Ajmal Sohail is the leader of the Afghan Liberal Party, founded in 2004. The party’s Kabul headquarters suffered from act of arson on April 9, 2007, attacked either by Islamist militants or individuals upset at the party’s investigations into corruption.
Below is ClarionProject.org National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro’s interview with Ajmal Sohail:
Ajmal Sohail: The people of Afghanistan and the Arab world want something on their dinner table. That is what Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood cannot provide as long as they are isolated from the globe because of their stances on Sharia and extreme elements of Islam. Hamas won the elections, but they were not helpful to ordinary Palestinians because of their enmity towards Israel, the European Union and the U.S.
I am sure the Muslim Brotherhood will not be successful in Egypt unless it changes its stance and renounces radical Islam. The country [Egypt] is still hugely divided. Egyptians and other Muslims around the globe that follow the footsteps of the Muslim Brotherhood are beginning to face challenges from the middle class. From my secular point of view, the extreme measures do not meet the challenges of the middle class. Ordinary Afghans want to fight terrorism and extremist elements and want to abandon the regimes that, in one way or another, support radical elements.
My Afghan Liberal Party is minor politically because we concentrate on the middle class but, very unfortunately, the middle class in Afghanistan is not at the stage that it s at in other countries in the region. But we will not give up until the establishment of a real democratic regime based on liberal, democratic principles.
Mauro: How do Afghans feel about the withdrawal of U.S. forces?
Sohail: To be honest, most Afghans thought the U.S. would really provide them with democracy, rule of law and good governance, which are supposed to be the measures for a lean and transparent government. Many of them wished that Afghanistan would become a symbol for the entire region. This hasn’t been very successful because of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups living and training on the other side of the border inside Pakistan and Iran. The U.S. said it would attack anyone or any group engaged in armed conflict with it and threatening its interests but day by day, terrorist organizations are getting more trained, more sophisticated and more vigorous.
Afghans still worry that if U.S. troops exit the country, the principles of human rights, civil liberties, political freedoms and sustainable economic development will be hollowed out. The country could turn to the conflicts of the 1990’s, and that is why the people really feel tremendously anguished about [the prospects if] the U.S. will abandon Afghanistan.
Mauro: It is often argued that Afghanistan is bound to fail because of its division by sects, tribes and warlords. How realistic is the goal of creating a democracy in Afghanistan?
Sohail: For sure, to some extent Afghanistan is divided by sect, tribes and warlords, and such elements have made it fail, but there are other elements turning the country into a failure that are deep-rooted. There are Taliban-ized mindsets, and there are corrupt and nepotistic elements supported by the president [Karzai] himself. Economic mafias, drug dealers, the financial system, the government bureaucracy, anarchy and lawlessness have made the country fail, but U.S. silence about the above matters also contributes to that failure.
Mauro: Do you believe U.S. forces should depart Afghanistan? Can the U.S. stop the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other terrorists just through drone strikes?
Sohail: I think a small number of U.S. troops will remain in the country for some time without strategic weaponry. If I am right, that type of presence won’t help Afghans and will leave the troops vulnerable.
The drone strikes are, to some extent, successful. They’ve killed a large number of extremists and the drones are rather helpful towards fighting terrorism but it is a gigantic mistake to think drone attacks alone can win the whole war on terrorism. It is crystal-clear that terrorism, Taliban-ism, radicalism and fundamentalism supported by Pakistan and Iran can’t be stopped without vast diplomatic pressure and military strikes on those countries. Cyber and technological warfare cannot wipe out the threat of terrorism. The terrorists’ unconventional methods of combat means ground troops are needed.
Mauro: How do most Afghans view the role of Sharia law in governance?
Sohail: Most do whatever they want and follow their own traditions. There is not much optimism about Sharia law in governance because it was twice introduced, once by the so-called mujahideen leaders shortly after the collapse of the communist regime and once by the Taliban. Both times it did not address the main concerns of the people, as I said previously, that Afghans want something on their dinner table. That is what Sharia law cannot provide. It can’t work in an advancing world or follow international laws or promote peace and stability. Under Sharia law, the country becomes as isolated as Iran or Palestine.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.