JOHN HUMPHRYS: So what are we to
make of all that? Well Fred Halliday is the Professor of International
Relations at the London School of Economics. He's got a book coming out
this week as it happens on the implications of September the eleventh.
Professor, the chances
of success for that meeting in Germany - great, non-existent - what?
PROFESSOR FRED HALLIDAY: Well, I think the fact that it's
happening is a success on two levels, one is enough Afghan parties are
going to talk, nobody's trying to take victory for themselves, nobody thinks
they can create a strong central government and simply run Afghanistan
like the Communists did, or indeed the Taliban did.
HUMPHRYS: Not even the Northern
HALLIDAY: No. The Northern Alliance
know they can't rule the rest of the country and of course then we come
to the second point. The problem in Afghanistan in the last ten years
hasn't been the cold war which ended a decade ago, it's been the regional
states, particularly a proxy conflict between Pakistan on the one hand
backing the Taliban, Iran on the other hand backing the Northern Alliance.
Now Iran and Pakistan have done some sort of deal for the time being,
they've agreed to let this go forward and one of the purposes of the Bonn
conference, one of the purposes of the whole UN diplomatic effort is to
make sure that the regional states who've been messing Afghanistan up will
co-operate in the process and I think that's a good sign.
People will bargain -
that's politics, but the fact that so many people are willing to go there
and again if you compare it to Yugoslavia, no-one is trying to ethnically
cleanse anybody. Nobody is trying to secede, there's nobody saying we
want to leave Afghanistan. People talk about nation building in Afghanistan.
There is an Afghan nation, it's a very decentralised one but there is one.
So some of the omens are good.
HUMPHRYS: But I note you say in
that answer 'for the time being'.
HALLIDAY: Well, I don't think any
outside power, neither the Russians nor the Americans, nor any of the regional
powers, are going to start arming and stoking up a war in Afghanistan,
which has been going on for twenty years. Even before the Communists came
to power Pakistan was doing it in the seventies. And I think secondly
the people of Afghanistan are tired and even the leaders realise they've
got to do some kind of deal. So if you can find a mechanism to set up
a transitional government, put in some international money, then the chances
of stabilising it are reasonably great. Then all sorts of problems of
real life and politics like landmines, like rights for women, like the
drugs trade - those problems will be there, but you will have a reasonably
coherent government with a bit of international support and that would
be a step forward from twenty years of war.
HUMPHRYS: But that's making the
assumption is it that the Northern Alliance will agree to give up some
power. I mean I was talking to the Foreign Secretary there and I put it
to him then as you'll have heard, that it is........
HALLIDAY: .......he's not the Foreign
HUMPHRYS: ....former Foreign Secretary.
Good Heavens alive, I'm a wee bit out of date there, aren't I. Leader
of the House and a member of the War Cabinet..
HALLIDAY: ..fine man but not the
HUMPHRYS: ...fine man but not the
Foreign Secretary. Making the point that they see themselves as - the
Northern Alliance now see themselves as the government of Afghanistan.
So they've got to give way?
HALLIDAY: They've got to give way.
But look, let's face it, they got what they did because the Americans
and the Brits came in on their side and they know that very well. Secondly
if they're going to get international money from this trust fund, we're
talking five - ten billion US dollars is being offered, they're going to
have to compromise. Thirdly, they know what I don't think they knew before
and the Taliban didn't realise which is that you can't run Afghanistan
representing only half of the country, so they've got to work with people
from the Pashtun area like Hamid Karzai who you had on and even perhaps
some people who were associated with the Taliban, provided these people
don't want to lock up women, provided they don't want to export terrorism,
provided they don't want to run the country on their own. So I think there
is a basis for a compromise there. But the other problem is that the
Northern Alliance are not agreed among themselves. You see General Dostum
is trying to claim the capture of Konduz for himself, so he's got his own
Uzbek agenda there. So there are problems within the Northern Alliance
which may create further difficulties.
HUMPHRYS: And if the Northern Alliance
does split, if they start to fight each other, then what - how does that
get sorted out?
HALLIDAY: I don't think they'll
start to fight each other in a major way. I'd be surprised. There' a
lot of guns there, but people are in a bargaining mood, they're in a political
mood if you like. And then the people who control them, the Americans,
the Iranians and others are pushing them towards a compromise, so I'd be
optimistic there. There may be the odd clash, but they won't hang on to
every ministry in Kabul and at the end of the day you decentralise in Afghanistan.
This is a country with no great population problems, which has got a large
amount of water and cultivatable land. If you let the people get back to
agriculture and let them get back to trading, the government will look
HUMPHRYS: And might we see some
element of the Taliban in that government?
HALLIDAY: We will see Pashtuns
who were associated with the Taliban, but they're not going to be Taliban.
A bit like reformed Communists in Eastern Europe. They're not going to
export terrorism to Central Asia, they're not going to give harbour to
Bin Laden, they're not going to try and impose this very rigid and un-Afghan
version of Islam on the women of Afghanistan, they're not going to do that.
HUMPHRYS: You sound reasonably
HALLIDAY: I know you're not an
HUMPHRYS: No, no!
HALLIDAY: I think there's reason
to be ..
HUMPHRYS: I just ask questions.
That's all. But you are reasonably optimistic?
HALLIDAY: Yes, and I think the
regional states above all are willing to go along with it for the time
HUMPHRYS: Professor Halliday, many