Exclusive Interview with John Bolton: “Government of Pakistan consists of arsonists and firefighters at the same time”

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Ambassador John Bolton, American attorney, diplomat, Republican consultant, and political commentator. Few days ago, he has announced of running in 2024 presidential election in the US. John Bolton served as national-security adviser and as the 25th United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

On January 10, 2023, Ambassador John Bolton gave an exclusive interview to Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, Editor, Blitz, where he has discussed a wide range of issues.

Here is the full transcript of the interview. It is also available on BLiTZ YouTube channel.

Shoaib Choudhury: In a recent article you said, Trump’s first, most egregious mistake was negotiating with Taliban terrorists while excluding Afghanistan’s legitimate elected government, which the US helped create at such cost in US lives and treasure.

We are already witnessing that the Taliban jihadists are pushing Afghanistan towards dark era, where rights of women and human rights are being grossly violated.

Under such scenarios, my question is – what United States and its allies can do to save Afghans from the grips of Taliban jihadists? And for taking any fresher measures in Afghanistan, United States may need to once again tag Pakistan as an ally, though in the past Pakistan has betrayed with the US and used American money towards funding terrorists. How the US can achieve its goals in Afghanistan with an ally like Pakistan, which is already known for patronizing terrorism?

John Bolton: Well it was a grave mistake for the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan and they have NATO withdraw with it. As you said, I think the mistake was back with the Trump administration and its initial decision to negotiate with the Taliban, which undercut the government, which made people and the military, the government and the civil society as a whole, feel that the US government was more interested simply withdrawing from Afghanistan than achieving in real. Please I don’t think statements made by the Taliban, commitments they may have made in the negotiations, whether it’s Taliban or Haqqani Network, or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar whoever it might be. Wherever credible, I don’t think Taliban and its allies ever intended to adhere to some of the things that they promised, there’s a condition to get the United States to withdraw so, tragically what we see in Afghanistan right now was entirely predictable and, the negative consequences that the US feels now by bringing greater danger of terrorist attacks coming from Afghanistan. The strategic vacuum that we left for Russia and China and the terrible consequences for the population of Afghanistan, we can all see everyday. So, I think the US’s response to this has to be, number 1: no recognition of the Taliban government directly or indirectly, I think we should certainly try to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan not to the Taliban government, not to have them had any control over the supply or distribution or assistance, really to any fund government provides and then urgently speaking with leaders to the Afghan resistance to see what assistance we might be able to give them, communication assistance, certainly this point non{lethal} military assistance, there are many things we can do but, we need to know and have close conversations with resistance.

I think all of this for surprise and how quickly the Afghan government fell including many people in Afghanistan who obviously didn’t want Taliban to take over. So, many were caught by surprise, there are resistance leaders outside of Afghanistan now, soon they will have to return. We all remember the lion of the [inaudible] valley, Ahmed Shah Masood, his son is now a leader among the [inaudible] and others, we need to see more of a resistance structure now. That bring me to the issue of Pakistan, you have rightly said, it has been involved in turmoil in Afghanistan for many years and I remember a former American diplomat who worked on the Afghan question for many years, used to say that the government of Pakistan was the only government he knew of that consisted of arsonists and firefighters at the same time. The arsonists we’re the people who have supported a number of terrorist groups including and Pakistan’s dispute with India put also support of the Taliban and Haqqani Network and others. I think now in Pakistan itself, we have got a very complicated situation with respect to the government and who is in charge and what future political events we are gonna see but, I think the US prospective should be that it’s not in the long term interest of the government of the people of Pakistan to support terrorism.

It may seem advantageous in the near term in certain circumstances, long term. It’s never going to work; it’s never going to benefit. Pakistan, it will cause as it, I think is causing now, trouble inside their own country. So, this is a conversation, we’ve had for many years with Pakistan, but I think, it takes on real urgency now because the Taliban are once again back in control across their border and I think helping to contribute to instability inside Pakistan itself. So, this is also something I think other countries in the region can help out with. But it’s going to be complicated. I say that because it’s been complicated before and I don’t think it’s going to be any simple to this time.

Shoaib Choudhury: In Iran anti-regime protest is continuing for many weeks now. In your opinion, can these protests succeed in ousting mullahs from power?

John Bolton: Yes, I think they can succeed. I think the government in Tehran is weaker. Now, that an any point, since it took power in the 1979 Revolution, I think we all should realize that there have been widespread economic protest in Iran for four five, six years now, and which were bloodily repressed by the government of ever run in 2019. But the protesters continued because the economy is so mismanaged country with all that oil wealth, still finds the people alienated throughout {inaudible} and have these latest protest against the dress codes of hijab and headscarf and things like that, have brought 50 percent of the population into a direct attack, on the rule of the mullahs, and It’s not just about dress requirements, it’s a challenge to the ideological legitimacy of the Ayatollahs.

So, when you add that on top of the economic discontent, I think it’s very serious. The problem for the opposition in Iran today is that the government through revolutionary guards, the regular army as well, holds a monopoly on force and they going Back to 2019 as I say back to 2009, when people protest fraudulent, re-election of Mahmood Ahmadinejad, government has not been reluctant to use force against its own people. One key difference here though, is that the generals at top of the regular military and the top the Revolutionary guard are hearing from their mothers and sisters and wives and daughters that they side with the people out in the Streets. And I think that’s the kind of thing that can have a real impact. We won’t see it from the outside, but it can cause fractures within the top leadership in Tehran and that’s what could bring the government down.

Shoaib Choudhury: In your recent article you have said. “We need to ensure that Ukraine does not become a second Afghanistan”. In this case, what steps should be taken to ensure that Ukraine doesn’t become a second Afghanistan?

John Bolton: Well, you know, we were in Afghanistan, the US and NATO allies and many others for over 20 years and so the effect of our withdrawal sent a signal around the world. That I think undercut American credibility and led some to question our staying power. In the case of Ukraine, this War began only in February of last year, were basically 11 months into it. So that’s a long way from Twenty years. But already you see some leaders in Europe and some politicians in the United States saying this has gone on too long. We need to cut off aid to the Ukraine’s, we need to pull back. So I think that would be another huge mistake. I think, as I said before, the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a strategic disaster and I think losing Ukraine, or even a part of Ukraine to the Unprovoked Russian aggression would also send a terrible lesson around the world not just in Eastern Europe, but in east and south Asia as well. So, this should be a high priority and I would just say notwithstanding the signs that in both the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States, there are elements that are isolationist. There’s no doubt about it. They remain very, very small minorities at this point. I think us support for Ukraine remains strong. But I think you have to be vigilant. And I think that the answer these isolationists before they become a more serious problem.

Shoaib Choudhury: You said, Abraham Accords are already bringing beneficial results, and more diplomatic recognition for Israel globally is undoubtedly coming.

In this case, what initiatives Washington can take in stopping ongoing anti-Israel sentiment of several Muslim nations?

John Bolton: Well, you know in 1991 in George H.W Bush Administration, I was Assistant Secretary of State, worked for international organizations and participated in the successful effort to repeal the UN General Assembly’s 1975 resolution that equated Zionism with racism. It was a big victory to reverse that resolution but it was a mistake to think that, that would end the problem in the Middle East or in many countries around the world. I would have to say, in Western Europe and in the United States, there’s actually an increase in anti-Semitism today, unfortunately. So, this is a problem – that’s a worldwide problem US has faced. Our country was founded in many respects on the basis of freedom of religion and respect for others to worship as they chose. I think the best we can do is set an example and try and explain why we think that philosophy makes sense and you know hopefully it will spread but, I don’t think we should be under any illusion. Countries like Iran and others try to propagandize against Israel and the United States. You know, it’s the little Satan and the great Satan and It’s just something that’s it’s a continuing issue that we have to be aware of.

Shoaib Choudhury: Since 2009, a secularist government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been vigorously confronting terrorism and religious extremism. Now in 2024, Bangladesh will be holding another general election, where Islamists are trying to come to power. In the recent time, it is seen, Islamists in Bangladesh are getting support or sympathy of the Biden administration. Don’t you think, for a Muslim majority country like Bangladesh with 180 million population, any Islamist government would pose serious threat to the region?

John Bolton: Well, you know, I don’t want to be accused of interfering in Bangladesh’s election, but I would just say this and I think it’s applicable to all of our countries, the rise of religious extremism we’ve seen has been conducive to terrorism. That’s threaten innocent people all over the world. And the terrorism from Islamist extremists, over the past three decades, has caused the most damage – has killed the most people in Muslim countries. So certainly, the United States has been attacked by Islamist terrorists on 9/11. We all know that. But what people don’t see is the accumulation of the terrible effects of terrorism in the Muslim world as well. So, I just, I wouldn’t give any political advice to the people of Bangladesh, but I would say the idea that the answers to the current problems that confront us is found in that kind of extremism is the wrong road to go down.

Shoaib Choudhury: In this case do you think that, the international community including the United States should cooperate with any government which is committed in combating Islamic terrorism.

John Bolton: Yeah, I think it’s very important that the US be consistent. There’s nothing sort of good terrorism and the bad terrorism. And you know, we want to encourage everybody to live under the rule of law and everybody is entitled to due Process according to their own legal systems but there’s no upside for the United States and encouraging, any political faction or government that’s engaged in or supporting terrorist activity. I mean, I think our strength in this area comes from consistency. Nobody’s perfect in that either, but I think we should be on the watch to avoid inconsistency.

Shoaib Choudhury: You have announced of running in 2024 presidential election in the US. We know, you are a patriot and a hero in America’s war on terror. Once elected, what steps you will take to save the world from threats posed by religious extremism and jihad? You have announced of running in 2024 presidential election in the US. We know, you are a patriot and a hero in America’s war on terror. Once elected, what steps you will take to save the world from threats posed by religious extremism and jihad?

John Bolton: I haven’t actually declared my candidacy yet; I’m still thinking about it. But I do think it’s very important for the United States to debate before the 2024 election, the continuing threat of international terrorism. It hasn’t gone away. The withdrawal from Afghanistan, has contributed to foreign terrorists, coming into that country, where they again now have a platform from which to plan terrorist attacks around the world. I think it’s important for the United States to deal with threats, wherever they arise to our national interests and our friends and allies. Whether it’s the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Chinese threads to Taiwan or elsewhere along its periphery or the threats of international terrorism from the Middle East and Central Asia. So that for me will be a very high priority and I think it should be for whomever finds the presidency in the US and 2024.

Shoaib Choudhury: Thank you very much Ambassador John Bolton for giving us your precious time. 

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