Professor Rashid, last week US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited India and asked its government for a deeper involvement in the anti-terrorism war which is spreading all over Central Asia. What is your opinion?
Gates is right: all the terrorist groups in the region have close links and are working together at a strategic level. What is needed is a regional strategy that brings all the countries of the region to stop interfere in Afghanistan in order not to repeat what happened in the 1990s, when the neighbors of Afghan fuelled a civil war. The US administration has declared to agree with this policy, but in the past year has not succeeded in bringing the countries of the region together. Regional tensions are worse than a year ago if we look at India and Pakistan, Iran and the region and with the US. Also because of the poor response from Russia and Central Asian states for US efforts in Afghanistan.
Do you consider the position of the US a sort of “long period exit strategy” from the “Af-Pak war”, aiming at transferring the responsibilities to local governments, first of all to India and Pakistan?
It would be very dangerous and completely unacceptable to the Afghans if the American tried to hand over Afghanistan to one or more countries before leaving. That is what they did in 1989 after the Soviets when they handed over Afghanistan to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and the result was the Taliban regime. The Afghans must be left alone and allowed to work out their own future without neighbors interfering and arming or funding warlords and others.