Afghanistan

Secretary Clinton’s apology for the Afghan civilian casualties was profuse and heartfelt, which is good. And her commitment to additional measures of addressing the conflict beyond the military one is welcome. But the standard alternatives, as usual, are about economic development and are rather long-term. There are other interventions afoot, however, that could have a more dramatic effect if the United States pursued them. This may have to challenge a tendency in the United States and Israel to always find a bad guy, even as you are engaging in nonviolent alternatives. In this case the ‘bad guys’ are the Taliban, who have a horrible human rights record. But evidence from the ground from our colleagues in the field, which I cannot share at this point, suggests that there are significant numbers of Taliban, young and old, who are trying to pull away from the extremist leadership who have no regrets …

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This important exchange took place at ICAR, my school, in recent days. This debate addresses a topic we must think about which is how and whether to engage extremists who have committed massive war crimes. Inevitably it devolves into questions of what we know and who we know it from, which also gets into issues of trust and distrust of prevailing sources of information in the West and elsewhere. I have come to see in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, especially the Israeli/Hamas conflict and the Hamas/Fatah conflict, that reliable information is very hard to come by. This is where we need to listen to each other, listen to victims, agree on core principles, and move forward with plans that attack the problem from several directions. It begins with Saira Yamin’s letter to NYT, continues with Professor Richard Rubenstein’s response and then Saira’s response:

More Force in Afghanistan?
New York Times,

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An important debate is raging on the future of the Western intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Congressman Michael Honda has two important articles, here, and here. CRDC expert and ICAR student Neamat Nojumi, a former mujahaddin,  has an important piece here.

Central to these analyses is that military force alone will never solve the Afghanistan conflicts, nor will an intervention work that does not directly address the role that Pakistan has played in perpetuating this conflict for decades. Another more difficult question is the Taliban, how to compete with them more effectively,  how to defeat them, and whether to engage any of them.

All of the recommendations seem excellent. I also recommend reading The Kite Runner which has profoundly affected my life and my appreciation for what Afghanistan has gone through and who or what is responsible. I never cease to be amazed at how effectively …

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