Former deputy secretary of state discusses future diplomacy: NPR
Annie Pforzheimer was the Acting Assistant Under Secretary of State for Afghanistan until March 2019.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We will now turn to Annie Pforzheimer. She was Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Afghanistan until March 2019. Prior to that, she was Deputy Head of Mission in Kabul. She is now speaking to us from New York. Are you watching TV now? Do you look at the images of the embassy? What’s your reaction ?
ANNIE PFORZHEIMER: My reaction is real horror and sadness. It’s not Saigon. It’s Trzebnica. We leave people in danger. And I wish our embassy, my colleagues good luck, but whatever we could do for Afghans in danger, we should do it now.
CORNISH: What are some of those things?
PFORZHEIMER: Well, there are lists going around of people who not only worked for the U.S. military or directly for the embassy, but who worked for our underlings – people who were the face of the ideals of, you. know, freedom of speech or freedom of speech for women. rights. And these lists have been compiled, but there is apparently no plan to get people out, to use the Defense Ministry forces that are there to help the people in the embassy – use them to help guard the airport opened to allow two commercial flights and special charter evacuations are occurring.
CORNISH: Could the United States have handled the number of special visas they were talking about anyway?
PFORZHEIMER: We should have been faster about them in recent years, of course. And there was no way, with this timeline of the Taliban takeover, that we could have gone through all 14 or 17 steps of a special immigrant visa as it was originally designed. , which means the design should have been changed to meet the needs. from the moment.
CORNISH: How are diplomats doing their job as a transfer of power from President Ghani to the Taliban is being negotiated? I understand there was at least supposed to be consular support at the airport.
PFORZHEIMER: I think what they’re talking about right now – what I read in the press is the core team staying at the embassy where other embassy assets are at the airport. And I would just say that the remaining core team means they could go up in size. This does not leave the embassy aside. This is a group small enough that they could be easily evacuated, but they could also become stronger. And if the airport stays open, other help could come.
CORNISH: What levers are there, that is, if it’s Doha, if it’s the UN? The Taliban seem to have a momentum behind them, don’t they? – and not much to lose.
PFORZHEIMER: I think the United States had options that they didn’t take. I would strongly disagree that it was all or nothing, that it was either, you know, staying in a fighting role, or leaving with that kind of abrupt timeline. We still have a few options – very few. They involve the UN and the reimposition of new sanctions against the Taliban, thus reinforcing this so-called international consensus that the Taliban should not take power by force.
CORNISH: Can I just tell you something that we’re hearing this morning? Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has voiced very serious criticism, saying this was the predictable result of the Trump-Biden doctrine of weakness and suggesting that the two most recent administrations, let’s quote, “have deliberately decided to lose in Afghanistan “. As someone who worked in the State Department and was there for the last few years, how do you hear that?
PFORZHEIMER: I’m saddened that this interpretation may have some followers because I’m sure the people involved had no intention of this outcome. But there were predictions made by very serious people – people who had, you know, no real reason, you know, to lie about it from the intelligence community, the US Institute of. Peace, who said it was the most likely outcome. So I believe that the people in power deliberately did not follow the recommendations that were given to them.
CORNISH: Can you point that out? What do you think they deliberately don’t have?
PFORZHEIMER: Take any options or recommendations given to them.
CORNISH: I understood you had heard from women in Afghanistan worrying about what would happen next in a country controlled by the Taliban. What are they telling you?
PFORZHEIMER: I think what they’re saying is that things are already evident in areas of the country that are under de facto Taliban control, which would only get worse and more widespread if they took the lead. to be able to. And that includes women who don’t have freedom of movement. There are horrific reports – somewhat credible allegations of forced marriages. These are things that panic women – and revenge killings, such as assassinations.
CORNISH: It was Annie Pforzheimer, who was the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Afghanistan – until March 2019 – and was also the head of the mission in Kabul. Thank you very much for your feedback today.
PFORZHEIMER: Thank you for having me.
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