Meet Two Vitaliks in Ukraine — a Ukrainian Nationalist and a Pro-Russian

Meet two Ukrainians named Vitalik.

One is a pro-Russian volunteer guard in Donetsk protecting his city against the “extremists” in Kiev.

The other is a Ukrainian nationalist (and member of an “extremist” party) who lost his friend in his arms in a battle against the riot police. He’s ready to fight and defeat the Russians if they invaded.

Posted in Latest News, Video | Leave a comment

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah talks to me about the 2014 elections and Afghanistan’s future

Interview conducted by Zack Baddorf in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2012.

“It’s… What they want is very clear. They want Islamic Emirate. Their own perception of Islamic Emirate, their own interpretation of Islam, and their own way of governance, where they think a few scholars, religious clerics or mullahs, a should get together and appoint the Emir, like the Emir which is existing today. The one which is for lifetime, it is sort of a life time job. According to their belief, either if he goes bi-polar, or mad, or crazy, or if he dies, then that’s a different thing, otherwise he will stay as Emir forever. Then the rights of citizens are completely ignored, and what they want ,they showed it to us earlier and they are struggling to achieve it once again. And they are hopeful that after the withdrawal of the foreign troops they can achieve it. And then the support that they are receiving, even today, from Pakistan it is helping them to be even more hopeful. So it’s not like Taliban fighting to be part of a political system or have a power sharing in a political system, because the system they want is very different. It’s a system that allows the terrorists to be part of that, in the main part of that, in the driving force for that, under one name that they are Taliban or that they are part of the Islamic Emirate all over the world. And their agenda is more than Afghanistan; their base of support is outside Afghanistan; the territory that hey want to influence is beyond Afghanistan. So within Afghanistan it is a position of an anachronistic system under the name of Islam by degrading the citizens to subhuman level, especially women, while outside of Afghanistan they are harboring terrorists all over the world in order to pursue their goals. Unfortunately then it’s, combined with that is the issue of drug-smuggling, narcotic, ransacking, kidnapping, many many sort of illegal extortion system which is now combined. So criminality and organized crime, plus a new ideology, which has its roots somewhere else and it’s branches elsewhere, so they want to plague the country once again with that. So this is where, where the sticking point comes. Had it been a like a struggle to gain power, true negotiations of power sharing, that could have happened, provided there could have been a sort of common understanding on the basic principles of statehood. That’s not there; that’s missing in their platform as well as their ideology.

Q: So they’re not interested in democracy?

Absolutely, absolutely not. Do Afghans want democracy? If you ask them outright they will say No. The reason for that is for them this is the era of democracy; and democracy for them means corruption, lawlessness, and so on and so forth, and many other things which come with it. But at the same time if you ask them do you want good governance? – they would say yes. Do you want the rule of law? – they would say yes. Do you want people’s participation, citizen’s rights, and elections, free and fair elections?- the answer from the people, from the ordinary people, to all of this will be Yes. The absolute majority. So sometimes that simple superficial term gives a different perception. I will say yes, it is only because of that, because there was one person one vote was envisioned in the Bonn agreement agreement, that we agreed, in Bonn. Otherwise we couldn’t have a start for the process. But our failures to deliver, failures of the system, of the current leadership to deliver to the people, this has disappointed them and sometimes the blame will come on the system. And then people’s perception about democracy will be all that they see, rather that all that could happen to them.”

“As I mentioned earlier, that the fight is between the different ideology. It’s between Islamic Emirate and Islamic Republic. And, yes, the only possibility at this stage is re-integration. Because there are a lot of people which might have joined the Taliban as a movement, because of ideology rather than bringing the state down. But the core movement, it has not changed its program or its plan. This had to be considered, and this was not considered in the reconciliation process. For example, President Karzai promises the people from time to time that next year Brother Mullah Ahmad will join us and Brother *? Will join us – he is only using it for its own goals. And that has, that has confused the people; that has affected the morale of the people; that has affected our institutions, including our national security institutions. In a fight which is the toughest, in our century I should say, against terrorism, you see, 40-50 countries were involved, all made sacrifices, Afghans made sacrifices, and this we are not allowed to play jokes; we have to be straightforward to our people and to the world. Yes its’ a tough challenge, and these terrorists – or the, those who are terrorizing the people- they have to be defeated, they have to be isolated, and the people have to be won. Failing to win the people, which is what the current administration is doing, makes the job of defeating the terrorists difficult.”

“It did work a time; it did lead to the Taliban losing basic grounds in some parts of the country. But at the same time it’s an insurgency and in an insurgency winning the people is the main issue. And winning the people is not the job of the American troops or British troops. It’s for the governments, for the partners. Yet even at same time I had mentioned the positive impact of the ?upcoming * surge, at that time I had mentioned, coupled with it, certain things has to happen certain changes has to happen, within Afghanistan, by the Afghans in order to, in order, in order to, to consolidate gains by surge. Which is, which is, unfortunately, not the case, has not been the case. So I would say that, today, the part of the part of the operation which has been effective, very effective, has been Special Operations, after surge. Who’s opposed to it? Taliban and President Karzai. Yeah, apart from the issue of the civilian casualties, which is a concern for every Afghan citizen, that’s apart from that. But who is, who are the people that are against the Special Operations, which have been the most effective, especially, also, in terms of preventing the civilian casualties: we had minimum civilian casualties. One percent is too much, but, at the same time, it has minimized civilian casualties. But the two groups that are against the Special Operations: President Karzai against advice by his Defense Minister,by his Interior Minister and by his National Director of Security, Chief of NDS – against the advice of those people or his national security advisor he is opposed to this. So how can you expect these efforts, serious efforts, to yield the results that are expected when you are caught up with a leader who is dealing with it as it is?”

“Today’s opportunity is a unique one and, if we miss it, I will be very worried about the future of the country. I mean, I’m not talking about one person, or this group versus another group, I mean the whole opportunity, what has remained of this opportunity. But at the same time I believe in the Afghan people and, and I have faith in them, and I’m sure they will overcome. But the future path will be as bumpy as the past.”

“I hope not, but, at the same time if the current sense of, if President Karzai continues, in the coming one or two years, with the sense of irresponsibility towards his own people unless there is a change through elections, I might think that a few more opportunities will be missed unless there is a change through elections, through a decision making process that is acceptable to the people of Afghanistan and a new trend starts here, and our concerns are that. It’s an important factor, it’s an important factor; let’s say that in regards goes to the international community. If the same thing continues, how long will the international community continue to contribute from its taxpayers’ money to feed a corrupt regime? You see what I mean. Or the people of Afghanistan will tolerate this? Let’s take the elections, 2009. We left it behind we said we should move on, the country should move on, we shouldn’t get a second elections although it was fraud, it was rigged. But the same things continue; so what are the peoples’ hope for a change? At that time people will take unwise decisions. Decisions will be imposed on them. I hope that we will not get that.”

“First of all, the people have started losing faith on the politicians as a whole, because they think that anybody comes they will do the same thing. And second thing is, when you let the rampant corruption to be the basis of your conduct, it changes the attitude of the people, it affects the situation as a whole. Then, when I say golden opportunity, part of it, people were ready for changes – at that time, they were very flexible at that time. Now if you only take the rule of law, or the issue of corruption, it has become very rigid. It’s very difficult to deal with it. Or anyone one who comes after president Karzai will have huge, huge difficulties dealing with it because the foundation is not the right foundation. So I would say, it should work otherwise there is no future for the country. Of course what is very disappointing about President Karzai is the fact that he, from the one side, he damages the democratic process himself, deliberatively, because it doesn’t favor him in a sense, or doesn’t match his mentality. From the other side, he says that it’s not working in Afghanistan. So he is the reason for it not to make it work. And then that perception grows that Afghanistan has to live in the Stone Ages forever and the modern concepts of governance and rule of law does not apply to this country.Which is not the case: already, the people showed their sense and their support for the process – we failed them.”

“And I believe in this; unfortunately I came to believe in it. When we supported him as a leader before him becoming the interim leader that was not my perception about him. My perception of him was that he was educated person, that he had some exposure to the outside world, that he has been part of the freedom struggle, Mujahadeen. But, later on I learned it, the hard way, yeah, that unfortunately his concern is mainly about his own, about his own family about the future of a small group ?*0:47 the country. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have dealt with the situation with this sense of irresponsible attitude that he has done so far. So, this is very unfortunate, for a country like Afghanistan which has this golden opportunity ahead of it, being caught with a leader which doesn’t believe in those principles which could be, that could save that country, from the curses of history or what’s it has left behind and move it forward. So most of the opportunities that we missed is because of this.”

“And there is no doubt that the National Coalition of Afghanistan will have it’s own candidate. There is no doubt about it. I have not decided as of yet, but National Coalition of Afghanistan because we had, we had like a little less than half the votes. The upcoming elections, we have the same concerns. Unfortunately. There aren’t enough Election commission being appointed. It’s, at the moment the sole authority is the President who appoints the Commissioners without any scrutiny or process of selection. Which in itself is a problem. As we were saying last time in the elections the only thing independent in the Independent elections commission is the name. Its independence was under question and wide-spread fraud took place, which not only we claim, but now the whole world, those who followed it, they know about it and the people of Afghanistan witnessed it. And if the upcoming election will be as bad as that one, or if it will be not dramatically better than the old one, it will not, it will lead to a lot of consequences for the country. We are passing this message to President Karzai, although he will not and should not be a candidate in the upcoming elections, he might have a favorite candidate. In another scenario, if he tries to, to, to steal the process by another means, this might lead to serious consequences for the country. So, it’s for all of us to see through it with utmost sense of responsibility because this will be the foundation of – for the future of Afghanistan. In this regard, we are making efforts, we are joining hands with other parties in order to push for reforms and hopefully through the parliament we can have reforms needed. We are not under any illusions about the circumstances we are living at. But, at the same time, I believe we should do our utmost and best efforts in order to get it much better than what it was before. But I’m concerned. The main area of concern, apart from the natural problems of a country like Afghanistan in preparing for free and fair elections has, is the lack of belief or political resolve in the current, current administration of Afghanistan. We are a party to it. That is the main area of concern.”

“Looking at it from the pure humanitarian side, or looking at it from pure strategic side, or politics, due strategic situation. In all aspects it has been a worthwhile investment. And, of course, it is very difficult for the American public to understand after ten years of contributions and sacrifices and blood and treasure, still Afghanistan doesn’t look like a success story. And there it makes our argument, or the argument of the American administration before their own lawmakers, their own public, very difficult. Here I will, apart from the mistakes on the part of the international community,which I consider perhaps innocent mistakes, but at the same time very consequential in terms of the situation Afghanistan, the Afghan leadership also has to be blamed, it has to be blamed. And, I see the problem here. We were not able to utilize this opportunity; and while deviation from the direction which was the assurance for success in itself, has led to some missed opportunities missed opportunities. So if you see concerns among the Afghan people or see these questions among the friends of Afghanistan, like among the American public, this is because of these missteps, which we could have prevented and were not necessary.

I would say that the Afghans at large understand the need, the need for the American presence itself. And if there is another situation that they believe that our own security institutions would be able to deal with the challenges that we are having, and to provide stability and security, and prevent terrorism from turning back to Afghanistan and turning Afghanistan into a hub for international tourism – terrorism – then the absolute majority would be happy to see theAmerican troops leave. While at the situation like today’s Afghanistan, I would say that the people of Afghanistan understand, but from the other side like any other foreign troop presence in any other country, but especially taking into account the nature of the situation in Afghanistan troop presence has its own repercussions as well. Which is natural. Sometime when civilian casualties take place as a result of NATO operations that leads to resentment and many things as such. Also, spoilers, through their own propaganda, or whatever way, they want to turn the area into an area of tension between and the international forces here.”

“The combination of two things. Constant pressure, because that is what is needed, and showing resolve, and being coherent in policy towards Pakistan, and especially when it comes to the issue of terrorism. Because for quite some time the international community ignored what was happening in Pakistan, they were not ready to accept. And when we were talking about it, it was interpreted some Afghans have some animosity against Pakistan. Which was not the case. We don’t have animosity against Pakistan. We do know we we should live on good terms with our neighbors, with all our neighbors, especially with Pakistan. At the same time, their policy, we have suffered because of their policies. They are going to suffer as a result of those. So far those harsh lessons for Pakistan itself has not been sufficient in order to drive the policy in another direction, that is my belief. You will find many many sympathizers among the politicians, but the policy of supporting Taliban will continue. They do know that the stronger Afghani Taliban are the stronger Pakistani Taliban will be – and they have to fight Pakistani Taliban, against Pakistani Taliban – but at the same time they continue. This is a flaw in their basic national security concept, which no politician have been able to overcome. And that has continued. And so with that having in mind, that has to be dealt with. Sometimes the missteps of President Karzai has encouraged them to continue the same, the same path. Sometimes the negligence, or ignorance, by the international community, of this harsh factor, has led them to continue the same path. But, this is, this is what it is.”

“The description of the country, today, and how it was, and how it can be, might be a bit different. In today’s situation, while the people are hopeful to some extent, but, at the same time, the worries and different concerns overtake the hopes. That is, that is my main concern at this stage. But, otherwise, it is a country which has every potential for betterment. Yes, of course, there are serious challenges, as a land locked country, a mountainous country, different ethnic groups and linguistics, and geography and socioeconomic circumstances: tough neighborhood. These are all challenges that we are faced with, but at the same time the past, the experience of the past eleven years, which is a mixed experience, will tell us: post September 11th the people of Afghanistan started a new life, a new beginning. We, as leaders, may have disappointed them in the past eleven years, by not delivering to the people what we had promised them, but the people did their best to make it a success story. I would say that todays situation- it’s a golden opportunity behind us, already, in the past ten or eleven years. Is still hopeful that things will be better.”

“If you look at what happened in 2001, in December 2001, that was the Bonn Agreement: to sign an agreement that as such would be the basis for the future of a country, earlier, would have taken years and years of negotiations. But, over night, the sense of the people had changed, at that time. And they looked at it, the fact that the international community got interested in helping Afghanistan, the fact that Afghanistan embarked upon a process which would have led to the one person – one vote. These were the important issues which kept people behind the process, has kept people behind the process. And this were, this was like how it was started. The changes started at that time. And the people of Afghanistan becoming aware of their rights, that I would consider it as the biggest change. Perhaps people today are not enjoying their full rights, but they are aware of it and they are ready to struggle for it. At the same time, some of the positive trends, which had started, turned negative later on. These are due to internal, regional and international circumstances, which is unfortunate. And some of the things that are happening today we could have prevented it years ago, But these are things, these are things, today it is beyond our control, we cannot change what has happened in the past. Nowhere in our history, like over ninety percent of the people were supportive of a single process, or a single leadership. That, that is what happened. And of course the international consensus behind Afghanistan at that time, to help Afghanistan move forward. These were unique for this period. Have we Afghans and international friends used this opportunity in its best way? The answer is No, absolute No.”

“Yes, of course, while this is one of the greatest areas of change, the access of people to education, and its impact will be long term, not just in the immediate one or two years, but for the future of Afghanistan. If we have to have a country which can utilize it best potentials in human resources, as well as natural resources, then investing on human resources and investment in education is the key to it. This is what keeps us hopeful. And today’s youth, you might, you were with us back a few minutes ago: these are the enthusiasts. Youth, which are looking towards the future. They are hopeful they can better their country, their own lives, as well as help their own families and their own country. This will be the future of the country, provided we, at this stage, facilitate for them further. In, well, today we are talking about quantity in terms of education – quality education is something that one has to look at it. Otherwise, this can turn into a big challenge for us. We have thousands of graduates who are not, which are not employed. And the system of employment is not based on merit. It’s, unfortunately there is lots of corruption and nepotism involved, and many things as such. And, also, the education system, it’s not a well-thought program, based on a well-thought program. Let’s say how much skilled workers do we have? How much focus has been on vocational training? We still rely on skilled labor from the neighboring countries while thousands of youths are jobless here in this country, or tens of thousands of them, or hundreds of thousands of them. So these are the areas of eduction that one has to look at it in the coming years, while quantity wise, it’s, it’s almost thought the country there is access to education, except for the areas where because of security. For example we heard recently that one province, like Paktia, twenty schools have been closed and other provinces as such. But as a whole if it is education, if it is development as whole, if it is any area of life, here what is missing today is leadership and a sense of direction ” Where are we going?”so the country can, the people can attribute to that, can associate with that vision and also attribute to the success of the direction that we are, we are moving.”

“It became like this it wasn’t like this. It started, we started on good steps, but then we had mis-steps, serious mis-steps. And one of the things in this regard is the political will. There is no doubt that one cannot have wishful thinking about it. One has to look in to the realities and what we are having. But the point is if the top leaders of the country make it part of their conduct or ignore it, gravely, whatever happens. If they do not show that resolve, and the people don’t see that resolve there, whether it is in dealing with corruption, or order to the rule of law as a whole, or justice, or good governance. Then to expect this to happen from the lower level – it is unrealistic.

Strong leadership, resolve, at the same time matching deeds with words. It’s not just like claiming something, and the people will test you. And whenever the people see the start of a change, they will contribute to the success of it. Otherwise, if it is rhetorics, it will remain as rhetorics and things will go from bad to worse.”

(Transcribed by Do Lee.)

Posted in Latest News, Video | Leave a comment
  • About Zack Baddorf

    I'm a public relations professional and multimedia reporter. You are welcome to check out my portfolio of radio, print, photo and video stories. There's much more about me on this website, including my contact info.

  • Pages

  • Get Email Updates