Guests: Brig. Gen. Ben Hodges, Capt. John Thomas
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening.
The enemy in Afghanistan now is broadly understood to be the Taliban. They, of course, were routed by the U.S. and the northern alliance at the beginning of the war, only to return in force.
From afar, the Taliban are simply the bad guys. But how they affect Afghan society, how to fight them, and who should fight them are subjects worth looking at from close up—which is one thing we try to do on our recent trip into the war zone.
MADDOW: We‘re here at Checkpoint 7-10, which is between Kandahar City and the Arghandab District. And we‘re here with a 3rd Lieutenant (INAUDIBLE), who is part of the ANCOP, the Afghan National Civil Order Police, which is partnered with U.S. forces here to run this checkpoint.
Lieutenant, thank you very much for your time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. Thank you.
MADDOW: Why did you join ANCOP?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I joined ANCOP because to serve my country.
MADDOW: Was the training very good?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s been good training. The first time he came here. Good training.
MADDOW: Are you from southern Afghanistan or are you from somewhere else in the country?
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: He‘s from Kabul.
MADDOW: Do you think it‘s good to have police from Kabul, from the rest of the country rather than local police here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he thinks that the police, they must be from every province, not just from Kabul or other provinces, supposed to be from all Afghanistan.
MADDOW: Is it good that ANCOP is partnered with Americans here, or should this be all Afghan? This time next year, if it‘s all Afghan, will it still work?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we work together, that‘s going to be great.
MADDOW: In the future, when Americans are gone, you think—just to be clear—you think that this police outpost will serve the community, be good for the community with no Americans here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, he is saying, I don‘t think so. That they will serve their country, they‘re not professional and their economy is not good. So that‘s why he‘s saying it‘s not possible right now.
MADDOW: How long will it take?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe one more year.
MADDOW: I see. Please tell him I said “thank you” for his service to his country, and I appreciate his time.
MADDOW: One more year, he says. That‘s good because that‘s what he‘s
got at the time that they‘ve got before this mission that makes it possible
for U.S. troops to be serving in such big numbers, alongside Afghan troops
at checkpoints like that one that you can see there? That‘s how much they‘ve got before this mission begins to end.
We don‘t know exactly how fast the drawdown will go, but we do know that U.S. troops are to start to leave Afghanistan in a year, in July 2011. And that‘s the time by which that 3rd lieutenant I spoke with in Kandahar thinks that Afghan police will be able to serve their community well without U.S. help.
One of the interesting things about talking with him is that, as he said there, he used to live in Kabul. He‘s from Kabul. He‘s a shopkeeper from Kabul before he became a police officer.
Why is a former shopkeeper from Kabul serving in Kandahar, nearly 300 miles from home? Well, part of it is that that‘s the way they‘re doing the policing. They‘re sending people from a national force all over the country.
But another part of it is practical in a very, very, very concrete sense. Imagine how hard it is to be a soldier or a police officer from a Taliban stronghold, from a place like Kandahar. Imagine the pressure on your family if you are a man or a woman who wants to join up, and you‘re from a Taliban stronghold.
MADDOW: People who come from parts of Afghanistan where there‘s heavy Taliban presence, is it—do people put their families at risk when they enlist in the army if the Taliban gets angry?
GEN. AMINULLAH PATYNAI, AFGHAN ARMY (through translator): There‘s no doubt that their families, or the people who are coming from the areas where Taliban has more influence, their family is going to be addressed. But this is what a strong determination. They want to come here and join the Afghan national army.
But there‘s also another take. The people who are coming to join the Afghan national army are coming from the areas where government has more influence, but we are getting very small number of the soldiers from the areas where Taliban are.
MADDOW: I see. There are—right now, one of the challenges with the Afghan army is that Afghan citizens who are from places where the Taliban or the insurgents is very strong don‘t want to join the army. Will that ever change?
MAJ. SAMANDAR KHAN, AFGHAN ARMY (through translator): That will change because as far as you can see, that the people of Afghanistan are fed up from the fighting and they want now to be established their country and stay as free as they can. And that‘s why we can hear from the different provinces, people are coming and recruit themselves to the Afghan national army. So, it‘s good news for us.
MADDOW: Optimism mixed with hardheaded realism from the Afghan side, talked with the Afghan police and soldiers that I talked with there about the Taliban.
NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, my friend, Richard Engel, knows more about the Taliban than anybody else I have ever worked with in the news. Here‘s what Richard thinks: We all should all understand about them to know what‘s at stake, especially if the Taliban are going to be called on to do a deal to end the war.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was here in the streets of Kandahar that the Taliban were born from the crucible of war.
When Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in defeat in 1989, Civil War erupted. War lords and opium dealers carved out victims. The country was on the brink of starvation.
In Kandahar, a poor wheat farmer named Mullah Muhammad Omar offered a radical solution, stability, he said, would come through strict Islamic justice, and zero tolerance for drug trafficking and corruption. Mullah Omar attracted many young followers, especially Afghans who studied in Pakistani madrassas. They called themselves the Taliban—literally meaning religious students.
The Taliban are Deobandi Muslims, a hard line evangelical sect of Sunni Islam. Many Deobandis believe it is their duty to rid the world of tyranny through jihad. And they were about to receive outside help.
It came from Afghanistan‘s neighbor, Pakistan, eager to pursue its own interest. Pakistan‘s objective in Afghanistan has always been strategic. Pakistan wants a proxy in Afghanistan to strengthen its western flank in case of renewed war with Islamabad‘s bitter and larger enemy, India.
The Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, also found the zealous Taliban willing to allow Pakistan to train Islamic militants to fight India in the contested lands of Kashmir. Backed by the ISI, the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996 and imposed shocking draconian laws.
Music and even kites were outlawed. Women were denied education and forced to wear burqas. They were stoned for adultery.
It wasn‘t long before the rogue Saudi billionaire, Osama bin Laden, came looking for a base to attack the United States. Mullah Omar welcomed bin Laden as a brother. From Afghanistan, bin Laden plotted the attacks of b 9/11.
But the Taliban may have misjudged the American response. The Taliban‘s army of some 30,000 fighters was quickly defeated. The survivors, including bin Laden, took refuge in the one place they knew they‘d be safe—the mountains of Pakistan across the border.
From Pakistan, the Taliban and al Qaeda continue to fight. According to U.S. military estimates, the Taliban are now at roughly the same strength as before 9/11, with 28,000 fighters in Afghanistan, 13,000 this in the south, 11,000 in the east, 2,000 in the north, and 2,000 more in the west.
But there are signs the Taliban may be willing to make a deal.
Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil was the Taliban‘s foreign minister. As a spokesman for Mullah Omar, he met bin Laden, now in Kabul, says the Taliban would be willing to break ties with al Qaeda in exchange for power and peace.
“In past, the Taliban were like the owners of the house and al Qaeda were guests here,” he says. “Now, al Qaeda are war partners. The Afghan government has foreign war partners. If peace exists, both sides won‘t need their foreign allies.”
The U.S.-backed Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has made it clear he wants a deal with the Taliban. In a meeting this summer, he called on the militants to join a peace process. But those negotiations have been disorganized. Turkey, Libya, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Pakistan, the Maldives, Malaysia and Indonesia have all offered to broker talks.
Mutawakil says the peace process needs to be streamlined, and the Taliban need an office to organize negotiations.
“The Taliban should be removed from international blacklists,” he says. “Some prisoners should be released, and the Taliban should be allowed to safely establish a political office in Afghanistan or in another country.”
Surprisingly, several senior U.S. military commanders agree.
But would the Taliban really make peace with President Karzai?
BRUCE RIEDEL, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: I‘m very skeptical that it‘s going to go very far because I don‘t think the Taliban is interested in a political process. I think Taliban has one intention with President Karzai, and that involves a lamppost and a piece of rope.
ENGEL: In the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold near the Pakistani border, we met a Malavi Nasser (ph), 45-year-old Taliban field commander. He claims to be in charge of 300 fighters.
“I took up arms,” he says, “because the Americans terrorized our country. They are killing innocent people and bombing our villages. We are fighting to defend our religion. I won‘t stop fighting until foreign forces leave.”
(on camera): While the rank and file of the Taliban‘s foot soldiers say they want to keep on fighting, senior military officials tell NBC News the Taliban‘s most senior leader who are still in Pakistan are getting older, and want to come home. They‘d make a deal, U.S. officials believe, in exchange for amnesty and positions in the government.
(voice-over): But many Afghans object to an accommodation with the Taliban. They don‘t want a return to harsh Islamic laws and suspect the United States is simply looking for an excuse to broker a deal and then exit this long, costly war.
HAROON MIR, POLITICAL ANALYST: The Afghans won‘t have political settlement. But you are not willing to abandon what we have achieved in the past nine years, for example, in terms of democracy, human rights, women rights, free media and free speech. And I think President Karzi is not reaching to Taliban in Pakistani‘s east surrendering himself to them.
ENGEL: Richard Engel, NBC News, Kabul.
MADDOW: It‘s amazing to have that from Richard for our show. I‘m very grateful.
When General Stanley McChrystal resigned last month, President Obama explicitly stated that the general in charge would change but the strategy counterinsurgency would stay the same. But what is plan B if plan A doesn‘t work? Or it doesn‘t work fast enough? Or frankly, if it doesn‘t work at all?
I‘ll ask the head of the Regional Southern Command in Afghanistan, Brigadier General Ben Hodges—next.
And, what happens to the billions of dollars that America spends in Afghanistan? Some of it goes here, a tour of the nice part of town, including some never-before-seen footage. Surreal isn‘t quite a potent enough way to describe it.
Please stay tuned.
MADDOW: Where we are is at the governor‘s compound in Kandahar City. This is the governor‘s compound. You see people out here waiting to get in at this checkpoint. These are the vehicles that we came in on.
The sort of amazing thing is that this is immediately adjacent to a big beautiful mosque, a shrine, in fact. This is where Mullah Omar. Mullah Omar—you remember Mullah Omar of the Taliban, right? The shrine marks the place where he put on the cloak of the prophet, thereby essentially declaring the religious character of the Taliban rule.
And it‘s just sort of a perfect microcosm of what‘s going on here, to try to be establishing governance that will supplant the theocratic governance that used to be here, that in fact, sprung something here and it‘s still secularly base here and trying to do it via—I mean, ultimately, what it boils down to is American military might. I don‘t exactly know what counts as incongruous here but something is incongruous.
MADDOW: In Kandahar, the province of Kandahar has authorization to have 87 judges working in the justice system -- 87. You want to know how many are actually on the job? Nine—nine judges of a province of like a million people.
So, if you live in Kandahar and you want justice, frankly, the Taliban is offering much quicker service—much quicker service than the government can provide. It‘s not necessarily better service but quicker.
It‘s a weird fact, but it‘s one of the types of weird facts that is going to determine if Afghanistan falls into Taliban control again or not.
General Ben Hodges is the top American military commander in Regional Command South which includes Kandahar, which, of course, is the Taliban‘s spiritual home.
MADDOW: When people talk about Kandahar, they—one of the things that we sort of say and don‘t detail really, at least in civilian coverage what‘s going on here is what that means for Taliban governance. I mean, we know there‘s a shadow Taliban governor here. But are they doing dispute resolution? Are they doing, you know, punishing people for theft? Are they—
BRIG. GEN. BEN HODGES, REGIONAL COMMAND SOUTH: Yes. There is a—if you think of the insurgency as a around argument for the loyalty of the people, between the Afghan government and the Taliban. You know, the Taliban is not a popular uprising.
I mean, they don‘t—they don‘t do anything. They don‘t build schools. They don‘t fix irrigation systems. They don‘t any of that.
But they sure scare people. And they do dispute resolution very quickly, and they‘re not seen as corrupt.
HODGES: So, for an average farmer, you know, he‘s trying to say: is my life better with the government if I don‘t trust the government, if the face of the government is the police and they‘re taking money from me every time I go anywhere, it‘s not worth growing these wonderful pomegranate because I can‘t even get them into Pakistan to export—you know, is my life a whole lot worse with the Taliban?
MADDOW: Right. If they‘re not corrupt, but they‘re brutal?
HODGES: Right. And that‘s the problem, that they‘re extremely—they‘re quick. I mean, they do dispute resolution very fast. But it‘s usually, you know, Shariah law, you know, people get killed and physically punished. And, of course, there‘s no human freedom.
At times the Taliban outlawed kite flying. So, they‘re not popular, but the government has got to provide a better choice.
HODGES: Otherwise, people are not going to take the risk. That‘s what it‘s about. I mean, if they‘re seen supporting the government, if they don‘t feel secure, you know, the Taliban are going to come in that night and kill somebody or hurt them or rig their house.
MADDOW: But it‘s almost like we‘ve—that‘s the central—that‘s the central thing that makes this feel almost impossible because if the Taliban—when they took power in the ‘90s, it was here and other places, it was in part by saying: we‘re not going to be corrupt. We‘re religious. We‘re students, and the corruption of the government isn‘t serving you. We can serve you. We‘ll be brutal but at least we‘ll be honest.
If they‘re still offering that and we‘re trying to make an Afghan government that is not corrupt to be a viable alternative to that, but our very presence, by the virtue of the fact we got to spend a ton of money and we‘re foreigners and we have to protect ourselves and all this stuff, our influence here—our presence here is inherently corrupting because a lot of money flows everywhere we go—it‘s like it‘s not two steps forward, one step back, it‘s two steps forward and two steps back.
HODGES: I don‘t think I buy that. I don‘t accept that we are inherently corrupting. I know what you‘re saying there. That certainly that much money coming in, the potential for that, and I have no doubt that, you know, money has—some money has made it to the wrong people.
But I‘ve met enough Afghans who have demonstrated those kind of qualities—whether they‘re in the military, police or government—who are brave, who take huge risks and are committed to having an Afghan society that respects its culture and traditions, and can provide some basic services. And the requirements are really relatively simple as you look around.
But it really is up to the Afghans. I mean, you know, we‘ll never have more capability than we got this fall.
MADDOW: I know this is a difficult question, but if over the next year it essentially doesn‘t work to establish better governance in Kandahar, if the police effort efforts, policing efforts, security efforts, don‘t combine to create enough space for Afghan government to step up in the way that it‘s working, I don‘t get a sense that there‘s a plan B. Is there a plan B? Is plan B just more time?
HODGES: There‘s no reason why this shouldn‘t be successful if the Afghans do their part. I mean, we have—I‘ve never met an officer that didn‘t want more capability. So, I would never turn away more engineers or more military police, but we have enough to do what we have got to do in Kandahar, assuming that the Afghans step up and do their part.
MADDOW: If they don‘t?
HODGES: Well, we‘ll have—we‘ll have given them the best chance they‘d ever had.
MADDOW: And that‘s the key to understanding the war right now. No plan B. We‘re giving them the best chance they‘ve ever had at the government. But it‘s their own gig, we can‘t do it for them.
We‘ll be back with U.S. troops on the frontline, footage we have never shown before—when we come back.
MADDOW: I would like you to meet someone. Viewers of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, I would like to introduce you to Captain John Thomas. He is a company commander in charge of a number or very dangerous checkpoints ringing Kandahar City. At Checkpoint 7-4 overlooking Arghandab, he commands a platoon of 19 Americans alongside 30 Afghan police.
And Captain Thomas is very, very impressive.
MADDOW: So far, this is the watch tower.
CAPT. JOHN THOMAS, U.S. ARMY: Yes.
MADDOW: This is—
THOMAS: This is M240 Bravo machine gun.
MADDOW: -- 240 Bravo machine gun. This would be manned usually by ANCOP officers or by U.S.?
MADDOW: And the road that we‘re overlooking here goes from where to where?
THOMAS: This is the main road that cuts from southwest to Kandahar City, all the way up to Highway 1, which is dead center of Kandahar City.
MADDOW: OK. Panjuay is—
THOMAS: Panjuay is all the way down that road, yes.
MADDOW: OK. Panjuay and—
THOMAS: And Zherai.
MADDOW: -- and Zherai, 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 that you are stopping is trouble?
THOMAS: Well, you never know but there‘s 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.
Beyond that it‘s just—not set a pattern and be random and just say, every certain truck or a blue truck or, you know, every red motorcycle we‘ll stop for this period of time. That way, it‘s just a random even swath across the board to create the effect that any time a person who wants to come into Kandahar City understands that they have the capability of being searched.
MADDOW: Now, where we are—I mean, you can see from the landscape here that we are on the edge of the city. This is a populated area. We‘re not far from (INAUDIBLE) prison, a big prison, a lot of market areas and street vendors and stuff and shops there. So, I imagine that this is going to be pretty disruptive to the people who live here who aren‘t bad guys.
THOMAS: That is a common discussion. As soon as we move in, we bring all the local elders together. We‘d say, OK, hey, we‘re so and so. We‘re here to do this. And what are your concerns?
And it‘s almost always, the very first question is: what is it going to do to our normal patterns of life?
THOMAS: Immediately, it‘s a discussion with a relationship starting there and to say, hey, our purpose is not to disrupt your life but to prevent other folks from disrupting your life. So, as long as we stay in contact with each other, and ANCOP is a key part of that because they have the heartbeat of the people here. And they already have that inherit knowledge of the area so they have the direct connect with the locals to build that immediate trust.
MADDOW: Well, the ANCOP, they‘re a national force. They‘re not Kandaharis necessarily.
THOMAS: Not necessarily. But in this case, the way we‘ve moved in together, we got the ANP that are at the check point and the ANCOP that moved in. And so now, we got this super partner force. The folks that are inherently, you know, lived here forever. The ANCOP brings their professionalism and discipline and skill to the table team that up with us to help kind of bring the trifecta together. And that‘s what we‘re gaining. So before the ANP part of the checkpoint, to go to back to training or (INAUDIBLE) or whatever, what we‘re really focusing on building that relationship now while the ANP is still here.
MADDOW: That and that, that to me seems like a key strategic thing in terms of people watching this in the United States trying to understand why we‘re putting somebody cool like you in danger in places like this.
I mean, if the locals here look at the Kandahar police or the ANP and say, you know, traditionally, our relationship with police has been one of paying bribes and not a lot of service and it‘s been difficult.
MADDOW: I understand that when they look ANCOP - ANCOP is supposed to be a much more professional force, supposed to be really trained especially in ethics issues and leaderships and things like that. ANCOP is going to leave ultimately.
MADDOW: Just like the U.S. is going to leave ultimately. Are the local people here going to want locals to be the police officers? Are they going to want Afghans from somewhere else in the country who are professionals, who are not from here to be doing their policing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Absolutely. So they see, you know, the ANCOP bringing in a key asset to the table and then the historic negative connotation with the ANP.
THOMAS: So I mean, absolutely, there‘s going to be that temptation of, man, I just wish we get out these folks. But that‘s where it lies in terms of - it‘s almost like Afghan-on-Afghan peer pressure.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly.
THOMAS: Your big brother shows up, shows you how to do it right. So now, you want to work harder to get it better. And so that‘s what our focus is. We‘re kind of the mediator of that process to help get the ANP up to that par and then beyond, and so now they just start driving each other.
THOMAS: And so - I mean, absolutely. They‘ll wonder how (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But I don‘t think it will just the ANCOP. I think they‘ll see the ANCOP or ANP working together is what made it great.
THOMAS: And so that‘s the key part to continue to push onto the locals so that they‘ll continue to have that buy-in with the friends that they grew up with.
MADDOW: It sounds like we‘re talking - forgive me. It sounds like
we‘re talking about, like, details of this local police operation. But
ultimately, this is the success of the war, which is that -
THOMAS: Yes, partnership.
MADDOW: You guys come in here and you do what the American military is capable of doing, which in security terms, unparalleled anywhere in the world. You work with these well-trained professional forces national Afghan national police officers, the ANCOP, which we trained up in order to mentor good policing behavior.
MADDOW: And then we hope and expect and try to totally enable that
the Afghan police who will be doing this job after we leave -
MADDOW: Can do it. That‘s the success of the war?
THOMAS: I think so. The most we can hope for at least as a company or even just as a platoon at a check point is to set the conditions and set that baseline of understanding and trust between the locals and the Afghan either national police or civil order police just to say there is hope. There is progress.
We are improving capacity, you know, skills, you know, the equipment of all these forces and just to set that baseline and give them the hope that no matter who is here or who leaves, no matter how long it takes for that to happen, there is a way forward and we see how it can work. So let‘s buy into it.
THOMAS: And I think that‘s how you work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So you couldn‘t ask for a better guide to Afghanistan than NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. One afternoon, Richard gave me a fascinating deluxe tour of a market in Kabul. I‘m the enormously tall one who looks like a Martian wearing the head scarf quite unattractively. That‘s next.
MADDOW: So when you come to Kabul, at least, if you‘re me, one thing you want to do is have Richard Engel show you around.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to Kabul, Rachel.
MADDOW: Richard, tell me where we are.
ENGEL: We are in the center of the city. This is a market area. It‘s crowded, a poor area. And this is where a lot of business takes place, and it is a very busy part of town.
MADDOW: The ratio of men to women here is like 95 to one.
ENGEL: Yes. You‘ll notice you‘re followed right now. There are not many women out on the streets. The women you do see are going to be wearing burqas unless they‘re girls.
MADDOW: Yes. And very young girls, too. Not like you see 10, 11-year-old girls.
ENGEL: Normally, when girls hit puberty, according to culture here, they‘re supposed to be covered up. But usually, fathers will anticipate a little bit. So if the girl is getting even close, nine, 10, they‘ll cover her.
MADDOW: Richard and I were negotiating before about whether or not I was - not negotiating. Talking about whether or not I was going to be wearing a head scarf and the idea was no, no. You don‘t really need to.
In Kabul, you don‘t really need to. Then when we figured out we were
coming here, he was like -
ENGEL: Yes, this area. There are also mosques around here and it depends. If you‘re in an area where there are many westerners and there are some westerners in this country, probably not necessary. But there aren‘t many westerners coming into this neighborhood certainly to buy, you know, phone cards or soft drinks or anything like that.
MADDOW: Right. What‘s this neighborhood called?
ENGEL: This is just the market area. It‘s very near to the canal, the canal which is part of the Kabul River that goes through the city. And you‘ll notice how really crowded it is. Most people don‘t know Kabul has expanded dramatically since 2001.
ENGEL: There were about one million people here before the war.
ENGEL: Now there are between four and five million people.
MADDOW: My god.
ENGEL: So it‘s grown three to five times.
MADDOW: Is that because of people leaving outlying areas to come here either for opportunity or because they can‘t stay where they are?
ENGEL: Once the invasion began, lots and lots of money started pouring into Kabul.
ENGEL: Billions of dollars a month is ending up here.
ENGEL: So there‘s jobs. And as the Taliban has come back and made a resurgence, people have gotten more nervous and more insecure in the outlying areas. So a lot of jobs, a lot of security, and then there‘s just the general trend of urbanization that‘s happening in poor countries all over the world.
MADDOW: And in terms of Kabul‘s infrastructure and the degree to
which the city can sustain that kind of massive growth -
ENGEL: Well, there is no infrastructure. There is no infrastructure. They‘re selling chickens, you know, whole - and meat hanging from the streets. There are open sewers over there. There‘s not much infrastructure. It has improved dramatically.
MADDOW: You do see electrical lines and some stuff.
ENGEL: That has improved considerably.
ENGEL: In 2001, there were about three hours of electricity a day. Now, there‘s almost 24 hour power in Kabul. So that is a dramatic difference. But there‘s still really no infrastructure to support the city. The roads are packed. Every time it rains, the streets flood.
There are - sewage and garbage are not collected efficiently or at all so it can‘t really manage itself. But like places, it just sort of pushes through.
People come out here - it‘s relatively safe. There‘s not a lot of crime. There‘s almost no street crime. You‘re not going to get - it‘s not a city like that.
MADDOW: Why is that?
ENGEL: Probably the culture. There‘s never been a real tradition of crime. There‘s some political crime occasionally - car bombs and things like that. But you‘re not likely to have any kind of sexual assault or petty crime which is something that - you know, it‘s a testimony to their culture.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about - in terms of the amount of money pouring in for Kabul, one of the biggest sort of exclamation point stories in the U.S. in the last few months has been the amount of cash that‘s flying out of Kabul airport, usually to Dubai.
ENGEL: $10,000 a day.
MADDOW: Oh, yes. I mean, even just the amount of declared cash is incredible. And so, obviously, war brings with it - and the United States military brings with it this tidal wave of money into this incredibly poor country.
ENGEL: We‘re going to another area soon where you see all that money.
All of the war money.
MADDOW: So that‘s what I meant to ask. Is it creating any economic
development here, or is it just -
ENGEL: No, it‘s creating mostly corruption, unfortunately.
MADDOW: This looks like lunch.
ENGEL: This is tripe and they keep the heads because you can make soup and also shows that it‘s fresh, because if the heads and the eyes were all dried out, then it would show that it‘s old intestine and - we‘re not having that for lunch.
MADDOW: I don‘t know. Those goat heads look very fresh.
ENGEL: Yes. They look fresh and that is the sign. But the common perception or misperception is that this is a narco state and that people here who are corrupt live off of drug money.
ENGEL: And yes, there is some drug money, maybe even a few hundred
million dollars a year in drug money -
ENGEL: Which is a lot. But by far, the biggest industry is the war.
ENGEL: $5.5 billion a month - billion dollars a month. So anyone connected with the war has made much, much more money than anyone connected with drugs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your name?
ENGEL: Hello. How are you? Who is working here? Give us a minute,
MADDOW: The new junior correspondent.
ENGEL: Yes, he‘s taking my job.
MADDOW: That‘s exactly right.
MADDOW: Kids actually starting at CNBC. Turns out he‘s like a savant stock analyst. Who knew? If anybody asks me what you can buy in Kabul that you can‘t get in the States, I will now be able to tell them something I wouldn‘t have imagined before I saw it for myself. That excellent adventure coming up next.
MADDOW: One not exactly programming note for you, but at least a note about our programming. It is really freaking expensive to do a live news show from Afghanistan, to send an anchor, me, and crews and producers all the way across the world to do what we did.
I still don‘t know exactly what I did to deserve this opportunity, a chance to work with the pros I got to work with there or to spend this much of the company‘s money, but I could not be more grateful.
Getting me there was a combined effort of MSNBC and NBC News, particularly their multiple award-winning correspondent Richard Engel and producer Madeleine Haeringer. And I just want to say thanks. Also, you guys totally made me look like Michael Dukakis and next time, I‘m getting a helmet that big.
MADDOW: So Susan told me when I went to Afghanistan that I should please if I had the chance buy a nice carpet for our apartment and also some lapis for her sister. Sorry, Linda. I did not get any lapis. I also did not get a nice carpet.
But I did get a carpet which, it turns out, is apparently the kind of thing that only a news dork like me could love.
ENGEL: Those are classic Afghan carpets.
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.
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 can‘t 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: So just like America and everywhere else in the world, Afghanistan has haves and have-nots. It has many, many, many, many more have-nots, but yes, a few major haves.
Richard and I visit an upscale neighborhood created in part by American war spending. We‘ve shown part of this footage before. We got a huge reaction to it. But we haven‘t shown all of it, and that‘s next.
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 no 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
here 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: Well, the streets flood. 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 warlord 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: Right. You can see, though, why the elites don‘t want the U.S. to leave, why they don‘t want the war to end. The elites are doing awesome out of our money.
ENGEL: They‘re making a lot of money. And you can see a lot of the houses have these screens like this fencing and the barbed wire. They are sniper screens. So you can move around inside and they‘re not going to stop a bullet, but you won‘t be seen so it would be hard to target you.
You‘ll notice all of the houses have that because almost everyone in this - this is very typical of the taste and the style and a lot of them have these sniper screens. Almost all of them have the sniper screens.
MADDOW: In a neighborhood where you have something this - real
closer. This like -
MADDOW: Garish. You‘ve also got a huge deal of open field of garbage.
ENGEL: No services. No services. Every - each house has its own generator. They take care of themselves. And they‘re not really connected to the rest of the city. The same way a lot of these officials aren‘t really connected emotionally or otherwise invested in the rest of the country.
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.
MADDOW: Yes. And if you‘re trying to stand up a government, funding
this instead of actually funding things that work for the people, it‘s kind
ENGEL: That is - some projects have helped. Some projects have helped people. We were in poor neighborhoods. They didn‘t have power before. They have power. But the fact that you can - there are entire neighborhoods, like this neighborhood which is quite big, of homes that are renting for $10,000 to $25,000 a month, and there‘s certainly no distribution of wealth. I‘m not saying there should be distribution of wealth, but there is a lot of corruption here.
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
ENGEL: 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.
ENGEL: I saw yesterday driving down the street, not far from where we were today, a giant tinted window, brand-new BMW M series - I don‘t know what series it was - giant BMW. And you know, in a country that had nothing like that before.
MADDOW: Yes. Amazing.
I promise, we will not continue to be the all-Afghanistan-all-the-time cable news show, but it is an honor to have been able to do this reporting. And as you can tell, frankly, now, I‘m obsessed.
I promise we will return to our regularly scheduled making fun of John Boehner and not booking Liz Cheney, no matter how many times we ask when we get back to Monday‘s show. Until then, have a great weekend. Good night.
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