where the tourists come. Today, you are the tourist.
ENGEL: This is it. Yes, exactly.
MADDOW: I don‘t see other tourists.
ENGEL: I don‘t think we‘ll see anyone else. You are the tourist today. This is what Afghanistan is absolutely famous for. Lapis.
MADDOW: Oh, yes. Beautiful.
ENGEL: And the ancient Egyptians considered it as valuable or more valuable than gold. And Cyrus the Great, their god, was supposedly made of lapis. So it has been valued since the ancient times. And the country is covered in lapis. You can buy bowls of lapis, jars, figurines, huge statues of lapis. And it is very, very, very cheap.
MADDOW: Yes. It‘s beautiful.
ENGEL: And anything else. There are other kinds of stones. If you
want it, we can go in here. Actually, I don‘t know this shop, so -
ENGEL: I know some other shops. They have turquoise, rubies, emeralds. Obviously, recently, the country has been famous in the news recently because they discovered all these minerals in the mountains, $1 trillion in (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MADDOW: Well, they discovered - discovered.
ENGEL: They‘re still in the rocks.
MADDOW: We are talking about them, again. We‘ve sort of always known that Afghanistan had incredible mineral wealth.
MADDOW: I mean, everything from lapis to lithium.
ENGEL: Lithium you don‘t see very much, but you do see a lot of lapis and rubies and emeralds and turquoise and everything.
MADDOW: No, but this is important. You think of - I mean, with all
the stuff - with counterinsurgency, right, with all the things that are
being done to set up governance and law and order -
ENGEL: Look at her. I‘m taking her to the biggest shopping street and we‘re talking about jewels. You want to talk about counterinsurgency theory.
MADDOW: I want to talk about counterinsurgency. You don‘t know this
about me yet, Richard? But you are setting off all these - all these
government institutions. What‘s going to pay for the salaries of those
government workers and soldiers and police officers once -
ENGEL: Well, I have been told this by very good sources that one of the reasons that the Afghan security forces were never expanded, were never created in the numbers that are now being created is because the United States didn‘t want to pay for it, which is somewhat ironic. Here is a little bizarreness, sometimes this little tributary (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
MADDOW: Yes. Didn‘t want to take on the responsibility (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ENGEL: Didn‘t want to take responsibility to pay for it. So the idea
was just keep the Afghan security forces small, manageable because -
MADDOW: It‘s sustainable.
ENGEL: It‘s sustainable.
MADDOW: It does (UNINTELLIGIBLE), right?
ENGEL: Yes. But it never secured the country.
ENGEL: So now.
MADDOW: So now, we‘ve got something unsustainable that might secure the country.
ENGEL: Unsustainable. It might secure the country, but which Afghanistan cannot afford.
MADDOW: Which is maybe why we are getting all these American press - I don‘t mean to be conspiratorial. But maybe why we are getting all these American press about Afghanistan‘s mineral wealth because Americans need to believe there are things which they are going to have some means (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ENGEL: Oh, it is not conspiratorial. I know it was timed as an announcement.
ENGEL: This was, as the war is going badly, right before Gen. Petraeus testifying before Congress, suddenly hearing about a decade old study or a decade of study that says that there is $1 trillion dollars or more of minerals in the mountains.
MADDOW: Yes. To give it a good - to give it a sort of positive horizon. Yes.
ENGEL: Maybe there‘s a light at the end of the tunnel.
MADDOW: Consider the fact it should have been weird to you and that story came out that some of the evidence about Afghanistan‘s newly discovered mineral wealth were Soviet geological surveys.
ENGEL: They did the Soviets a lot of good.
MADDOW: It was - the Soviets were here between ‘79 and ‘89. It felt like didn‘t figure out a way to get rich off it either, you know. It‘s incredible.
ENGEL: We ended up in an alley that I have never been in before. But if - I have a guy friend who has a shop there.
MADDOW: How many times you have said to me, “I‘ve got a guy.”
ENGEL: I‘ve got a guy.
MADDOW: I‘ve got a guy.
ENGEL: I got a guy you need to meet. I‘ve got a guy - not a guy, but a stone.
MADDOW: How much do the emeralds cost?
ENGEL: The emeralds are more, because the emeralds are natural.
They‘re from Panjshir area. They‘re good. They are not always that clear.
But you can tell - how much are these per karat?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $120.
ENGEL: $120 - it‘s still pretty inexpensive.
MADDOW: I‘m not that familiar with the emerald market, but I do believe you.
ENGEL: Thank you very much. So this is the chicken street. And there‘s obviously other things that are for sale - (UNINTELLIGIBLE), animal skins.
MADDOW: Animal skins and me without extra carry on bags.
ENGEL: Exactly. But you get a sense of what it looks like and a sense of what Kabul is like.
MADDOW: So when you see carpets here, they are not necessarily Afghan carpets?
ENGEL: Some of them are. They might not necessarily be from here.
They could be from Pakistan.
MADDOW: Is this the carpet that shows the different weaponry?
ENGEL: Those are classic Afghan covers.
MADDOW: Yes. That‘s spectacular.
ENGEL: Those are very famous. They became quite famous around the Mujahideen war.
MADDOW: Why would you make - why would you put weaponry on a carpet?
ENGEL: People put pictures of things.
ENGEL: You know, there was a celebration of the fight against the Soviets. So when they were fighting off the Soviets, they would put destroyed Soviet tanks or AK-47s on them. And it just became a bit of a tradition. And they still do it, you know. This would have grenades on it and tanks and an AK and it‘s a liberation carpet or a resistance carpet.
MADDOW: I‘ve never had the opportunity to buy a carpet with guns on it before and I‘m not sure if I will ever have it again, I mean, unless I hang out with you.
ENGEL: All right.
MADDOW: They come up all the time. Afghanistan life talk, tank. Made in Afghanistan. Very good. This is $20 as well? My mom is going to be really excited. This is, I‘m sure, exactly what she wanted.
ENGEL: I think she‘s going to be a little disappointed.
ENGEL: We saw the stones and you buy a $20 carpet with a gun on it. You do what you want, but I think she‘s not going to be overwhelmingly impressed.
MADDOW: I have a - I have very (UNINTELLIGIBLE) taste. You‘re like, “Don‘t you want to buy the store sapphire. Or don‘t you want to buy the emerald.” No, I‘m sort of into the gun carpet.
ENGEL: Welcome to Kabul. Look, I came to Kabul and I got a gun carpet.
MADDOW: I think finally got the carpet. Also, this will fit in my carry on. It‘s perfect. This might go on the set, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW set. Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. Good luck. Thank you.
ENGEL: Have a nice day.
MADDOW: You don‘t have a gun carpet?
ENGEL: I don‘t have a gun carpet. You know what? $25, I‘ll give you for the gun carpet right now.
MADDOW: I‘m asking you like five questions about it and you‘re still ready to leave. You still even grasp the fact that I would want to buy it.
ENGEL: I was shocked. I‘m shocked. I‘ve never seen anyone buy one of those.
MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview is Saad Mohseni. He is the head of the largest TV and radio network here in Afghanistan. He was profiled this week by the “New Yorker” magazine at home. Saad, when I saw you in New York, we said, “Next time in Kabul,” and we made it happen.
SAAD MOHSENI, CHAIRMAN, MOBY GROUP: Welcome.
MADDOW: Thank you very much for getting up so early and coming out here.
MOHSENI: Thank you.
MADDOW: What is the impact on Afghanistan of the billions of dollars every month here of western money that‘s associated with the war?
MOHSENI: Well, it obviously benefits the economy. We have power now in Kabul 24 hours. We had no power in 2001. We have schools. We have families - kids going to schools. We have roads like we‘ve never had before. We‘re obviously building some of our institutions.
But the flip side of the coin is that it, you know, contributes to the corruption. You saw some of those narco villas and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) area of Kabul yesterday. It‘s damaged also the way that people perceive the internationals as well as the elite in Afghanistan, the divide between the rich the poor. As such, it‘s causing a lot of resentment now in Afghanistan.
MADDOW: In terms of continued western involvement, nobody exactly knows it‘s been happening in terms of the length of the combat mission. But it‘s likely that at least a training mission, at least a large western presence will persist for some time.
Is there a way that western governments, the American government in particular, can spend money in a way that is, yes, correcting that, builds more institutions, builds more civil society rather than contributing to the sort of drug roads and bullets.
MOHSENI: Well, that‘s why they have to have a longer term plan for Afghanistan. I mean, what is the vision for the U.S. in the region? And it‘s always been sort of a band aid approach.
You know, let‘s talk about 2001. If Gen. Rumsfeld had said that, “We will be in this country for the next 10 years,” then we would have had a completely different plan. Initially, for example, they said, “We will have an army of 60,000,” then it was 100,000 something and it was 200,000 people. We never had a public plan in place to allow for the state to really develop.
And the other thing is that most of the internationals tend to work with these corrupt individuals because it‘s always about, you know, tactical gains. It‘s about, “What can we achieve in three months? Well, these are the best partners because they‘re strong in the region. Let‘s work with them.”
But we haven‘t taken a step back and make some tough decisions, work for the right people, build institutions. Even if it does cost us, you know, some gains in the very short term.
MADDOW: If the combat mission stops, and a lot of countries are leaving. I mean, the Dutch are on their way out. The Canadians will leave eventually. The Brit I don‘t think will stay longer.
If a combat mission ends and it becomes purely a development mission in Afghanistan, do you think it will be more possible to live long term, to actually just to do better in the way that we spend our money here?
MOHSENI: I think you can. I think the Afghan institutions are beginning to take shape.
MOHSENI: Some more than others. The military is doing a lot better than, say, the courts, for example.
MOHSENI: The police is not doing that well, but some other areas have improved. But I think, in some ways, it‘s also forcing the Afghans to take responsibility on these issues. It‘s going to be good for us. We will have to deal with our problems.
But the Americans need to stay on the side, of course, to assist us financially and otherwise. But I think the sooner we take more responsibility, the better for everyone.
MADDOW: Saad Mohseni, founder of Tolo TV, ubiquitous media presence here in Afghanistan. What you‘re doing in media, I think, now, just having been here a week, is both reflecting and creating national identity here in a way that is really - I‘ve never seen anything like it before. Congratulations on all your success.
MOHSENI: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot, Saad. It is really good to see you. We have covered a lot of aspects of Afghanistan and America‘s war here tonight and last night. But you have not yet seen our footage of, as Saad said, where a lot of the war money ends up in Kabul as well as a lot of the drug money.
Nor have you seen me making a complete idiot of myself with a Hungarian assault rifle. But you will see those things. You will. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: There are very few countries in the world poorer than Afghanistan where abject poverty is almost everywhere. The keyword there is almost. There are super rich folks here. We visited their neighborhood in Kabul. They‘re garish, bizarre. What it looks like to be rich in poor, war-torn, land-locked Central Asian neighborhood. That is just ahead.
MADDOW: So we are in a neighborhood now. Kabul (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
Talking about the distribution of wealth, in Kabul and the effect of -
ENGEL: There is a distribution of wealth. This is where it is distributed. This is where it ends up. All of the money from contracts and association with the government and association with the U.S. military has ended up here.
ENGEL: Because this was originally - you can see there is no real pavement or anything like that. This was originally just empty land.
ENGEL: And when the Americans came in with the northern alliance, the northern alliance, which was the allies against the Taliban, took this land and then gave it away to all their cronies.
MADDOW: Oh, OK. So they created -
ENGEL: They created -
MADDOW: A new war wealth neighborhood out of nothing.
MADDOW: And so we‘ve still got open sewers and we‘ve still got no
pavement, but we have rococo -
MADDOW: Nouveau riche castle.
ENGEL: That lease for $10,000 to $25,000 a month, because it‘s a safe area. But here‘s the irony. Most of the government officials - and these are almost all owned by government officials - don‘t live in them. They rent them out to foreign companies, contractors. And they live in Dubai or have their families in Islamabad. So they are purely investment properties.
MADDOW: There‘s a sign right there in that one. It says, “house for rent.”
ENGEL: Oh, yes. Exactly. And the reason the streets are still unpaved is that these government officials refuse to pay any taxes to the government. They are in a fight so the government won‘t come and pave the roads or connect it to any kind of sanitation system at all because the same government ministers won‘t pay to register the neighborhood.
MADDOW: So they won‘t throw their weight around to get their neighborhood taken care of just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because they don‘t live here anyway.
ENGEL: They don‘t live here anyway. So you have these large homes, and some of these homes - you see this building right behind you?
MADDOW: That looks like a hotel.
ENGEL: No. No. No. They are all private homes.
MADDOW: This is a private home?
ENGEL: It‘s a private home. It probably has 25 bedrooms in it and garish, colonnades and unusual architectural features. And then, they‘ll rent that out to some western client and they‘ll charge either by the bedroom or by the floor or for the whole thing.
And if you were to build this one - it‘s obviously under construction - that is a $1 million plus house in Kabul with no paved streets.
MADDOW: America, it‘s your tax dollars at work. This is the war
economy as translated to land-locked Central Asia. We dump a ton of money
thinking that we are paying for our military effort. Everything that goes
along with our military effort ends up letting - or in this case, directing
like a squirt gun, instead of flooding -
ENGEL: The streets become rivers of mud.
MADDOW: But the money doesn‘t go to the country and trickle down its economy. It just goes to the elites and power brokers who can keep it for themselves.
ENGEL: A war lord system. There is a lot of money in war - contracting, supplying, shipping. And if you have been in power, you keep those contracts for yourself and you build neighborhoods like this. And maybe, you don‘t even live here. You live somewhere else, in a foreign country.
MADDOW: This is what it is like in Kabul. This is the exact same
dynamic that we saw in Kandahar where you‘re talking with these
counterinsurgency doctors and soaked military officers who are incredibly
smart and have far reaching thinking about this sort of thing and they can
because of that, they can see the basic contradiction at work that we‘re trying to do.
If the whole effort, all the money and everything, is to
establish governance and - if the whole effort is to establish governance,
all of our money, all of our spending here is only supporting the elite,
the warlordism -
ENGEL: It can breed corruption. Just having so much money injected into an economy. Afghanistan is very poor and it was isolated from the world except for the last 30 years of war which was an unpleasant interaction with the world for hundreds of years.
And now, you have a totally different scale of economy coming in, billions of dollars a month. This country never saw anything like that.
MADDOW: It is going to people who are - it‘s not going to build the
country. It is going to people who have private armies. It‘s going to
people who are -
ENGEL: Next to giant houses, these streets are not even paved.
ENGEL: I think that gives you an idea of how much the social services are spreading.
MADDOW: So when you hear the government, when you hear the leadership
say, “We don‘t want the Americans to leave. We don‘t want the war to be
ENGEL: There is an incentive -
MADDOW: Think about this neighborhood.
ENGEL: There is an incentive because war is a profitable business for many people.
ENGEL: I think this neighborhood is actually very symbolic of a lot
of the problems with this entire world, frankly. And here, next to an
incredibly big house is an open garbage pile, because no one cares about
the common space. Nobody - it is not anybody‘s problem. That is what you
see everywhere. You know, you have a giant -
MADDOW: And it is just all spread out and ripped open. And people are going through it to see if there‘s anything valuable in the trash?
ENGEL: Yes. I mean, kids - here are some kids right here. They go through it. And it is quite sad. I mean, they‘ll go to through it and pick through anything that can be recycled or used again - or of any value, metal things. So in a way, it is its own environmental - but it shows there is a lot of poverty here.
MADDOW: Yes. This corner is like the microcosm of the war. This and
ENGEL: And these kids.
MADDOW: And us, too, because we‘re here as Americans covering this because of the American initiative here that created the economy that made this all possible.
MADDOW: Lest you think we have done everything that‘s possible for a totally inexperienced, out-of-our-depth cable news show to do it in Afghanistan, there is more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can put the magazine. This is safer. I‘m sorry. OK. You shoot this way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Point here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the position. OK?
MADDOW: Yes. It‘s here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one. OK. Like this.
MADDOW: Like this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Perfect.
MADDOW: They‘re new.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You picked that.
MADDOW: You took the safety off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is already. I think I‘m a bad shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good.
MADDOW: I do OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not me.
MADDOW: Thank you. Do I hit you with a country (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The single most amazing thing about that clip other than what an idiot I look like, and I can‘t believe what I did, is that pretty amazing uniform on the Italian guy, right?
The Taliban (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I don‘t mean training the Afghan police in markmanship but doing so in black uniforms designed by Giorgio Armani. I am not kidding.
War is complicated. We‘ve got some more reporting to bring you from Afghanistan, some more politics to get to. Honestly, I couldn‘t stop thinking about Sue Lowden when I was on chicken street.
But tonight, that is all. Live from Camp Phoenix in Kabul, a huge thank you to our Afghan hosts here, to the U.S. Military and to the NBC news bureau in Kabul. “COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN” starts right now.
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