MR. RICE: This is today’s 830 WCCO, “The Jack Rice Show.”
Now we’re going to go to Afghanistan, to Kabul, with Colonel John Hansen.
Colonel, thanks so much for joining us, sir.
COL. HANSEN: You’re welcome, Jack.
MR. RICE: I understand that you’ve been in Afghanistan for about a year working with the Afghanistan Aviation Corps for about eight months. Right now there’s about 10,000 troops that are amassing, essentially to go after Taliban forces in the south. Can you talk to me about what you’re seeing on the ground there right now?
COL. HANSEN: Well, the big concern down in the south, as you probably know, is with general lawlessness. There’s a Taliban threat down there. There’s a poppy eradication issue down there as well.
But you’re right. We’ve got a coalition force that’s getting ready to continue operations focused down in that area.
MR. RICE: One of the biggest problems in Afghanistan right now appears to be – and you just alluded to it – the narco problem. So much of the heroin that is sent into Europe and elsewhere around the world comes from Afghanistan, according to some that I’ve talked to, including the secretary of defense. Those numbers have actually increased over some time. How can you work at something like this when in fact it’s the number one cash crop for the country?
COL. HANSEN: Well, it’s got to be a multi-approach fix. And what you do, Jack, is you provide an alternative. And I think the key to success in the entire effort is to demonstrate to the relatively poor Afghan farmer that there is an alternative. And there’s been a lot of work done there by not just U.S., but multinational effort to do just that.
MR. RICE: How difficult is it – and I want to come back to the question, because I think of it in a way that we’ve tried to deal with Colombia and some places in Central and South America to differing extents – what sorts of alternatives are available to these farmers? I mean, if I’m farming down there and I can make five or 10 times what I could make growing grain, I’ve got to be honest, if I’m trying to feed my family, I’m going to grow the thing that makes me the most money. How do you overcome that logic?
COL HANSEN: Well, you know, Jack, I don’t really know all the specifics. But I do know that there are some crops that, frankly, the farmer isn’t making that much in any case. So there are some available alternative crops that if we can get the proper, you know, the seeds and that type of thing to them, and that’s been part of the challenge as well. Then I think we’ll see a change there.
MR. RICE: We’re talking with Colonel John Hansen in Kabul right now.
Colonel, there’s a shift going on as we speak right now between U.S.-led coalition forces and NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces. Talk to me about that transition. How does it work and how long does it take?
COL. HANSEN: Well, right now we’re in what we call the third phase of the transition. It’s a four-phase transition. It’s a deliberate process to make sure that we’ve got continuity in command and control across all the functions. And so when the headquarters – the U.S.-led headquarters stands down and the NATO headquarters, ISAF, stands up, then it’s really seamless to the operation.
And it’s an extremely deliberate approach and we’re about half way through phase three, and phase four should kick in here pretty soon. And the key to success, as you probably imagine, is the cooperation across all of the leaders and the functions, both U.S. and ISAF.
MR. RICE: There’s a perception in the world that – at least from some of the people that I speak with – that we’re focusing almost -- not obsessively, but most of our efforts towards Iraq and that some have considered Iraq to be this – excuse me, Afghanistan – to be this forgotten war. What is the perception on the ground, from your perspective, from the men and women that are working in that theater?
COL. HANSEN: The perception, Jack, is that Afghanistan would be, in the military parlance, a shaping effort in the global war on terror, and that based on the resources and focus that the efforts of Iraq would be more of the main effort. And there’s no one here in uniform or involved in the operation that sees that as a bad thing.
I think a shaping effort that’s resourced as well as it’s been here is a good thing. And we’re making progress, and it’s part of the overall global war on terror.
MR. RICE: If I could ask you one last question – and maybe this is a real “big picture” thing. And if it’s beyond your pay grade, I sure appreciate your giving it a shot if you can. I look back over history and I see that the Afghanis beat the British, they beat the Russians, they beat the Russians again. I think of the mujaheddin. Obviously, my former employer was CIA and some of the efforts that we made to help the mujaheddin do that.
With that history in mind, is there a way, in your mind, that the Americans and the coalition/NATO forces can succeed when so many others have not been that successful?
COL. HANSEN: Clearly. I think the big difference, Jack, is the intent of why the coalition is here, as compared to the folks you previously mentioned. You know, the big concern here, frankly, is that the coalition will leave before the work is done.
Afghans are proud people and they want to participate and they eventually want to take over the leadership on all the ops here. But they see the intent here of the coalition and they see that it’s pure and it’s strictly focused on securing some liberty for these folks. And they’re extremely hopeful that we will stay the course and they are extremely hopeful that they will be able to pick up the ball.
MR. RICE: Colonel, I want to thank you so much for joining us.
COL. HANSEN: Well, you’re welcome, Jack. My pleasure.
MR. RICE: Colonel John Hansen in Kabul, Afghanistan. You are on today’s 830 WCCO.
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