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And, yes, I DO take it personally: New book - "The Future of Afghanistan" [UPDATE]
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

New book - "The Future of Afghanistan" [UPDATE]


if i seem a little obsessed with afghanistan lately, it's probably because i'm sitting here in kabul and am out and about at least twice a day, driving back and forth across the city, going to the office, attending meetings, and occasionally, going out to dinner...


yesterday, i was invited by an afghan colleague to a panel discussion sponsored by the american institute of afghanistan studies and the fulbright alumni association of afghanistan... the purpose was to introduce and discuss a new book called "The Future of Afghanistan"... the colleague who invited me is a former fulbright scholar and i am helping him apply to a u.s. mba program... the discussion was interesting but even more so was the discussion afterward with my colleague on how he feels about listening to americans expounding on the future of his country...


here's a little synopsis of the book...

The authors of The Future of Afghanistan say insecurity, whether due to insurgency, terrorism, regional meddling, or warlordism undermines the potential for progress on all other fronts in Afghanistan, and that success is impossible without competent Afghan security institutions. However, within the international coalition, the goal of establishing internal Afghan-focused security was subordinate to the goal of destroying the international terrorist networks there that were orchestrating a campaign of spectacular attacks. Yet stable Afghan governance and security forces are required to create a viable long-term alternative to the Taliban. Efforts to create a capable and legitimate government, including the development of Afghan security forces, were underfunded and poorly orchestrated.

Of equal importance is the legitimacy of the Afghan government itself and its will and capacity to implement the rule of law. The report argues that U.S. expectations for Afghan democracy were dangerously overblown during the Bush administration, wrongly believing that "democracy would be the panacea to resolving the myriad challenges facing Afghanistan following such a protracted period of conflict." In the long run democratic governance is key to stability, yet it takes considerable time and investment to create the scale and strength of institutions required to maintain constitutional democracy.

The future of Afghanistan also depends upon the ability of its national and local leaders to organize for a common, positive purpose. The international community and the Afghan government must engage the capacity of the broader Afghan society, making them the engine of progress rather than unwilling subjects of rapid change. The new formula is one where the central government continues to ensure security and justice on the national level and uses its position to channel international assistance to promote the rule of law and development at the community level. Such an approach would bring together capacity from four places—local communities, civil society (such as NGOs), Afghan government, and international donors— where none alone would be sufficient.

Finally, The U.S. must work with Afghanistan's neighbors to create a regional environment conducive to Afghanistan's success. Regional competition continues to undermine Afghanistan's long-term prospects, whereas renewed regional cooperation could provide a significant security and economic boost in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region as a whole.

What is needed now is a coherent strategy to bridge the gap between conflict and democracy, between burkas and women's equality, between tribal councils and a Supreme Court—the next decade must be about building those bridges. The first step is to realign joint priorities and expectations. The international community will be much better off with a right-sized, Afghan-appropriate vision that can actually be implemented than a grand international confection that continues to wilt under the glaring realities of the day, the authors say.

you can download the book for free online from the u.s. institute of peace... (warning: the download is a pdf and, for some reason, the link isn't working... if you're interested, shoot the institute of peace an email and tell 'em to fix the damn thing...)


a timely article from today's wapo...
The additional 17,000 troops the Obama administration is preparing to send to Afghanistan will face both an aggressive, well-armed Taliban insurgency and an unarmed but equally daunting foe: public opinion.

In more than a dozen interviews across the capital this week, Afghans said that instead of helping to defeat the insurgents and quell the violence that has engulfed their country, more foreign troops will exacerbate the problem.

The comments echoed a recent survey by the BBC and ABC News that found that although 90 percent of Afghans oppose the Taliban, less than half view the United States favorably, a sharp drop from a year ago, and a quarter say attacks on U.S. troops can be justified.

In the interviews, most people said they did not like the Taliban and were terrified of the suicide attacks that often occur in public places. Yet they also spoke with anger and suspicion about the U.S.-led coalition forces -- questioning their motives and bitterly complaining about civilian casualties, home invasions and other alleged abuses they suffer at the hands of the once-welcomed American and NATO troops.

i've said it before and i'll say it again... civilian casualties are unacceptable and don't give me any of this horseshit about "collateral damage"... i've about had it with reading things like this...
An investigation into a missile strike carried out by US-led forces in Afghanistan earlier this week has found that 13 civilians were among 16 people killed, the US military has said.

The military made the admission on Saturday, after originally saying that 15 opposition fighters had been killed in the strike in the Gozara district of Herat province.

Afghan officials insisted all along that six women and two children were among those killed.

at least they're admitting this one rather than stonewalling it like usual...

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