The Afghan election is a great start, but Pakistan continues to destabilize the country

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Marco Werman: It's not too far from India to Afghanistan as far as the crow flies, but there's no comparing the two countries when it comes to elections. The vote in Afghanistan over the weekend was held under a very serious threat of violence. The Taliban has vowed to derail it with attacks on polling places. But the election was held without major disruptions and Afghans turned out to vote by the millions for a new president. Carlotta Gall with the New York Times has been covering Afghanistan for much of the past decade and she's just written a book about that experience called "The Wrong Enemy". What are your thoughts about the election this past weekend, especially given the headlines of massive turnout and the relatively low level of violence? Carlotta Gall: "It was a great day. All of my friends who were there describe it as a great turnout. And the debate, the excitement, the thought of electing a new leader, they're had President Karzai for twelve years, so that's definitely exciting for everybody and has motivated voters. But sixteen police and soldiers were killed on election day around the country, so it wasn't totally violence-free and I think what worries me is the outer regions in the provinces where people were too scared to vote where a lot of the remoter polling stations just couldn't open because of Taliban threats and intimidation. Werman: President Obama passed on congratulations to Afghanistan, calling this vote "another important milestone for the country". Do you see the long lines at polling stations as a repudiation of the Taliban? Gall: Oh undoubtedly because I was in Kabul for five days before the election and every single day but one, we had a suicide attack somewhere in the city. A really nasty campaign of violence and intimidation from the insurgents. So on the day it was great to see that people could go out and vote and were not so scared that they stayed at home. Werman: How widespread would you say is support for the Taliban right now? Gall: This is really why I wrote my book, because I'm still very worried that it's very prevalent. It's not that people like the Taliban or support them, but they are coming across from Pakistan where they have their sanctuaries and they are still very well funded, very coordinated. They're still recruiting young men, they're still indoctrinating suicide bombers and I've tracked this now for twelve years and it’s still going at a high level, and Pakistan I believe is still pushing it and sponsoring it and that's very distressing because with the foreign troops leaving and Afghanistan left to its own devices more, it's going to be still a very, very tough life for the Afghans. Werman: I wanted to just ask you one final thing, Carlotta. I mean the title of your book is "The Wrong Enemy". Once troops, if they do, all bug out of Afghanistan will it be any clear, do you think, who the real enemy is? Gall: I would hope it is clear, but it does trouble me that there is still quite a lot of debate in Washington on just how deep the level of Pakistan cooperation is, not only with the Taliban, but with al-Qaeda, that they were hiding Bin Laden, in fact, and using him for their own policy That worries me that there's still debate because it’s very clear when you've been reporting on the ground for so long that this is the case and so the policy should be to deal with it better and I think sending troops in Afghanistan ended up troops fighting in Afghan villages which wasn't really where the source of the problem was. The source of the problem was across the border in Pakistan. And I'm not saying invade Pakistan, but I'm saying there should be much, much smarter policies not only in America, but in the western world and NATO, to deal with this because Pakistan is still aiding and abetting militant groups whose ambitions go far beyond Afghanistan and that's really still for the survival of Afghanistan, but perhaps for all of us, we need to tackle that much, much more intelligently. Werman: The New York Times's Carlotta Gall. Her new book is called "The Wrong Enemy". Carlotta, thank you very much. Gall: Thank you.