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« Should Governments Raise Taxes During a Recession? | Main | Guest Blogger: Sarah Chayes on Negotiating with the Taliban »

Changing U.S. Policy for Afghanistan?

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with former NPR journalist Sarah Chayes, who has lived and worked in Afghanistan for seven years, about her experiences and thoughts on what course the United States should pursue there.

Expanding on her WASHINGTON POST guest column that criticized the "appalling behavior" of U.S.-backed officials who are often drawn from repressive pre-Taliban regimes, Chayes said:

“What we've really done is set up a monopoly on the exercise of power. It's the opposite of everything that we consider to be democracy -- we've allowed an abusive concentration of power in the hands of the executives, in particular, on a local level like the provincial governors and their acolytes. Because we've convinced ourselves and often we have to -- and by "we" I mean us and our NATO allies -- convince our own public opinion that this is a democratically elected representative government of Afghanistan in order to justify the sacrifices in money and troops and things like that. But the Afghans see it differently... They are all telling me, 'You brought these people back into Afghanistan. We had repudiated them in the early 1990s.. You brought them in and now you're backing them up, and you are making it impossible for us to make our voices heard and have any leverage on the behavior of these people.'”

American troops have been fighting in Afghanistan for more than seven years since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. In an appeal to rethink U.S. policies there, journalist Eric Margolis suggested that Afghan history and culture undermine prospects of military victory and successful nation-building:

“Everything that happens in Afghanistan is based on tribal politics. Taliban came from the heart of the Pashtun tribal grouping, the world's largest tribe which also accounts for up to 20% of Pakistan's population. Tribal and clan loyalties trump all political alliances... Today, U.S. and NATO forces are not fighting 'terrorists' in Afghanistan but a loose alliance of Pashtun warrior tribes whose resistance to foreign occupation is legendary. They are descendants of the same Pashtun mountain warriors who battled Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the British Empire and the Soviet Union. All these invaders were eventually defeated... In Afghanistan, we are not fighting "terrorists" but a medieval tribal people who just want to be left alone.”

What do you think?

  • Can the United States and NATO change Afghanistan for the better? Why or why not?
  • Given Afghan history and culture, do you think a functioning modern government is possible there? Why? If not, what should be the goals of the next administration?


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    Comments

    We play this game of "nation building" democracies in lands which never had a democratic tradition, but in reality we back dictators we can control. It ends up being a military game in which we kill far more civilians than "enemy." Then, we lose control, and are angry because the liberals gave away another country we should have won! Sadly, this has become what America stands for.

    We loose no matter what we do, might as well leave and use diplomacy and economics to help the country. Pakistan has received plenty of cash for US , wonder what use was made of it, rather than help their country economy.

    The US has no intention, and has never had any intention of helping Afghanistan and could not care less about the its people.

    There is no evidence, whatsoever, at all, that Osama Bin Laden was involved in 9/11. There was no justification for the invasion of Afghanistan.

    All military forces must be withdrawn now.

    Of course Afghanistan can have a functional government. But the US doesn't want it to have a functional government. The US is the one who gave the power to the religous fanatics in the first place.

    Since America's military kill civilians in
    Afghanistan & Pakistan because our guys can't tell a civilian from a Taliban, we would be better off contributing in non-military, diplomatic ways. Besides with our own military industrial complex we can hardly be the judge of democracy all over the world. Those countries are better off to let them settle their own problems as is their wish, without our military making things worse. Let's stop occupying countries since we surely wouldn't want
    other countries coming on our sovereign land to "democratize" them,
    would we?

    Since America's military kill civilians in
    Afghanistan & Pakistan because our guys can't tell a civilian from a Taliban, we would be better off contributing in non-military, diplomatic ways. Besides with our own military industrial complex we can hardly be the judge of democracy all over the world. Those countries are better off to let them settle their own problems as is their wish, without our military making things worse. Let's stop occupying countries since we surely wouldn't want
    other countries coming on our sovereign land to "democratize" them,
    would we?

    diplomacy might help but I'm afraid Iran Pakistan and Afghanistan are always going to be ruled by Kings or those who want power for themselves and don't care about their people. Sort of like the US recently.

    America The War Machine

    What happened to America the beautiful? What happened to the land that I love. What happened to America the right, the good, the free? Where is our right, our truth, our light? Where has our love gone? Where have the peace dove gone? Have we bombed and killed them too? Surely love not guns is all the world truly needs. Violence only begets violence as two wrongs will never make right. I want America the beautiful back. I want to stand proudly beside her again as she surely once was the beacon of light for the night, from above. Who turned out the lights?
    God bless the world.

    =
    MJA

    It seems crazy until you realize that these borders (Afghanistan-Pakistan and so forth) are divisions of convenience established for expediency under British colonial rule. Oh no, no hot pursuit after the taliban: That would violate sovereignty! Pakistan is far more dangerous as a nuclear state than Iran.

    The key to the puzzle is that Pakistani intelligence (ISI), and their elite, are a client and an asset of our elite, whom we have allowed to go nuclear. Our state terrorists are using the Pakistani frontier as a pot to cook their poison: generic tribal terrorism. They are no better than crystal meth fiends in a trailer full of children. They use this weapon to keep both Americans and Afghanis down. David Petraeus could tell us who the big American heroin importers are if we gave him immunity. Hell, he might even remember where those pallets of hundred dollar bills Greenspan sent to Iraq went, if we won his confidence during interrogation. The US continues its arm wrestling charade; right hand against left, burning our prosperity in the process. Sarah Chayes can only reveal so much, and live.

    This is in large part why we lost in Vietnam. If Musharraf was pulling our chain, it seems Zardari is in no better position.

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