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Interview: A Continued U.S. Presence In Afghanistan 'Will Help Prevent Civil War'

Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States and currently a professor at Boston University, spoke to RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal correspondent Abdul Hai Kakar about his new book, "Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding."

What aspects of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship do you look at in your book?

My book explores why Pakistan and the United States are so far apart despite having a close relationship. The real issue is that Pakistan has always embraced the view that the United States will do everything that Islamabad wants it to do. In reality, it has never happened and it will never happen. On the other hand, America has this delusion that, by giving aid to Pakistan, it can change the outlook of its [powerful security] establishment.

How do you see Pakistan's relationship with Afghanistan evolving after the withdrawal of U.S. forces from that country at the end of 2014?

Pakistan wants to impose its will on Afghanistan. Just as Pakistanis do not want a foreign country imposing its will on them, Afghans will not accept this. Pakistan needs to think about establishing a new kind of friendship with Afghanistan. Such relations can be built on befriending any Afghan government and desist from imposing a government of one's choosing on them.

I am afraid that, after the withdrawal of American forces [next year], the Pakistani establishment will once again push for imposing the people its likes on the government in Kabul. This will hurt our Afghan brothers and will harm Pakistan's interests.

There is a debate that the United States should have a zero presence in Afghanistan. How do you think a small contingent of U.S. forces will help Afghanistan after 2014?

Some U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will help in preventing a future civil war in the country. This is my opinion, but the United States is likely to follow its national interest in making a decision about a future military presence in Afghanistan.

After the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, do you think the level of militancy in Pakistan will decline? The presence of these forces is one of the reasons militants in Pakistan use as justification for their insurgency.

The rise of the Taliban's influence, dubbed Talibanization, is not related to the U.S. military presence.

There was Talibanization before 9/11 and it increased afterwards. Talibanization is an outlook and an ideology. As long as that ideology is around, there will be people bent on imposing Talibanization. The success of progressive forces who believe in an emancipated future is the only way to fight it. Cheering the Taliban is unlikely to lead us anywhere.

Answers translated from Urdu by Abubakar Siddique