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Lee Kuan Yew’s 2009 comments on Afghanistan recirculate, he said: ‘trying to make a country out of Afghanistan is a distraction’

In an interview with Charlie Rose in Oct 2009, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's comments on the United States' approach to the Middle East, how he did not believe in having one nation conduct nation-building activities in another, has resurfaced years later.

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Singapore — Since Kabul fell to the Taliban on Sunday (Aug 15), thousands of Americans and Afghans have surged toward the airport, seeking flights out of the country.

Taliban forces outside the airport have been brutally stopping many people at checkpoints. Many others have made it to the airport perimeter only to be turned away.

In an interview with Charlie Rose in Oct 2009, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s comments on the United States’ approach to the Middle East, how he did not believe in having one nation conduct nation-building activities in another, has resurfaced years later.

Back then, Mr Lee expressed scepticism that the US would be able to continue its course in Afghanistan. “No, I’m not saying the Middle East is a distraction. I think trying to make a country out of Afghanistan is a distraction. There was no country for the last 30, 40 years. There’s just been fighting each other since the last king was chased out”, Mr Lee said.

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“I’m not an expert, but in my simple mind it strikes me that you won in Afghanistan not because you fought the Taliban, but because you got the Northern Alliance (referring to the Afghan Northern Alliance) to fight them, and you provided the Northern Alliance with intelligence and the capabilities to bomb them and target them. And they captured the south”, he added.

Mr Lee, who was Minister Mentor at that time said that Afghanistan was a country that had been facing internal strife for decades, as warlords and different factions have been vying for land and power.

He also made it clear that he would not be drawn into any conversation that would have him articulate a solution for the Americans’ Middle East problem. Through the interview, he would always circle back to Singapore and his role as a leader here.

Towards the end of the interview, when Charlie Rose asked Mr Lee what his priorities were, Mr Lee replied: “For Singapore?”

To that, Rose replied: “For United States”.

Mr Lee, holding his head in his hands, then responded: “I cannot think… I’m not an American, I do not calculate in American terms. I calculate what Americans are likely to do in relation to what will happen to me”.

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The full interview: https://youtu.be/66Hv7izRCxg

/TISG

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