Kabul protests

Cooperation with Iran way to restore peace in Afghanistan: US former official

IRNA – The former Chairman of the US Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said that Afghanistan can be another Vietnam for Washington and that cooperation with the regional countries, especially Iran, is the best way to peace and stability in that country.

In an exclusive interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) on Monday, Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr. slammed US new strategy in Afghanistan and said, ‘This position Trump is taking, basically, came from the White House with minimal input from the Defense Department.’

Lt. General Robert G. Gard, Jr. is the former Chairman of the US Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation where his policy work focuses on nuclear nonproliferation, missile defense, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, military policy, nuclear terrorism, and other national security issues.

Referring to the regional role of Iran and the significance of talks with Iran in order to find a way to discontinuance of violence, Gard said, ‘We certainly have some points of major disagreement with Iran, but we have, now, a workable agreement on nuclear issue, and that’s extremely valuable.’ He added, ‘We should be prepared … to take Iranian views of their vital interest seriously and take them into consideration.’

General Gard questioned the success of the US administration’s new approach on Afghanistan and said, ‘Based on President Trump’s speech, the Secretary of Defense will come up with a more detailed strategy and plan. Frankly, I don’t see much difference in what he has to say as opposed to what we had been doing earlier.’

Answering a question if Trump is offering an exit strategy for Afghanistan, he said, ‘I don’t see there is an exit strategy; quite the contrary, it seems to me it’s a commitment we will stay here even though, many people including military leaders have said there is no military solution. And of course the Taleban said they will not negotiate until US troops withdraw. So it looks like a continuation of the stalemate we’ve had for many years.’

Answering the question, ‘Why are Trump and his advisors choosing the same path that has already failed many times?’ the retired general said, ‘Because there really doesn’t appear to be a good alternative. If you take political considerations into account, Resident Trump apparently wants to project the image of military strength, so he probably doesn’t consider withdrawal a viable option.’

Gard added, ‘Of course, he [=Trump] advocated that during the campaign, but now he even admitted, in this case, that he has actually changed his mind.’

Former executive assistant of the US Defense Minister considered regional cooperation ‘the only viable course of action’, and said, ‘Even though it doesn’t appear that it would be productive in the short term … it makes sense to sit down with the other powers in the area and try to come up with some kind of reasonable consensus on a course of action.’

Gard said, ‘There are so many competing interests in the area; Pakistan does not welcome India’s participation … but I think we should try.’

Saying that the negotiations should include the participation of the Taleban in the Afghan government, he added the concern of certain members of the Congress and the Trump administration is that doing so, Taliban and Al-Qaeda may regain power and be able to plan attacks on the States, like that of 9/11.

He added that US is going to have to make some painful concessions. And the Afghan government is going to have to make some painful concessions to accommodate what Taleban regards as their vital interest in order to stop the violence whose losers are the Afghan people.

He also said that as it seems Taleban feel they are prevailing, so they show no intention foe negotiation.

General Gard called for the US government’s talks with Iran and said that Iran positively helped the US to form the government in Afghanistan.

Iran, contrary to the US, shares border with Afghanistan and ‘certainly has legitimate interest in Afghanistan,’ adding, ‘We should be prepared, despite some of the political problems in our own county, to take Iran views of their vital interest seriously.’

Gard added, ‘It is clear that he [Trump] at least consulted with some of the military authorities, I don’t think that the Pentagon has any really new ideas on how to deal with the situation … The problem we have with the military is when they are given a task to perform, they work very hard to do they can to be successful. And it’s very difficult for the military to say, ‘Look! Our strategy did not succeed.”