Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

"Interview with Dov Zakheim"

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

"Interview with Dov Zakheim"

Article excerpt

Dov S. Zakheim is senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, where he leads work for global defense clients. Prior to his current position, Dr. Zakheim served as the under secretary of defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer for the Department of Defense from 2001 to 2004. Additionally, from 2002 to 2004 he was DOD's coordinator of civilian programs in Afghanistan. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Dr. Zakheim was a senior foreign policy advisor to then-Governor George W. Bush. From 1985 to 1987, he served as deputy under secretary of defense for planning and resources.

Dov Zakheim is a member of the Defense Business Board, chief of the Naval Operations Executive Panel and chairs the National Intelligence Council's International Business Practices Advisory Panel. He has served on Defense Science Board task forces and frequently testifies before the Congress as an expert witness. He is a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and has been an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He received a B.A. summa cum laude from Columbia University and a D. Phil. from St. Antony's College, University of Oxford, where he was a post-doctoral research fellow.

He spoke with Johan Kharabi of the Journal of International Affairs about the continuing conflict in Afghanistan, the current Pakistani military campaign against the Taliban and the future of U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Journal: Dr. Zakheim, let's begin with Afghanistan, where you were Civilian Program Coordinator for the Department of Defense from 2002 to 2004. This year, 2009, has already been the deadliest so far for NATO and U.S. forces in the country. The month of August saw more Americans killed in Afghanistan than any month since the beginning of the war. In your opinion, why is the war there still worth fighting?

Zakheim: The fundamental problem is the same as it was in 2001, which is that you have the possibility not just of the Taliban taking over the country, but of Al Qaeda, or its various sister and branch organizations--its copycat organizations if you will--once again entrenching itself there and using the country as a base for the kind of terrorism that took place on 11 September 2001. I remember when I first went to Afghanistan in 2002, I saw that the Al Qaeda base--which was literally right outside Kabul--was massive. It was clear, not just by speaking to Afghan leaders but to ordinary Afghans that had any command of English, that essentially Al Qaeda had been running the country. There's no reason to assume that this would not happen again were the Taliban to take over once again. I have a recent piece in what is called the Shadow Government blog, in which I make the case that it's not just a matter of sending twenty or forty thousand more troops, nor is it really a matter of trying to create a nation in our image, because that won't work. It's a different culture, and many of the people there are still living in the Middle Ages. That's no insult; it's just the reality--that's what it's like there. And so to expect that we are going to create some kind of extension of Western Europe in Afghanistan is ridiculous. In fact, it was the Afghans, after all, with our help but nevertheless the Afghans, who drove out the Taliban the first time, and so they [the Taliban] aren't loved by the majority of the population. That already creates a certain basis for some degree of optimism that we can still pull this off.

On the subject of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, have you seen any substantive progress in forcing the two to decouple?

Zakheim: There seem to be some indications of that, simply because there has been talk off and on of reaching out to the more moderate elements of the Taliban. I suspect that as long as things were, and have been, going against the Taliban, then the Pashtu that supported the Taliban would also turn on Al Qaeda. We have seen this occur inside the Swat Valley as well in Pakistan. …

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