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from The Great Debate:

Don’t overestimate Afghanistan pessimism

This is a response to Rory Stewart’s book excerpt “My uphill battle against the Afghanistan intervention.” David Rohde’s response can be read here and Anne-Marie Slaughter's response can be read here.

By James Dobbins
The views expressed are his own.

Rory Stewart maintains that it is “not simply difficult, but impossible” to build an Afghan state. Presumably, this is meant hyperbolically, since Afghanistan has been recognized as an independent state far longer than any of its northern or southern neighbors.

It is true that the Afghan state had almost no capacity a decade ago, after twenty years of civil war, and that it still struggles to deliver basic public services. Nevertheless, nothing in Stewart’s pessimistic assessment would lead one to realize that since 2001 Afghanistan’s licit GDP has risen by 300 percent, that tax collection as a percentage of GDP now exceeds that of Pakistan, that school attendance has risen eightfold, that the country’s literacy rate will triple in 10 years if these children are permitted to stay in school, that 80 percent of the population has access to basic health care faculties (albeit often distant and intermittent), that child mortality has dropped by one third as a result, and that despite the ongoing conflict longevity is increasing. Yet another striking statistic is that today almost half of Afghan households have telephones.

Multiple polls commissioned by independent news and other organizations consistently reveal an Afghan population that sees improvement in its well-being, has a favorable view of its government and is optimistic about its future. Indeed for the past couple of years the Afghans have rated their government and its leadership higher than Americans do theirs.

from Afghan Journal:

In the U.S.-Pakistan fight, India an anxious spectator

Pakistan and the United States are in the middle of such a public and bruising fight that Islamabad's other pet hate, India, has receded into the background.  A Pakistani banker friend, only half in jest, said his country had bigger fish to fry than to worry about India, now that it had locked horns with the superpower.

But more seriously, India itself has kept a low profile, resisting the temptation to twist the knife deeper into its neighbour when it faces the risk of isolation. Much of what Pakistan stands accused of, including the main charge of  using violent extremism as an instrument of foreign policy, is an echo of what New Delhi has been blaming Pakistan for, for two decades now.  Even the language that America's military officials led by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and diplomats  have employed such as "proxy wars" , "cross border raids"   or terrorism central to describe Pakistan is a throwback to the 1990s and later when India and Pakistan were dueling over  Kashmir.

from The Great Debate:

Where the Afghanistan effort broke down

This is a response to Rory Stewart's book excerpt "My uphill battle against the Afghanistan intervention." David Rohde's response can be read here.

By Anne-Marie Slaughter
The views expressed are her own.

This fall I am teaching a big introductory course to the first-year Masters of Public Affairs students at the Woodrow Wilson School called Politics and Public Policy. The focus of the first lecture, delivered by one of my colleagues, as the necessary intersection of good policy, good politics, and good practice. In other words, the best policy in the world doesn’t make any difference if it is not politically feasible; conversely, what is politically feasible may not be worth doing if it is not at least better policy than the status quo. And even where good policy is politically feasible, it must also be implementable – not just in theory, but in practice.

from Expert Zone:

U.S. should react strongly to Pakistan’s involvement in embassy attack

(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Credible U.S. press reports on Friday revealed that cell phones found on the attackers in the September 13 attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul were linked to Pakistani intelligence officials.

from Expert Zone:

Rabbani assassination and Pakistani defiance crush prospects for Afghan peace

(The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was in charge of the High Peace Council pursuing reconciliation talks with the Taliban, is a clarifying moment for Afghans who had hoped Rabbani’s efforts would bring peace to the war-ravaged country.

from The Great Debate:

Creating a “light, long term footprint” in Afghanistan

By David Rohde
The views expressed are his own.

This is a response to Rory Stewart's book excerpt, "My uphill battle against the Afghanistan intervention."

The most important phrase in Stewart’s essay is his statement that a “light, long-term footprint” should be adopted in Afghanistan. I agree but he paints a dark picture of all Western efforts in the country.

from The Great Debate:

My uphill battle against the Afghanistan intervention

By Rory Stewart
The views expressed are his own.

I returned to Afghanistan (after spending a short time at Harvard) in 2005. And when I heard that the British government was about to send three thousand soldiers into Helmand, I was confident that there would soon be a widespread insurgency. I also predicted that the military would demand more troops, and would get dragged ever deeper.

It wasn’t that I had any particular skill in predicting the future. I failed to predict that Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak would fall. I was wrong about Iraq. And my prediction for Helmand wasn’t based on any knowledge of Helmand. It was simply that I recognized the mindset and the actions of the NATO governments from Iraq. And I wasn’t alone in warning against the deployment. Many others predicted the same thing in Helmand. A military friend of mine had returned from a reconnaissance trip saying, “There isn’t an insurgency, but you can have one if you want one.” The Helmand surge continued regardless. The British government seemed to have a momentum, quite distinct from any individual politician or policy-maker. Troops were increased from two hundred U.S. Special Forces in 2005 to three thousand British soldiers in 2006.

from Photographers' Blog:

Back in Afghanistan, ten years later

By Erik de Castro

Ten years ago I was part of the three-member Reuters multimedia team that went to Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. We covered the pursuit for Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban followers, who were believed to be holed up in the caves of the Tora Bora mountains, by US military special forces fighting alongside the Afghan Mujaheedin. Nobody from the press saw Osama. Instead about a dozen Taliban captured from the caves were presented to the media in Tora Bora.

As we passed the Afghan border on the road to Jalalabad following a long journey from Islamabad, Pakistan, I remember the precautions our security adviser told us: If ever we are stopped by armed men along the way, stay calm and just hand over our U.S. dollars. Weeks earlier, two Reuters colleagues (a TV cameraman and a photographer) and two other European journalists traveling with a convoy of media vehicles were killed by bandits on the same road.

from Susan Glasser:

The wars America doesn’t talk about

By Susan Glasser
The opinions expressed are her own.

Last month was the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in the ten years of the war there, with 67 killed, nearly half of them Navy SEALs in the downing of a Chinook helicopter -- the deadliest single incident in this, the longest war in American history. More promisingly, it was also the first month since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 that not a single U.S. soldier was killed there.

And yet these startling facts received almost no notice: the president never mentioned them, Congress was silent. When it comes to these drawn-out conflicts, both American political parties are increasingly determined to say nothing at all.

from MacroScope:

Guns and butter

 

Long mum on the link between the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the country's economic distress, mainstream economists have started connecting the dots -- and it doesn't make for a pretty picture. A Brown University study published in June found the total cost of the two conflicts to be on the order of $4 trillion, nearly 30 percent of U.S. GDP and enough money to employ 8 million Americans at $50,000 a year for 10 years.

Now Harvard's Kennedy School is publishing its own series on the issue. In a piece discussing the 10 years that have elapsed since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Professor Linda Blimes flags America's response to the events of that day as a "major contributor" to all of the economic weakness that has plagued the country over the last decade.

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