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Who's in the Video
Jere Van Dyk is a journalist and author who has focused much of his writing on Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the early 1980s, working as a correspondent for The New[…]

It’s possible the U.S. will succeed in the long run in Afghanistan. But first it must prove that it is not the Soviet Union—and that it does not want to stay permanently.

Question: Can the US’s counterinsurgency strategy work in Afghanistan?

Jere Van Dyk:  It's possible that it may work in the longrn run, but it will never work until such time as the United States—and itrn surely must know this—until the United States levels with the military rnleadership in Pakistan and tells it in unequivocal terms to stop rnsupporting the Taliban.  There wasn't a man along the border in the rnmonths that I spent there who didn't say that we would be at peace if rnPakistan stopped supporting the Taliban. The United States must surely rnknow that we are spending billions—we have given billions of dollars rnsince 2001. Apparently, according to the newspapers, about 10.5 billion rndollars.  We don't know how much money has secretly gone to Pakistan.

Manyrn people along the border say that the one reason why this war is going rnon and that Pakistan is fostering the growth of and behind the Taliban rnis to convince the United States that it's in the United States' rninterest to prevent the rise of the Taliban again because out of the rnTaliban would become that element of Al Qaeda which would attack the rnWest.  Therefore, it's a way for Pakistan to gain money from the West.  rnThis is how men talk along the border.  I don't think that the United rnStates has leveled with us to the degree to which Pakistan—it's very rnclose ally since the 1950's who was always with the United States in rntrying to contain communism—may be not just an ally, but may be in part rnan enemy in that part of the world.
Question: How well is the Obama administration handling the war?

Jere Van Dyk:  It's very clear that under President rnObama, the war in Afghanistan, and particularly in Pakistan, has become rnfar worse.  And by worse I mean it's become more lethal.  President rnObama has unleashed I don't know how many but a tremendous... far more rndrone missiles on Pakistan than President Bush ever did.  President Bushrn was concentrating on Iraq.  President Obama is concentrating clearly onrn Afghanistan.

We currently today have as many soldiers and rnmarines in Afghanistan as the Soviet Union had during its 10-year war rnthere, when I was there as a much younger man as a newspaper reporter.  rnThe worst month of the war over nine years was last month, when more rnAmerican soldiers were killed.  The Taliban told me that "the more rnsoldiers that you send, the more we will kill."  So the more... the rnlonger we are there, the more this war continues, the more that we send rnin more soldiers, is not going to bring the war down.

As rnSecretary of Defense Gates, General McChrystal, and all those soldiers rnsurrounding him have said, "We are not winning, but we're not losing."  rnWhat is critical is that... there was an article in the Washington Timesrn not so long ago where a brigadier general U.S. said, "We do not rnunderstand the Pashtun mind."  Major General Flynn, who was the rnIntelligence Officer to General McChrystal said, complaining about the rnlack of intelligence that he's getting—I don't know if was a CIA / rnPentagon turf war—but the point is that we know after nine years so rnlittle of Afghanistan.  We do not understand the culture, we do not rnunderstand the mindset, we don't understand the language... which is onern reason why we're having such a difficult time.

In the 1980's, rnwhen you watch Soviet soldiers go through villages, they had allies.  rnCommunists were in those villages.  I've sat with Afghans in villages rnand I've watched American convoys come through, and children don't rnsmile.  Children don't wave.  And those soldiers are afraid.  The Unitedrn States has got to find a far better way to win these people over and torn show them that we are different from the Soviet Union, we are there to rnhelp them, and that we don't want to stay.

Recorded June 29. 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller