bringing a once—in—a—generation deep freeze. the arctic air is gripping the midwest and eastern states, where temperatures have plunged to at least —30 celsius in some places. at least five deaths have been attributed to the icy weather. in venezuela peaceful demonstrations have been held in support of the opposition leader, juan guaido. earlier president trump assured him of us support. the us has imposed sanctions against the country. and this story is trending on bbc.com... tributes have been held for the footballer emiliano sala who went missing in an aircraft over the english channel last week. an underwater search for the plane that was carrying the footballer will take place later this week after cushions were found on a beach in france. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news, hardtalk. hello and welcome to hardtalk. i'm shaun ley.
17 years after the taliban that was driven from power by a us—led invasion in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the united states and the taliban are talking peace. amrullah saleh, former spy chief, now vice presidential candidate, is among the sceptics. peace in afghanistan, he says, won't come unless pakistan stops pulling the strings. with 115,000 afghans who served their country dead in the last five years, and the taliban still fighting, isn't it time for this war—exhausted country to give peace a chance? amrullah saleh, welcome to hardtalk.
zalmay khalilzad, the us envoy who's been in kabul in the last few days, has delivered the news that after 17 years of fighting, peace for the taliban might be in sight. you must be delighted. well, you are right. the demand for peace is in the veins of every afghan, but it is the modality of how we negotiate and also what sort of peace we achieve is controversial. do you agree with president ashraf ghani that the taliban could enter mainstream politics? absolutely. we have never opposed any group to become mainstream politics, regardless of what type of politics they pursue, as long as they don't resort to violence and intimidation. of course they are most welcome to become a mainstream political entity. it must be frustrating, though, for you,
as a former directorate of the security agency, a former director—general of the national directorate of security, you were there for six years, i think, to know that last year, just hours before its leading members sat down for another day of talks with the us envoy, the taliban attacked one of the nds bases, killing at least 43 people, and injuring many more. they are just the latest in, what, 115,000 serving afghans who've died in the last five years, according to president ghani. all of them volunteers. certainly the army ones. none of them were compelled to serve. but obviously not even enough of those. because some of your former agents have found themselves serving on the frontline. it raises the question of how long afghanistan can carry on without peace. well, first of all, it doesn't add to our frustration, it adds to our anger, it adds to our determination and it adds to our resolve to defend the dignity of our country. how long should it continue?
it should not continue for a second. the peace must come today. and this moment. but it's not in our hands. we have not launched this war, we have not initiated this, we are victims, and we are on the receiving end of it. the terrible problem for afghanistan, though, is given the numbers i have just quoted to you, the reality is that if the allies and the united states were to pull out, you'd have to sue for peace with the taliban, possibly on their terms, because you don't have the capacity to keep the fight up. well, i mean, let's put this straight. we are not a country that has been invented by the west. we were not born on september 12, 2001. we are a very old country, a very old nation. we have, firstly, fought for our dignity and honour and independence. and we will continue to exist post—western withdrawal, if that happens any time soon,
which i am not sure. so this is a psychological offensive on afghans — that you are so dependent that if there is no west you cease to exist as a state or you cease to exist as an entity. i completely disagree with that. we will be able to fight for our people, for our country... well, let me put to you... with the west it will be an added value. let me put to you, i'm sorry to interrupt, but let me put to you the words of president ghani himself, interviewed by cbs television network last year. "we will not be able to support our army for six months without us support." the reporter: "did you just say that without the us support your army couldn't last six months? " president ghani: "yes, because we don't have the money." well, we have not necessarily defended — all along our history — our country with money and with donated metal. there are other values
and there are other, you know, solid values in this country which we can mobilise to defend our country. probably president ghani then meant that if we were to conventionally defend the country we need the assistance of the west. i do not disagree with him that we badly need the assistance of the west, because we are on the frontline, global frontline fighting terrorism, fighting radical fanatic extremists, that is true. but to say without the west we will not be able to put up a fight for our dignity is wrong. even with the west you are struggling, aren't you? all the statistics suggest that after 17 years of this particular war, and goodness knows afghanistan has had to endure war pretty much on and off the a0 years, nearly half of the country is not in the control of the government. well, i completely refute
the bbc‘s statistics, half of the country... it is not bbc statistics. i don't know where you got that figure. i can tell you exactly where i got that from. mm—hmm. this is from the report of the special inspector general, who was appointed, as you know, by the us government to assess the reconstruction, and the figures they gave, and these are dated january 31, 2018, were that a total of 56.3% of the afghan districts were under afghan government control. that leaves the best part of 50% not, doesn't it? well, that's a joke. ithink, you mean, sigar — they are sitting behind desks in kabul and they do not have people in the field and they are not travelling around. i disagree with their statistics. let me tell you how i measure control of the government. first of all, if you look out delivery of services, we provide, in one way or another,
services to over 85% of our population. they obtain passports, they come to medical facilities run by the government... yes, they have to come to places... they come for other... crosstalk. right. i mean, and then if you mean physical control under the government, i was minister of interior until a week ago, of 400 plus districts we have in the country, 107 are disputed. they are contested areas. it doesn't mean they are under the taliban control. it doesn't mean they are under your control either. crosstalk. it doesn't mean they're under your control either. well, you said 50% of the country is under their control. that is totally wrong. let's move on to this question of the capacity of afghanistan to stand alone.
in five years, what do you think has been achieved by president ghani? in the last five years, president ghani has had a number of achievements. first of all, he managed that psychological shock that the country was undergoing, post—2014 that there will be a meltdown, and he managed it well. he created a national unity government and he calmed down the people. there was no political meltdown. that's one of his achievements. plus, he led the troops well, as a commander—in—chief, to make sure that there is no major breakthrough in favour of the taliban. three, he decreased our dependence on one of our neighbours which was using that dependence as a leverage to manipulate our economy. he made afghanistan a land—linked country and we now have functioning transit access to various countries in the region. and he also managed to maintain
a relationship with our allies, both in the west and in the region. and, lastly, he maintained the progress and the pace of the progress of the past and he added more things to that. so i believe, under enormous stress, under enormous pressure that he was, and he still is, he did well and he is doing well. you can look at some statistics, which underline, perhaps, the difficulties he still faces and, perhaps, to measure against your list of achievements. according to the afghan central statistics organization, the poverty rate has gone up from 38%, seven years ago, to 55% in 2016-2017, so more than half of the population, according to those figures, living in poverty.
a un survey the end of last you suggested that opium cultivation was the second highest measure since the un began monitoring is back “119911. and, as we have already said, 115,000 service deaths in the time he's been president. it is, to say the least, a very mixed bag, isn't it? well, that's our collective shame. it is not an exclusive afghan shame that the poverty has increased, that the casualties have increased, that the poppy has increased. remember, afghanistan is a unique case of international intervention. if afghanistan is still struggling with poverty and has not been able to eradicate poverty to the level we all wish, we should not be blamed for it only. we have not managed to defeat terrorism collectively. we have to go back to the initial slogan of the west, to the initial promise of the west that we will fight this war to the end, we will help afghanistan
have a viable state, and we will help you have a viable economy. and the west is very well aware that some of our challenges that we have today, it's not necessarily because of terrorists themselves, but because of the state neighbouring us supporting that... crosstalk. let me finish. so if we have failed to eradicate, if we have failed to eradicate opium completely, it's because we have collectively failed to provide alternative livelihoods. and if we have failed to eradicate poverty, it is because a lot of the assistance that comes to afghanistan is called off budget and off budget means of each $1 we get less than 1 cent and the remaining goes to the contractors — back to the western capitals. so therefore, yes, i agree with these statistics, it is not that we have not created bang for the buck, it is because the aid has been
misflowed and mismanaged, not by us, but in a lot of cases by our donors. what you seem to be saying earlier the interview was, thank you very much, we can do without the western troops, we can fight the war without them — in other words, we don't need to make peace on the taliban's terms. now you're saying, well, actually, we need all of this international help and some ways the way it has been conducted as part of the problem. do you need the west or don't you needs the west? well, history has shown... it's an interconnected world. it's one way to say we can't do without the west. but let's also be very honest, has the west been able to make it without us? why should afghans be under this enormous psychological pressure that you are a dependent nation? of course, economically, we are dependent, but security wise, also remember, the west is also dependent on us. we are giving the ultimate sacrifice for global security. it has been our blood and our bones
in defence of this cause. from the west, recently, it has only been money and metal, money and weapons. we are giving the sacrifice. so, please, make sure that this is not considered a charity case. we are a partner, we are paying with our blood and we are paying with our lives. so we don't consider it a charity from the west. we are partnering with the west. they are taking some responsibility and we are taking some responsibility. i think it will be unfair to look at afghanistan as a case of charity and to look at the west only giving charity. no, they are not giving us charity, we are partnering with them for a very noble, noble common cause, which is global security. nobody could accuse you of not getting involved. you have been, notwithstanding in the past, a critic of president ashraf ghani. you have decided, nonetheless, tojoin his presidential ticket in the summer to be part
of what he calls his team of state builders. why? well, it's gracious and kind of him to bring his critics close to him, to trust then, in a country like afghanistan, which is a very diverse society, a society affected badly by rumours, by conspiracy theories, and it's a country where there is is mentalfragmentation about — about a lot of things. when a president feels so confident and secure to bring his critics into his team, that shows his passion for the country and his patriotism, and also his belief for diversity. so i appreciate it, i have come tojoin him with my identity. i have not deleted my history, i have not not regretted my critique of him, but i am very grateful and thankful of him for — for opening up the palace and his team, and bringing people who have been criticising him. so, because he believes we are afghans, regardless of where we are, and the afghan unity is paramount for creating a strong state, and i believe he is a state builder and i am very honoured tojoin him,
build a stronger state. last april, after an attack in kabul which killed 25 people, you put out a tweet which said, islamic state, or daesh, as it's often known in afghanistan, is fake. why do you believe that? well, because i am an afghan and i have been intelligence chief, i have been the minister of interior, i have done a lot of research. the isis khorasan is very largely fake. it's not migrants of the mainstream isis from the middle east, who have come to afghanistan. for the pakistanis to present the taliban as good boys,
they have created another terrorist group, called it isis k, in order to show that the taliban can be good terrorists. in fact, the taliban are like microsoft of the so—called isk, islamic state khorasan. they are fake. defeat the taliban, there will be no daesh, defeat the taliban, there will be no al-qaeda, defeat the taliban, there will be no infrastructure left for manifestation of terror in any form in the future. let me put to you what fawad chaudhry, pakistan's information minister, tweeted last month, in response to your comments — some of your comments criticising pakistan and also suggesting that pakistan was talking up the is threat in its own interest. he said "trivialising the threat of is is to live in cuckoo land. the new afghan interior minister," — which was then you, although you only in the job for seven days because you resigned to fight this vice presidentialjob — "he needs a reality check. decide if you want pakistan as a partner or as a scapegoat
for your own government's failures, mr minister. time to get real and give up phantom thoughts from a paranoid mind." are you being paranoid? well, not necessarily. even if i am paranoid, perhaps as an individual, but they are paranoid as a state, and his tweet is very indicative of the paranoia within the state system. when an afghan speaks the truth, they find no other solid fact except to attack that individual personally, which shows how vunerable and how insecure they are. i have said this and i want to say again, when i see pakistanis,
especially the official ones, i put the facts on the table, they are unable to look at my eyes and say this is refutable... zalmay khalilzad, the un envoy... the terrorist groups... sorry to interrupt you, but ijust want to pick up on the point you're making, zalmay khalilzad, the us envoy, clearly appreciates what he sees as a construction role played by the pakistanis. he was quoted in the new york times just a couple of days ago, "i appreciate their hospitality and resolve to push for afghan peace. we're heading in the right direction, with more steps by pakistan coming, that will lead to concrete results. " well, let me also quote khalilzad's boss, president trump, who said " pakistanis, you cannot fool me. we have give you $30 billion and you have supported terrorism. this is time you come to your senses and deliver." that is also from khalilzad's boss, president trump. so, we should give weight and we should give importance to the first man in america, to the white house's statement. that's coming directly from the mouth of president trump, so i echo what president trump has said and his south asia strategy was a very — is a very sound strategy and i hope all efforts of mr khalilzad is in the context of the south asia strategy. i think president trump understands that pakistan is a deceptive system,
it's a deceptive state, and he has been very true. you know, i like that tweet of him. i think it was, it was so fantastic. he said we have been fooled, and i hope the americans are no longer fooled by the deceptive pakistani system. and i hope mr khalilzad, as i said, will play a role in the context of the south asia strategy of the white house, which says pakistan is supporting terror infrastructure, terror groups, and we have to end it. if that though means talking peace, coming to a deal with the taliban, which would thereby remove pakistan's influence, if you're correct, in afghani daily life, isn't that a price worth paying? well, ee are not saying we should remove pakistan's influence
on afghanistan, we say we must legitimise pakistan's influence on afghanistan. if they respect us, if they see us as a state, if they see us as a nation, if they see us as an equal neighbour and partner, they can have massive, legitimate interest and influence in afghanistan and no afghan will oppose that. but if they want to put a gun on our head and then they say — and ask us to accept their dictate, that will never happen. afghans are ready to pay an even a higher price and not be dictated to. you know the dichotomy about afghanistan is we are very poor, but in the meantime, very proud. a lot of people think to come here and exploit our poverty and push us into, into becoming docile or to accept domination. we have resisted and we will resist. poverty has never been an excuse
for afghans to look down and bow down. we have always stood tall and proud, we will continue to do that. so my message for the pakistanis is, you can have in us a very proud partner, a very proud partner inviting you to partner with us in the economy, to partner with us in development, to partner with us in economic development and regional integration. but if you want to pay a 19th—century game to subdue us, you are mistaken, you are wrong. we are too, too heavy for you to punch. i'm sure the british, if they know their own history, would acknowledge that and acknowledge what a proud nation afghanistan has been for many, many centuries. but there does seem to be a momentum for something to change, doesn't there?
let me quote to you roland kobia, the special envoy from the european union. he said "we need to be ready. the diplomatic community has created totally new dimensions." would you accept that there is a sense now that something is changing, that finally peace could be, could be in afghanistan's grasp? i would rather change that phrasing of could be, i say it must be. the very moment we are not subjected and condemned to humiliation, the very moment we are treated as a state representing afghanistan, we are ready to ink an agreement to safeguard the dignity, honour and national interest of afghanistan... but not, sorry to interrupt you, but not an agreement which has been dealt with behind closed doors by a us envoy and representatives of the taliban in qatar, where afghans have not been present. is that what you're saying?
well, i think that's a big mistake. the united states is stepping over its principle of not negotiating with nonstate actors. i still believe that's a wrong thing to do, to elevate a nonstate actor and to sit with them across the table, while knowing that they are responsible for deaths of thousands of americans and tens of thousands of afghans, but the united states is a superpower and there's not much we can do to influence them. what we can influence is our own behaviour, the afghan behaviour, and the afghan behaviour and the afghan character and psyche is very clear. we will not agree to sign an unequal agreement, which will undermine the sovereignty of the afghan state over the entire territory of afghan land. amrullah saleh, former interior minister, former director general of national security, now vice president candidate for this year's presidential elections
in afghanistan, thank you forjoining us for hardtalk. you are welcome, thank you. hello there. we've got a potentially disruptive snowy spell of weather on the way. we've got very cold air locked in place and an area of low pressure developing over the atlantic. and it's a perfect breeding ground for a snow event as this moisture moves in across the country, bumps into the cold air — some of us are likely to see some pretty heavy sleet and snow through thursday into friday. so of course some yellow warnings are in force for snow, ice, and also the risk of freezing
fog overnight through thursday into friday, it's likely to cause some disruption so stay tuned to bbc local radio and keep tuned to subsequent weather forecasts. but we start this morning on a very cold note, largely clear skies. so many places will be dry. a few wintry showers continue across the north of scotland. we'll also see some freezing fog patches developing. something else to watch out for. we could be looking at temperatures as low as —12 to —15 celsius in some of the scottish glens. so we could have ice and also risk of freezing fog to start this morning. but, on the plus side, plenty of crisp winter sunshine. now, things start to go downhill across the south—west of england across wales and that weather system arrives, initially bringing rain and turning increasingly to snow across this part of the country. further north and east it should be relatively dry. the sunshine continuing. but it will be a cold day with increasing easterly winds. now this sleet and snow will gather force and become widespread, pushing northwards and eastwards
all the while through this evening and overnight. some heavy snow likely across the downs of the south—east into the midlands and certainly across southern and eastern parts of wales. by early friday this is the lying snow, a map. we could be looking at a significant accumulation across parts of wales, the south—west, and the south downs, 1—4 centimetres to lower levels. a lot more than that further north. so a significant risk of ice through friday night. rain, sleet, and snow will continue to fall. it will become lighter and pacquiao. but it will still continue to accumulate in places. we will see wintry showers across the north—east of england and further wintry showers across the north of scotland. it will be a very cold night again, a significant risk of ice. the area of low pressure gives to migrate southward staking its weather fronts with it. so we'll start to see a slow improvement across the south of the country. but we could still see some rain, sleet, and snow continue for a while throughout friday. this easterly breeze will bring more wintry showers into eastern england and eastern scotland,
further wintry showers across the north of scotland. in between we should see plenty of sunshine around, but that really won't do much for the temperatures. it will be another cold day. this is newsday on the bbc. the polar vortex. america's midwest is hit by an arctic blast, bringing record—breaking low temperatures. oh, my god, it's really freezing. it's really bad. yeah, it's dangerous. you see this on my glasses? this is notjust fog, this is frost. it's ridiculous out here, and it's going to get worse. the eu says it won't renegotiate the brexit deal, despite theresa may pushing for an alernative to the so—called irish backstop. the withdrawal agreement remains the best and only deal possible. the european union said so in november. we said so in december. i'm babita sharma in london.