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World

An Afghan Company's CEO On The Country's Future

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Our next guest has gained a lot from the opening of Afghanistan. Saad Mohseni runs a media conglomerate, including a TV news channel, there.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

He does it in a country that once had nothing but state-owned radio stations broadcasting propaganda from the Taliban. This means he works in a country that is still at war and that suffered a huge truck bombing yesterday.

INSKEEP: Saad Mohseni has strong views about what his country needs now. Thanks for coming by this morning, really appreciate it.

SAAD MOHSENI: Thank you.

INSKEEP: We've heard that one of the victims in yesterday's bombing worked for you - sorry for that loss. Who was he?

MOHSENI: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Who was he?

MOHSENI: Well, it was a young 22-year-old who happened to be walking to work as he does every morning, and he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I think he was the youngest of three sons, pretty much the breadwinner for the family, very impoverished family. And along with a hundred - we believe up to 140 people were killed in yesterday's attack. It just - it happened at the worst time. So he's one of many people that they buried yesterday.

INSKEEP: When you say it happened at the worst time, meaning it was rush hour there.

MOHSENI: It was 8 o'clock in the morning, yes.

MARTIN: You bear a risk, just living in Kabul, of something like this happen. There was a randomness to all of this. But you have had journalists who have worked for TOLO around Afghanistan who've been explicitly targeted over the years, right?

MOHSENI: Yes. And last year, the Taliban targeted one of our buses, and we lost seven employees January of 2016. And, you know, we've been targeted not just by the Taliban but also by the state. So it's a tough business to be in in Afghan. They're very brave.

INSKEEP: How does the state target you, the U.S.-supported government?

MOHSENI: Well, you know, they've arrested us and, you know, they've certainly have - you know, we - at one stage, we had like seven or eight outstanding arrest warrants, myself included. And during the Karzai era, my brother and a number of our staff members were locked up by the intelligence agencies for a couple of days. So it happens. I mean, that's a - it's a risky business.

INSKEEP: The Karzai era - Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan. So I have to ask you - it's been 16 years since the Taliban fell. The war that was going on then has just continued right on. What's not working?

MOHSENI: Well, there are a number of things. I think some of our problems are self-inflicted in terms of corruption and governance, which continues to remain a challenge for the Afghans. But, you know, the other issue, which is, you know, people don't, you know, still talk about enough is Pakistan. You know, they have sanctuaries. They have madrassas. They have training camps. Funding that comes via Pakistan, and from the rest of the - from the rest of the region, it's allowing the Taliban to survive.

MARTIN: That's the same problem, though, Saad, that has been in existence for over a decade or more.

MOHSENI: Yes. And unless we really, you know, face up and deal with these challenges, I think they'll - it will continue.

MARTIN: Do you need more U.S. troops to do that?

MOHSENI: I think, you know, we have to do the heavy lifting in Afghanistan. I think U.S. troops are important in terms of training, and it's also important, I think, symbolically to send the right signal in terms of U.S. commitment. But the Afghans have to do a lot more.

INSKEEP: You used the word commitment. Do Afghans think the United States is still committed in the long term to Afghanistan and its future?

MOHSENI: Unfortunately, I think just the narrative, especially when President Obama, as he was drawing down, the implication - well, they they feel that the Americans are willing or looking to cut and run. So I think psychologically - just not the Afghans, but I think the region, and that's why you're seeing a lot more meddling now by the Iranians, by the Russians, by the Indians, by the Pakistanis. The assumption is that the Americans are going to leave.

INSKEEP: And so you would like more of a commitment the Americans are going to stay.

MOHSENI: Yes.

INSKEEP: Saad Mohseni, thanks for coming by this morning, really appreciate it.

MOHSENI: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He is the chairman and CEO of MOBY Group, which is a major media conglomerate based in Afghanistan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.