Americans have some misperceptions about Afghanistan and the war on terrorism.
“Many perceptions are good,” says Ali Jalali. “But this idea that Osama Bin Laden was the only reason for the western presence in Afghanistan is mistaken.”
Jalali is currently a professor at the National Defense University in Washington.
But he was previously a government minister in Kabul, and even ran for president against Hamid Karzai in 2009.
Commenting on he movie, “Zero Dark Thirty,” Jalali says “Osama Bin Laden may be gone. But al-Qaeda is still there, and has affiliates in south Asia. All of which can affect the security interests of the world.”
Karzai met with President Obama Friday in Washington to discuss the winding down of America’s presence in Afghanistan.
Jalali says he and most Afghans, inside and outside the country, are concerned that Afghanistan seems to have disappeared from the national conversation in America.
But he says he’s cautiously optimistic about his country’s future “if the right things are done by the end of 2014.”
That’s when US forces will effectively be out of Afghanistan.
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Jeb Sharp: Ali Jalali has some things to say about how his country, Afghanistan, is perceived here and in Hollywood. Jalali is a professor at the National Defense University in Washington. He’s also a former government minister in Kabul, and even ran for president against Hamid Karzai in 2009. Karzai met with President Obama today to discuss the winding down of America’s presence in Afghanistan. Given the expected US troop withdrawal, I asked Ali Jalali whether he’s optimistic about his nation’s future.
Ali Jalali: I’m cautiously optimistic. I think if certain things are done between now and 2014, I think Afghanistan will make it. It will be painful for many years, but Afghanistan will eventually reach some level of stability. It will take time. However, it needs commitment from both Afghans and also the international community.
Sharp: Now you live here in the United States. How do you feel about the conversation about Afghanistan sort of disappearing here?
Jalali: Well, it is, you know, something that all Afghans in Afghanistan or outside Afghanistan are not happy about it, because Afghanistan was not always at war. Afghanistan was at peace before 1979. It was at peace with itself, peace with the neighbors, and peace with everybody else in the world. However, Afghanistan’s situation deteriorated after the intervention from outside, first the Soviet Union, then the neighbors, and then the response from the international community created that situation that’s today. So those who had a role in the situation could undo what they did to Afghanistan. So therefore, there is the situation. Afghans need now the same kind of attention that was paid to the war in 1980s and the last decades.
Sharp: Mr. Jalali, have you seen Zero Dark Thirty?
Jalali: Not yet, no, no, not yet. I wanted to see it, but something happened. No, I have not seen it.
Sharp: Just this whole business of how we talk about Afghanistan, do you feel here in America that people are busy talking about Hollywood’s depiction of things, rather than the actual war itself, the actual policy dilemmas?
Jalali: You know, I will tell you now a personal experience. In two cases in Afghanistan and in my previous life, I was advisor to some film shooting which were historical. And when I raised my voice that this is not what the history actually teaches us and what happened, then the producer said, we are making a film for entertainment, not a kind of a documentary of Afghanistan history. So this is something that you have to take into mind. Things can be interpreted in different ways. What the situation as seen by Afghans is totally different from the situation as seen by others. So there were some times films are good, but at the same time it brings attention to an issue. But at the same time, it could also create misperceptions.
Sharp: Do you feel like the misperceptions have gotten better or worse since 9/11?
Jalali: I think they, there are many, many perceptions are good, but at the same time, if we believe that the Osama bin Laden was the only reason for the international community to come to Afghanistan, I think this is a misperception. Because still Osama bin Laden is gone but Al Qaeda is there, there’s still threat in making from South Asia which can affect the security interest of the rest of the world.
Sharp: So we focus on bin Laden at our peril.
Jalali: Yes, right.
Sharp: Ali Jalali, professor at the National Defense University in Washington, former candidate for president of Afghanistan. Thanks very much.
Jalali: Thank you.
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