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New York Times war correspondent Dexter Filkins

Friday, September 19, 2008

HH: Welcome to a special edition of the Hugh Hewitt Show. In hour number three I’ll talk with Congressman John Campbell from the Hill about the effort to calm the markets, which by the way, closed up more than 400 points on the Dow today. Lots of extraordinary stories behind the scenes, but the most extraordinary story in the world remains the war. And yesterday, the attack on the embassy in Yemen underscored, today the loss of seven American soldiers in a terrible helicopter crash in Iraq, underscores that while we focus on financial issues, it’s got nothing to do with where the cockpit of, well, the future of the world is being decided right now. To discuss that situation with me, an extraordinary guest in studio, Dexter Filkins, who is the New York Times correspondent who you’ve often heard referred to on this program by John Burns and others as one of the preeminent war correspondents of our time. He has a brand new book out called The Forever War. It just came out. I’ve just finished reading it. It’s linked at You should read this book. It’s riveting. It’s disturbing. Dexter Filkins, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show, good to have you here.

DF: Thank you very much.

HH: I want to start with some bio. Congratulations, by the way. It’s an amazing book.

DF: Thank you, thank you.

HH: How long did it take to write?

DF: A long time. God, you know, it takes, I thought when I got back to the States that I could just sit there with all my notebooks and crank it out. But I just took a long time, because I had to relive a lot of this stuff. So a lot of it’s not very pleasant.

HH: It’s very troubling, it’s very moving, it will bring a tear to many people’s eyes if they know any soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who has died there.

DF: Thanks.

HH: And we’re going to talk about some of them. But let’s start with a little bio on Dexter Filkins. You’re a young guy, because you’re younger than me. How old are you? And how long have you been doing the reportorial thing?

DF: Well, I’m 47. I’m from Florida. Actually, I was born in Ohio.

HH: Which part?

DF: Well, born in Cincinnati.

HH: That’s almost Ohio.

DF: Lived in Cleveland.

HH: Oh, you did live in Cleveland. Browns fan?

DF: Chagrin Falls.

HH: No kidding.

DF: Kind of Lake Louise.

HH: Yeah, I know Chagrin Falls well. I know the Falls well. I know the candy store above the Falls well, so go ahead.

DF: I’m more of a Dolphins fan, but you know, anyway, Bernie Kosar did a tour through Miami, I think at one point. But I grew up in Florida, and I was, as I mentioned as I was walking in the studio, I lived in Corona Del Mar…

HH: California, down in Orange County, okay.

DF: ’95, ’96, ’97, Marigold Avenue. And I was just wondering, yeah, we were just talking about what it looks like there now. I’m curious. And I did that. I went to India, and this is kind of when the book starts, I went to India for the L.A. Times in 1997. And the opening scene of the book, of course, I started going to, I was living in New Delhi, and I, part of my responsibility was this place called Afghanistan that nobody much cared about then. I didn’t know much about it. And there I was on a Friday afternoon at the Kabul sports stadium one day watching a public execution and amputation. And the funny thing about that time was it didn’t mean anything, you know? It was just who are these kind of, these really strange guys? They look strange, they act strange. And they were putting somebody to death here in a public execution and reading out of the Koran, but it didn’t mean anything.

HH: I’m jumping way ahead here, and we’ll come back, but you actually kind of make me sympathetic to Mullah Omar, who takes up his 13 Kalashnikovs and his 1 RPG, because boys are being sold between warlords. I mean, we don’t like him, it’s not a sympathetic portrait, but it makes me understand a little bit more about from which he came.

DF: Yeah, you know, basically, they’re like a lot of movements, I guess, started out they had a noble purpose. They were totally brutal. But they were the biggest, baddest guys on the block, and they tamed everybody else, and they brought order to the place, which is all people wanted at the time. And they went bad. And you know, the last time before 9/11 that I had been in Afghanistan was 2000. I was there in the summer of 2000 and I was arrested by the Taliban and kicked out and expelled from the country. It was big, ugly scene, but which actually doesn’t, that little moment there doesn’t appear in the book. But you could see, and I remember I would have these conversations with my translators, with my Afghan translators, who almost uniformly hated the Taliban at that point, and they would say things like the Arabs are here and they’re taking over. Osama bin Laden, you know, who was kind of known then because they’d blown up the embassies in Africa, but you know, he’d say you know, he’s got a lot of money, he’s spreading a lot of money around, and they’re under the control of the Arabs. You know, they’ve got these camps outside of town. And again, back then, I think…

HH: You never ran into him. In you book, you just, once you ran into one in a supermarket, and you got the heck out of there, a drug store, I guess it was.

DF: You read the book very closely, thank you. Yes, and I remember he hustled me out of town. The one, we ran into some Arab women. There was the moment in the airport where this bizarre scene in retrospect, of course, but it’s only retrospect. At the time, I was thinking what on Earth does this mean. But we were standing in the Kabul airport in the summer of 2000. It’s a year before 9/11. And here are these women, head to toe burkas, and you could see their really, really nice high-heeled, probably Ferragamo shoes sticking out of their burkas, and they were complaining in Arabic about their jihadi husbands, my husband. You know, we could be in Paris shopping at all the stores. Instead, we’re here because my husband has to be the tough guy jihadi.

HH: It’s on Page 43. I made notes about this, because it’s such a stunning anecdote. She says I could be shopping in Paris, but instead I am here in this awful place. Yes, my husband has to be the tough guy warrior fighting for Islam. We are stuck in this cursed place. And I was just in Venice a few weeks ago. Burkas in the Hotel Danieli, and I’m thinking to myself, who are these women, and they’re imprisoned. And clearly, you caught the drift that they are imprisoned. This is…

DF: I think they know it, too. Yeah, they certainly did.

HH: All right. We’re ahead. I want to go back to, was your first job in journalism with the L.A. Times?

DF: No, it was at the Miami Herald.

HH: Okay, so where did you go undergrad?

DF: University of Florida.

HH: Okay, so out of Florida, you just say you want to be a journalist, because I’m trying to get to where does a war correspondent come from? In the course of covering these wars, where did that, the light go on in Dexter Filkin’s mind to say I want to grow up to go to these places and follow these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines?

DF: It’s a funny thing you say that, because I was just thinking of, I went to a reading once of John Updike, and I remember he was talking, this was 1987, and of course, our world has changed very much since then, but he said, I think I was covering the City Council in West Palm Beach, Florida then or something, and he said, he was talking about why his books were so quiet, you know, they weren’t Hemmingway. And he said I’m not Hemmingway. And he said we live in a very quiet time. And I was thinking my God, you know, we don’t live in a quiet time anymore. But I went out to India not thinking of course anything. I mean, I didn’t, I wasn’t the war correspondent. It kind of just fell in my lap. But once it all started, and once 9/11 came, I knew that story pretty well. I knew Afghanistan pretty well, so I went back. And then kind of one thing led to another.

HH: You know, you’re coming up on your 30th high school reunion. So Dexter Filkins goes back to Miami or wherever that is.

DF: Cape Canaveral.

HH: Cape Canaveral, and they say what have you been doing? And you say well, I’ve been watching MTV in a potato shed off of a generator with a 16 year old Northern Alliance kid with a Kalashnikov. Did you have any idea that this is where you were going?

DF: No, I mean, I think there were these moments…oh, at the time. You mean when I was in high school?

HH: Yeah.

DF: Well, I think when I was in high school, and probably everybody, I guess, but I thought yeah, I mean, I want to do something interesting, you know? And I could have gone, I majored in government, and I suppose I could have gone to law school like the rest of my friends.

HH: Like I did, yeah.

DF: (laughing)

HH: Okay, careful.

DF: Got to be careful. But I thought you know, studying, I used to study in the law school, and I’d look and I’d see these enormous books called, things like torts and contracts, and I thought my God, what’s going on in there? And so I decided to do, I tried to do something else. Actually, there was a moment in my life when the bell went off, which was, it was a long time ago, but I was studying for the LSAT to go to law school, and went to the movies that night, and I saw the Year Of Living Dangerously.

HH: Mel Gibson, Indonesia, Suharto, yeah.

DF: Yeah, and I thought Sigourney, Indonesia, the revolution, that’s the life for me. But I never thought, honestly, I mean I never thought, you know, there was a moment in the book when I was in New York on 9/11, and of course, it was by Ten AM, everybody knew where this had come from. And then of course, it all sort of came together. But…and then I haven’t really slowed down since.

HH: Are you addicted to it now?

DF: You know, I think I was when I came out. I think it’s not, I don’t know that you get addicted to the events. People ask me about the danger, and you know, it’s a terribly dangerous place, and I’m very lucky that I’ve survived, and a lot of people haven’t survived, a lot of people I know, people that I was with. But to be able to watch history unfold right in front of your eyes, that’s a rare thing, and it’s an incredible thing to see, and to see the sort of tectonic plates like really press up against each other.

HH: But it messes your life up, doesn’t it?

DF: Yes.

HH: I mean, you mention in the Afterwards you lost what sounds like either your wife or your girlfriend in the course of this.

DF: Yes.

HH: And so looking back, are you glad that you have spent the last decade the way you have spent the last decade?

DF: Well, that’s a very good question. I’d probably do it a little bit differently. But I think when I used to come out of Iraq, particularly in the beginning in ’03 and ’04, when it was so intense, you know, and every day was just, God it was so long, and the country would change 100% from one day to the next, and I’d come out of Iraq after two months and basically I would just lie on the couch for the first three weeks and just stare at the ceiling. I mean, it’s just not the same. I mean, every decision you make when you’re in a war zone like that, your life is on the line. Do I go down that road or not, you know? And then suddenly, you come out and it’s like do I have Swiss cheese or cheddar cheese on my sandwich? And so it kind of whipsaws you.

– – – –

HH: Dexter Filkins, I’m going over tomorrow to Las Vegas. I’m going to hang out with Bill Roggio, one of the milbloggers, all the milbloggers over at BlogWorldExpo. And people can still come over if they want to join us over there. And I think about Michael Yon and your colleague, John Burns, and yourself, who have been working hard to sort of tell the American people what has been going on in Afghanistan and Iraq for many, many years. When you come back to the States, you write this book and you’re on a book tour. Do we understand what has been going on there? And I don’t mean just me, I mean just generally as you walk around the United States, do they understand?

DF: You know, I hate to say no to that question, but I think what is most jarring to me is when I’m out in Anbar Province hanging out with the Marines or the soldiers, they’re 19 and they’re from Nowhereville, Kentucky, for the most part. And then I come back to the States, and if it’s Manhattan or Cambridge or Los Angeles, or…it just doesn’t resonate, and I think because you know, frankly, people who live in Manhattan, their kids aren’t fighting in that war, and L.A. for the most part. And so it’s like, and this is what they say, that the country is not at war, but the military’s at war.

HH: Let me ask you about that. This is a patch for J.P. Blecksmith, who was killed in Fallujah, second battle of Fallujah. His dad’s a friend of mine, a Naval Academy grad. Mark Metherell, I met his parents, Navy SEAL, dead, very extraordinary people in Southern California. I think of Mark Daily from Southern California, a UCLA grad killed in the war. I mean, there are lots of Americans all over the place. It’s the officer corps, et cetera.

DF: Sure.

HH: So do you really think, it’s not geographical so much as it is attitudinal, people who want to know. Do they figure it out?

DF: Good point. Yeah, good point. I mean, the officer corps, I mean, I don’t have to tell you this, but the officer corps, you know, it’s extraordinary. I mean, when you see these guys…I just came from Iraq, and I sat with General Petraeus, for example, for a couple of hours, and we just talked about…

HH: Were you there for the Times again? New York Times?

DF: Yeah, I just…

HH: Are you still with the New York Times?

DF: Yes, yes. I jst went back for about a month. And we can talk about the specific changes, they’re rather extraordinary. But I thought, you know, General Petraeus has done 48 months in the country. 48 months. You think of the sacrifice involved there, and that’s four out the last five and a half years, and those guys, you know, like if you’re a reporter, say, or a blogger, whatever, you go in for a couple of months, you leave for a couple of weeks. Those guys go over for, they go over for fifteen months, or seventeen months, and they don’t go home, or maybe they go home for two weeks.

HH: How much time have you spent, let’s just be clinical here, since 1997, how much time have you spent in Afghanistan? I mean calendar days, months, and how much time in Iraq?

DF: Well, a lot. I mean, I went back after 9/11. I went back pretty quickly to Afghanistan, saw the war there, the initial phase.

HH: With the Northern Alliance.

DF: Yeah, yeah. God, it was insane. It was a crazy time, incredible time, though. I mean, it was just so dramatic. And we can talk about that, too, but I spent that time there. Then Kabul fell, and I spent most of 2002 in Afghanistan and going in and out, though. And then as the war got going, as it looked there was going to be a war in Iraq, I got ready for that. I moved to Istanbul and rented a Hertz Rent-A-Car, and a Ford Yukon in Kuwait city, and kind of drove in. But then…so basically, three or four years in Afghanistan, and then going in and out, and then about four in Iraq.

HH: Let me compliment you, and I want the audience to hear this. You do not discount or short-change the brutality of Saddam. And I think to understand fully what has been going on, and some of the critics of the war may actually not like your book because of this, when you tell the story of the record keeper at Abu Ghraib, who has kept count of the bodies that would be buried at night out of Saddam’s prison, and then the families that would come to find them, it conveys…and you tell mad as a hatter boys, and what they were doing, the Saddam kids, there’s a lot of criticism of the war effort in this book implicit in it, but there’s also a great sensibility as to what went before, that Robert Kaplan shares with you. I don’t know if you know Kaplan, but he said the country was so brutalized…

DF: Exactly.

HH: …that it’s hard to imagine anything having worked in there. And so I appreciate very much that The Forever War pays respect to what went before. Let me ask you about Col. Sassaman. And by the way, we’re on the air on Colorado Springs and Denver…

DF: Great.

HH: …so Col. Sassaman might be listening to this, lots of military across the country. You just mentioned David Petraeus, 48 months, extraordinary soldier. Col. Sassaman, extraordinary soldier as well…

DF: Absolutely.

HH: …but it gets to him. You kind of convey that it gets to him. How many Petraeus’, how many Sassaman’s, what’s the division among the men and women of the Armed Service who have gone there that you’ve observed?

DF: You mean the division in terms of…

HH: In terms of it getting to them, and those who just get out, and those who accept it and thrive on it and learn from it, and embrace their sort of warrior calling.

DF: You know, when I was just there this last time, I thought about that a lot, because I think what you’re seeing on the ground is the guys who were there, not just the 19 year olds or the 23 year olds who are on their fourth combat tour, you know, and have already had two kids and are divorced, but the officers. I mean, some of these guys now are in their third year or fourth year on the ground, and there’s a learning curve, you know, and they’re just way better at, they just get it totally, whereas before, I mean, reporters included, you drop into a country like Iraq that’s just unbelievably complicated, and it takes a long time to figure it out. And so the guys who are there are totally committed to it, because if they weren’t, they would have left. And a lot of them did, of course, but the ones who are there, it’s a very, very strong corps.

HH: The Forever War concludes in ’06, and of course it’s now ’08. And you just said you’ve come back from Iraq. How would you, would you ever guess we would be where we are in ’08 from where you concluded the book?

DF: No, no. No. I didn’t think that was possible anymore, frankly.

HH: What’s it like at the Bureau now? You describe basically a prison, a fortress by the time you leave. John Burns has discussed that on this program as well. So what’s it like there now?

DF: Well, I mean at the Bureau, I mean, it is. It’s a sort of medieval castle surrounded by, you know, we have belt-fed machine guns on the roof, searchlights, the whole thing. Well, I’ll give you an example of the Bureau. It’s a great, great example, is just the New York Times’ Bureau is on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, just in a neighborhood called Abu Nuwas. There’s a park that runs along the river, it’s about two miles long. As I…there’s a couple of moments in my book that as I left, you know…

HH: These are your running trails, by the way. We’ll get to this, because you’re just insane to do this, but go ahead.

DF: (laughing) Yeah, it was like totally reckless.

HH: Yeah.

DF: But when I left Iraq in 2006, Abu Nuwas Park, there was like this kind of creepy militia checkpoint at one end, and these guys with guns and no uniforms. The Iraqi Army was at the other end. There was barbed wire in between. I mean, it was just, no one went there, no one. It was totally deserted. I went there every night when I was back this last time, and you know, the first night I got back, there were probably 2,000 Iraqis in the park.

HH: Wow.

DF: Yeah, incredible.

HH: Wow.

DF: I mean, parents with children, women walking around alone.

HH: Because the soccer games had vanished in the course of The Forever War.

– – – –

HH: When we went to break, you were telling us, Dexter, about the change that you just saw in Iraq. And on Page 320 of your book, you quote Kharmut Hanoon, a 40 year old farmer who says, “I don’t think things will ever go back to normal between Shiites and Sunnis.” Was Hanoon wrong?

DF: I don’t know if he’s wrong. I think there’s, there was a lot of extraordinary bloodshed there in ’05 and ’06 when this civil war, or whatever it was, got going. I think what’s happened now is a kind of stepping back. I mean, you can see, the nice way to say this is when I step out into Abu Nuwas Park, and I see the parents walking with their children, you can see the relief on people’s faces. I thought the city was dead. Well, it wasn’t dead. Everybody was hiding. So you can feel people sort of exhale when they come out. But I think you don’t get over something like what happened in ’05 and ’06 very easily. And so the Americans have sort of erected these various arrangements which are kind of holding. I mean, they’re keeping the peace, like the awakening, for example, where we’ve got 100,000 Sunni gunmen on the payroll. You know, it’s working. I mean, it’s definitely working. But I think it’s a very, very fragile relationship, and so I think those two groups, to answer your question, those two groups are kind of warily looking at each other. But for the moment, they’re holding their fire.

HH: Let me bottom line it right now. Are the Iraqis better off than they were at this time in 2002?

DF: That’s a tough one. That’s a tough one. I mean, the suffering that they went through before then is kind of incalculable, you know? I mean, there’s a moment in the book where I go into a torture chamber…

HH: It is. It’s grim.

DF: Well, you see something like that, and I can’t, personally, I can’t listen to the sort of, I mean, it’s easy to forget what they went through. I mean, there were operating tables in that place, and there was a morgue out back. But you know, there’s been a lot of bloodshed since. And so I think the best way to answer that question is say let’s ask it again in five years, and see how it’s gone.

HH: How about Afghanistan? By the way, I completely bollixed up this interview. I’ve jumped all around. We’re going to go back and try and resurrect it, because it’s not the narrative I want it to be, which is sort of Iraq has to be experienced chronologically in the way that you lay it out in the book. And it can only be understood after Afghanistan from the perspective of Americans as well, so I appreciate the book that way. Let’s go back and focus on Afghanistan. You talk about these young boys, these Northern Alliance fighters, very early in the book with wolf-like monosyllabic, wolf-like eyes, monosyllabic, no attention span. And I put the book down and I said I wonder where those boys are, and I wonder if this country can ever recover. You’ve just come back from Waziristan and Afghanistan. What’s the answer to that?

DF: Well, I think those boys are probably dead. They were 15 years old, maybe 14, you know, sitting up on a hilltop, a hundred yards or half mile away were the Taliban, who came down the road a few months later. So I don’t think those particular boys made it, but I think that’s a brutalized country. And I think, I don’t know, because I remember back, and some of this is in the book, when everything broke in 2001, and the Taliban collapsed, it was extraordinary. I mean, we’d roll into these towns, I was in Northern Afghanistan, and the music was going, and people were digging up their TV sets, and women were taking their burkas off, and there was joy in the streets, which is why, as I said, I expected that there’d be the same thing in Iraq. I did. Call me a fool. And I think…but I think…I was just in Pakistan, and it’s so much more complicated because of that particular issue, right on the eastern border of Afghanistan, you now have the Taliban not just resurgent, but really, really strong. And they totally control now the western part of that country, which means that they have training camps, sanctuary, planning facilities, everything. And so…

HH: How alarmed should America be about that?

DF: Oh, I think it’s going to make Afghanistan extremely difficult to stabilize. And I think that’s leaving aside possibly the larger question, which is what’s al Qaeda doing there?

HH: That’s why I asked, because at this point in the election cycle of 2000, the Cole was bombed in Yemen. At this point in the election cycle this year, the embassy in Yemen has been attacked, though no one was killed. And a year after the Cole comes 9/11, and it came from that part of the world where there was no supervision or authority. Do people talk about that openly in Pakistan, that they could be exporting more jihadis towards America?

DF: Well you know, I had a really eye-opening conversation with a tribal leader…

HH: Hold on, that music means we’re going to get the tribal leader when we come right back.

– – – –

HH: Let’s go back to the tribal leader’s conversation you had about the threat that is growing in the ungovernable areas of the northwest territories in Waziristan.

DF: Really, it was an extraordinary conversation. I mean, this was a tribal leader from south Waziristan, which is where a lot of people think Osama and probably Ayman Zawahiri are. And so we were talking, and we were talking about a lot of things. We were talking about the Taliban and kind of what was going on there. And at one point, I said what about the Arabs. And he said we have Arabs here, yes. I said how do you know? And he said well, you can hear them speaking Arabic, and you can see the Arab fighters in the Bazaar. They come in, and you can hear the language. But then he paused and said but the important Arabs, the important Arabs are in the mountains. So I said, intrigued, I said important Arabs? And he said they have Arabian horses. We don’t have horses like that in Waziristan. He said we take food up to them, you know, the people in my tribe. And he said they come to me, they tell me everything, I’m the leader of my tribe. He said those horses eat better, those horses eat better than the common people do in south Waziristan. And he said they’ve seen the horses. They’ve seen the Arabs. And so I said important Arabs – Osama? And he said I don’t know, but they’re important. They’ve got a lot of money.

HH: Dexter Filkins, after…are you an optimist about this war? I’m going to go back and get us to this, but what’s…you know, there’s a famous snowflake that Donald Rumsfeld sent, which said we don’t have any metrics. The madrasas are turning out tens of thousands of people, this is in 2003, I believe the famous Rumsfeld note, we still don’t have any metrics. We don’t have Musharraf anymore. We don’t know what’s going on in Pakistan. They’ve got 90 nukes. What do you think generally about the trajectory this war is on?

DF: Well you know, I never thought I’d say this, that I would be more optimistic about Iraq, but having just come from there, and have seen what’s happened there, I am. I mean, I think it seems to have stabilized there, you know, knock on wood. Let’s hope it lasts. Boy, the other one, Afghanistan just seems very, very tough. I mean, the terrain there is extraordinary. You know, it’s like you’re walking around on the Moon. And they’ve got these sanctuaries, and you know, Pashtunistan is what they call it. It’s sort of the Pashtun areas on both sides of the border. It’s 45 million people. You know, it’s gigantic. And we don’t, I mean, what do we have there, 35,000 troops? It’s going to be hard.

HH: Page 24, “In my many trips to Afghanistan, I grew to adore the place for its beauty and its perversions, for the generosity of its people in the face of madness. The brutality one could witness in the course of a working day was often astonishing. The casualness of it more so. The way that brutality had seeped into every corner of human life was a thing to behold, and yet deep down, a place in the heart stayed tender.” Now that’s a very ambiguous statement of what Afghanistan is, and there are lots of books that have been written over the years, War At The Top Of The World, The Great Game, things like this, Hopkirk, Peter Hopkirk, et cetera. Does that Afghanistan ever change? Or is this just the way it’s going to be and has always been?

DF: Wow, that’s a really good point. I think what I was trying to get at there was this kind of very ambiguous yin yang, it’s the yin yang nature of the place. It’s the only way to describe. They are capable of extraordinary brutality, I mean, which I saw up close, and kind of so casual about death that your jaw falls open. And yet at the same time, my God, if you’re in their house, they’ll take their shirt off their back for you. And I mean, I was literally in a place that was surrounded by the Taliban. This was in 1998, ten years ago. There was famine. It was in Bamyan when the statues were still up. And there was a famine, and every house I went into, unannounced, a stranger, dirty boots, they fed me, or tried to feed me every last crumb of food they had. And I think maybe that’s why it’s so difficult.

HH: Are they devout Muslims? Or are they…all sorts of different spectrum of Christians from those who are sort of Sunday Christians, or Easter and Christmas Christians. Are the people who extended you this hospitality acting as a result of Koranic injunction? Or is it the culture of…

DF: I think it’s the culture. And I think likewise, it’s the Pashtun culture as much as anything that we’re fighting against. I mean, that’s the hard core of the Taliban on both sides of that border.

HH: You talk about being up with, is it Dostum, the crazy guy in the Northern Alliance?

DF: Dostum, yeah, yeah, yeah.

HH: Dostum is just as brutal as they can be. That’s not Pashtun, right? That’s a different Tajik, and as a result, do they ever take over Afghanistan? Or are there just too many Pashtuns to do that?

DF: Well, that’s a good point. I mean, I think that they’ve been slugging it out. The Pashtuns are about 45% of the population. I mean, they’re Uzbeks and Tajiks and Turkmens, and Dostem is an Uzbek, and as brutal as they come, absolutely. But yeah, he’s never going to take over. And so I think the question is are they just going to, can they cobble something together that works? Or is it just going to be the…

HH: Now we wouldn’t care if they couldn’t export it, right? We really wouldn’t care. It’s been that way forever, and it’s going to stay that way, but they can export. That goes back to the question to the tribal leader. Can they export again like they did on 9/11, the terrible death that…you were in the ruins of 9/11 on that day.

DF: Yeah, you know, I had a conversation with Bruce Hoffman…

HH: Sure.

DF: …who’s a Georgetown University terrorism guy. And I didn’t realize this, but I mean, he pointed out six terrorist plots to me, successful and unsuccessful, including the 7/7 attacks in Britain, the subway attacks that killed 52 people, six terrorist attacks since 2004, have been traced back to the tribal areas. So I think there’s the answer.

HH: It used to be that they would come into Kabul and then go to the camps. They’re now entering Pakistan and going to the camps. So they’re ending up in the same place, the camps have moved around a little bit.

– – – –

HH: Dexter Filkins, you just got back from Pakistan, and we were just talking about the export of terror. What was the conversation you started to say when we went to break?

DF: Well, you know, I had been there in the 90s, and I’d been to the madrasas before 9/11, and I saw what they were doing. You know, I’ve got to remember uncomprehending at the time, but walking into these classrooms full of, you know, 14 year olds being taught about the jihad.

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