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?