(Gen. Zia - Tea and Kleenex - there's a message here)
When this interview was conducted on May 18, 1980, Afghanistan was under Soviet occupation a little over six months. There was also the matter of fifty American hostages in Tehran and the U.S. elections heating up. Zia headed up a military coup that overthrew the legitimate elected government of Ali Bhutto and after staging a rather dubious trial, executed him, much to the shock and horror of the rest of the world. Zia would later die in a helicopter crash, also of dubious circumstances.
I think it would be fair to say that the instability of the region has a long history and having Atomic weapons capabilities makes the stomach turn just a bit faster as a result.
General Zia managed to conduct a one-on-one with Walter Cronkite and offered a few insights that, in hindsight may seem prophetic.
Gen. Zia: “What I am trying to say is, The United States Of America must see the true priorities in this region. If this region has any strategic significance in the minds of the United States citizens, if this region has any significance to the ultimate interests of the United States of America and the free world, then I am afraid the question of hostages should not be viewed on the emotional plain. I very strongly recommend, Mister Cronkite, that we should view the situation in a much bigger perspective. It is a global problem in my opinion. The lives of fifty American nationals is as dear and as valuable to me as it is to any United States citizen. But I say there are much greater things at stake at the present moment, and we should take out the emotional aspects of an election year or of the human aspects of this, this cannot be ignored, I must agree. But I think there are much greater stakes involved in this issue than only the lives of fifty nationals.”
So in retrospect, listening to this interview now and knowing our current situation with Afghanistan and our relationship with Pakistan, it would seem the current problems with the Taliban in the region have been more or less a work-in-progress the last 25 or so years.
Nothing is ever as it seems and nothing ever happens instantly.