Opinion

David Rohde

Looking to Afghanistan’s future

David Rohde
Oct 7, 2011 21:54 UTC

As the 10th anniversary of the start of the Afghan war is marked around the world, looking forward is more important than looking back. As I noted in an earlier post, staggering mistakes have been made over the last decade. While individual Americans and Afghans have performed heroically, the Afghan and American governments – particularly their civilian arms – have performed anemically. And Pakistan’s intelligence service – the ISI – is the single largest impediment to stability in the region.

Looking forward, the advocacy group Global Witness is on the right track. In a statement, it said that Afghanistan’s management of an estimated $3 trillion in copper, Iron, gold, oil, chromite, uranium and rare earths is the key to the country’s future stability.

“The stakes could not be higher,” said Juman Kubba, a Global Witness official. “Get it right and minerals could be the catalyst for peace and prosperity; get it wrong and there’s a massive risk they will be lost to corruption, or form a new axis of instability and conflict.”

After a decade of development efforts driven by short-term political needs in Washington and other western capitals, Afghans and Americans now have an opportunity to achieve the most important ingredient to success in Afghanistan: sustainability. If properly managed, the country’s untapped mineral wealth can fund a robust economy, a strong Afghan army and a viable government.

For decades, if not centuries, Afghans have yearned for one thing more than anything else: the ability to control their own affairs. The country’s strategic location has led great powers to battle for control of Afghanistan. Afghans, as a result, have developed a deep resentment of foreign meddling. The problem goes beyond the American, Russian and British invasions. Afghans are sick of Pakistan, Iran and India using their nation as battleground for their own proxy wars.

from The Great Debate:

Awlaki and the Arab autumn

David Rohde
Sep 30, 2011 21:33 UTC

By David Rohde
The opinions expressed are his own.

The death of Anwar al-Awlaki this morning is welcome news, but Washington policymakers should not delude themselves into thinking the drone that killed him is a supernatural antidote to militancy. Yes, drone strikes should continue, but the real playing field continues to be the aftermath of the Arab spring; namely vital elections scheduled for October in Tunisia and November in Egypt.

A series of outstanding stories by reporters from Reuters, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books and The New York Times, have aptly laid out the stakes. Islamists are on the rise in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, but an extraordinary battle is unfolding over the nature of Islam itself.

“At the center of the debates is a new breed of politician who has risen from an Islamist milieu but accepts an essentially secular state,” Anthony Shadid and David Kirkpatrick wrote in today’s New York Times. Common values, in other words, are emerging between the West and the Islamic world. These “post-Islamist” politicians argue that individual rights, democracy and economic prosperity are elements of an “Islamic state.”

from The Great Debate:

Creating a “light, long term footprint” in Afghanistan

David Rohde
Sep 22, 2011 20:08 UTC

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.

While Stewart is correct in many of his arguments, he presents a seductively simplistic picture of abject failure. Unquestionably, Washington has focused too much on the military effort. And Stewart is right to argue against a policy of simply pouring in more foreign troops. Yet his portrait of foreigners achieving nothing in a decade stokes a dangerous isolationism gaining credence in both liberal and conservative circles in the West.

from The Great Debate:

The 9/11 generation

David Rohde
Sep 8, 2011 16:16 UTC

By David Rohde
The opinions expressed are his own.

In a speech last week at the American Legion convention in Minneapolis, President Obama rightly hailed what he called “the 9/11 generation,” the five million Americans who served in the military over the last decade.

“They’re a generation of innovators,” he declared. “And they’ve changed the way America fights and wins at wars.”

The following day, at a ceremony marking his retirement from the military, Gen. David Petraeus affirmed Tom Brokaw’s similar praise as the two men toured Iraq in 2003.

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