In a frank conversation yesterday at Asia Society in New York, Afghanistan Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, considered by some the front-runner in the country's 2014 presidential election (although he has yet to declare his candidacy), fielded a question from the audience about what role the Taliban might play in the new government. You can watch the clip above — and here's how we covered it last night:
"The peace process is based on allowing and discussing with those Taliban who want to stop fighting and enter the Afghan society," Rassoul said. "The red line for us is the Afghan constitution. If tomorrow Mullah (Mohammed) Omar is a candidate for the presidential election in Afghanistan and he wins over 51 percent, he is going to be the president."
But to do this, the Taliban would need to "enter the peace process," which Rassoul acknowledged included giving up arms. And to be eligible for the 2014 election, this move would have to take place before the October 6 candidacy deadline.
The topic of the Taliban came up again later, this time regarding women's rights:
Rassoul said the Afghan constitution assured equal rights for women and that the government was "fully committed" to women's rights.
But what's to prevent the old ways of the Taliban from coming back?
"The Afghan people, first, and then Afghan security (forces)," Rassoul said. "Today we have over 350,000 armed forces, extremely well trained. You know the Afghans are very good for fighting, so you don't need to train them too much how to fight."
Rassoul said more than 90 percent of Afghanistan is protected by the national army and police, and that NATO was only playing a "supporting role." (Moderator John) Hockenberry countered with the fact that NATO provides air cover, and that would disappear after 2014.
"I think we are going to have, before the end of 2014, enough air force to replace it," Rassoul said. "With the help of the United States, of course."
Rassoul also made interesting remarks about Afghanistan's Twitter generation — he said roughly 65 percent of the country's population was under the age of 25:
"They have access to the internet, to the Facebook, Twitter," Rassoul said. "They have 36 channels of television that they're watching every night. They have access to a very free media. This is a very important social force for the future of Afghanistan. We are going to build Afghanistan with these youngsters, not the old one."
Watch the clip below, and for information about Asia Society's Afghanistan Young Leaders Initiative, click here.