Tag Archives: Afghanistan

NATO summit declares end of Afghan war in sight

Photo: Sean Carberry

On Sunday, NATO allies declared that the end of the war in Afghanistan was in sight. The summit, so far, has been focused on the fate of Afghanistan. Combat troops are to gradually hand over security responsibility to the Afghans next year with a troop pull-out by 2014. President Obama wants the US to shift into a support role in the unpopular war while running for re-election, even though the US is committed to many more years of assistance. The US-Afghan “Strategic Partnership Agreement” covers a time period of ten years after military forces are to leave. Issues remain as member countries debate the details. From the LA Times:

The alliance is split on key details about how to prevent Afghanistan from falling under Taliban control once NATO troops leave. There were clear signs of discord over how quickly to pull troops out over the next 2 1/2 years, and growing doubts about whether NATO nations will meet financial pledges in the future.

“We still have a lot of work to do and there will be great challenges ahead,” Obama told reporters after meeting for more than an hour with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. “The loss of life continues in Afghanistan and there will be hard days ahead.”

NATO troops have now spent a decade in Afghanistan, and more recently, NATO airpower helped to overthrow Moammar Ghaddafi in Libya. But in the face of economic stress, and war-weary publics in the United States and Europe, how will the alliance move forward? America Abroad reports on The Future of NATO »

Afghanistan: More Questions Than Answers

Republished courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations.

May 2, 2012. Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations

Photo: Sean Carberry

President Obama has been of two minds toward Afghanistan since the outset of his presidency. In December 2009, en route to tripling the U.S. military presence there, he declared that U.S. military forces would begin to withdraw from that country in eighteen months. Now, two-and-a-half years later, he stated that U.S. military forces would continue to leave Afghanistan but that American soldiers would remain in the country until at least 2024.

The announcement of the U.S.-Afghan “Strategic Partnership Agreement” raises at least as many questions as it answers. How many U.S. troops will remain in country after 2014 and what will be their precise role? What will be the ultimate scale of Afghan army and police forces? How much will all this cost, and what will be the U.S. share? And what is the extent of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan if, as is all too possible, this mix of Afghan and U.S. effort is not enough in the face of Taliban ruthlessness, Pakistani provision of a sanctuary for the Taliban, and Afghan corruption and divisions?

The bigger question over the president’s speech is not that some U.S. forces are to stay in Afghanistan–U.S. forces have remained in other hot spots for decades and played a useful role–but centers on the purpose and scale of the ongoing commitment. Mr. Obama put forward two rationales. The first is that absent this effort, “al-Qaeda could establish itself once more” inside the country. This is of course true. But it could regroup in Afghanistan even with this effort. More important, it is not clear how this possibility would distinguish Afghanistan from, say, Yemen or Somalia or Nigeria. The global effort against terror is just that—global–and there is no reason for the effort in Afghanistan to be large. It is not the central battleground in a struggle against an enemy with access to dozens of countries.

All of which takes us to the second rationale for the announced policy: to “finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly.” But past sacrifice is a poor justification for continued sacrifice unless it is warranted. The truth is that while the United States still has interests in Afghanistan, none of them, other than opposing al-Qaeda, rises to the level of vital. And this vital interest can be addressed with a modest commitment of troops and dollars.

Perspectives on US/NATO plan in Afghanistan

The US and Afghanistan have agreed to a long-awaited strategic partnership that will ensure the US’s involvement after the planned 2014 withdrawal of troops. The US will provide both military and financial aid for a decade beyond the 2014 date. Leaders in Afghanistan hope this will mitigate fears that US allies are not walking away from the conflict. After 10 years of war, insurgents remain a threat to Afghanistan. From the Guardian News Service:

“Today Afghanistan and the US initialled (sic) and locked the text of the strategic partnership agreement,” said Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi. “This means the text is closed, and both sides will now review the document and do a final consultation. In the US it will go to the houses of Congress and the president; in Afghanistan the president will consult with national leaders plus both houses of parliament.”

For a better understanding of how Afghans feel about US and NATO troops in their country, listen to these clips of Afghans sharing their perspectives on US/NATO troops, their presence, and their impending departure.

Ahmad, from Nangarhar Province, thinks that NATO must stay.

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Rozi Zalmai, also from Nangarhar Province, does not want NATO to stay and thinks their presence is not possible for peace.

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Malalai Niazi, from Kabul, does not think Afghan security forces are ready to take over responsibility.

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Abdul Wasi, from Kabul, is afraid if NATO leaves, civil war will begin.

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Iqbal, from Logar Province, thinks the Afghan military forces still need assistance.

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Mohammad Khalik, a soldier at Kapisa police headquarters, has seen changes over the years but still believes that keeping NATO forces in Afghanistan will be positive.

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AAM Insight with author Edward Girardet

As a foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, US News and World Report, and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour based in Paris, Edward Girardet first began covering Afghanistan several months prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979.

AAM sits down with Girardet, author of Killing the Cranes: A Reporters Journey Through Three Decades of War in Afghanistan, to discuss his new book and share his first-hand perspective on war in Afghanistan. Watch »

Excerpts from the interview

AAM: You first visited Afghanistan as a young reporter fascinated by resistance movements against foreign occupations. What keeps bringing you back to report on Afghanistan?

EDWARD GIRARDET: I think everyone that has been involved with Afghanistan, whether as a journalist or an aid worker throughout the ages–even in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, 2000s–keeps coming back. They develop a very close attachment to the country and the people because they’re a very independent minded people there. They are an infuriating people! The topography is extraordinary and we were very fortunate. I think the journalists and the aid workers that worked there in the 1980s, for example, could trek inside Afghanistan. We couldn’t go by vehicle so we went in by horses and by foot. You’d walk 700-800 miles through the mountains through 15,000-16,000 foot high mountain passes. So it was an amazing journey every time you went in. And of course you slept in villages, and you stayed in villages, and you met refugees, farmers, people along the way. They always, no matter how poor they were or how devastated by the war, managed to retain their dignity, and I think that’s what really, really impressed me. And, they talked to you on equal terms. So I think those are some of the attractions.

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Pakistani public opinion post-Bin Laden

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AAM’s Katherine Gypson interviews Declan Walsh, the Guardian’s foreign correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, on the Pakistani reaction to the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Joined By War: Women’s rights in today’s Afghanistan

In the first years of the war, images of Afghan girls returning to the classroom were a heartening change from the years of Taliban brutality. Yet local laws have again become more conservative, and strong development benchmarks for women have waned. Now, with talk of possible reconciliation with the Taliban, some wonder: do women’s rights in Afghanistan still matter?

America Abroad brings together audiences in Washington and Kabul to discuss the lives of Afghan women in the post-Taliban era, and explore if their interests are being sacrificed in the name of security. Listen to the program or download the podcast.

Guests include:

Michelle Barsa is the lead advocate on Afghanistan at The Institute for Inclusive Security, where she focuses on expanding the role for women in Afghanistan’s peace and reconstruction processes.

Anita McBride is a member of the US-Afghan Women’s Council, and the Executive in Residence at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University’s School of Public Affairs. She also served as chief of staff to former first lady Mrs. Laura Bush.

Dr. Sima Samar is a 2008 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award Laureate, Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and United Nations Special Reporter on the situation of human rights in Sudan.

Dr. Safia Sidiqi is a former member of Afghanistan’s Parliament. Previously, she ran a legal advice bureau in Canada for Afghan women.

Discussing a way forward in Afghanistan

On Tuesday, the UN released a report reporting civilian casualties surged by 31% during the first six months of this year compared the same period in 2009 in Afghanistan. The report goes on to blame most of the deaths to the Taliban and other insurgents, while fewer are being killed by coalition forces. With increasing deaths and public sentiment turning against the war in Afghanistan, many people are asking, “Is this war winnable?”

According to Stephen Biddle, Roger Hertog Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, early rapid progress lead to overly optimistic sentiment on the part of the military and the government. He compares Afghanistan now to Iraq in June 2007, near the beginning of the surge of American troops. Biddle argues that we must wait through a “fighting cycle” — one year to 18 months to see where we stand in Afghanistan. He cites the current situation in Helmand Province as an example of a successful campaign: the Taliban were kicked out, they tried to re-establish, the Taliban failed and now the province is reasonably stable. If at the end of the current fighting cycle, in places such as Kandahar, or the situation deteriorates in what were once safe havens, it will be hard to sustain public support.

The stakes are particularly high because of Afghanistan’s proximity to nuclear Pakistan. Pakistan’s internal war conflict and access to nuclear weapons leaves no doubt that an unstable Afghanistan could again become a base for launching attacks against the US. Biddle goes on to state that although the deadline for troop withdrawl is August 2011, he thinks the US will not abandon Afghanistan and that may change some perceptions in Afghanistan concerning security and governance.

America Abroad journalist Sean Carberry embeds with the military in Paktya and Khost Provinces in southeastern Afghanistan to see how the counterinsurgency campaign is playing out near Afghanistan’s lawless border with Pakistan. Listen >

AAM Insight: Interview with Peter Galbraith

Last year’s fraud-ridden Afghan presidential election put the Obama Administration’s new strategy on hold as policymakers and military leaders alike waited to see in which direction the country was headed. The disputed election split the United Nations delegation within the country, forcing uncomfortable questions about the leadership in Afghanistan and the international will needed to address issues rule of law and corruption.

AAM’s Katherine Gypson sat down with Ambassador Peter Galbraith, the former UN Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, who was dismissed after publicly condemning the UN response to the elections. Ambassador Galbraith recalls the election controversy and candidly addresses the Obama Administration’s new strategy and criticism of his own role in the policymaking community. Watch >

Behind the Music

behind the musicEver wonder what the music is you hear in our programs, or why we use certain pieces of music? Well, here’s some insight.

Music is a critical component of our radio programs, and radio journalism in general. It can be a subtle mood “enhancer”, a punctuation mark, a palate cleanser, or an inside joke. Music is commonly used at the beginning and end of segments to set a mood, create some pacing, and provide a cue that a segment is beginning or ending. We often use music under long segments of narration at the top of a story and sometimes in the body of a piece if there is a long stretch of dry (meaning lacking background sound, not boring) narration.

Sometimes music is used to create a sense of a scene or chapter in a piece. Music often serves as a transition – an abrupt start or end to a piece of music cues that something new is coming up. It can reinforce tone – serious, exotic, even chaotic. There are times in a piece where the listener needs a moment to digest a sequence of serious and complex information, and music can provide a pause – since long periods of silence don’t go over particularly well in radio – to give the listener a few moments to absorb what he or she has just heard.

For example, if you listen to the first few minutes of our October program on the economic relationship between the US and Mexico, you will hear several different pieces of music (actually, because there is such a rich body of music to draw from for a Mexico program, we used a lot of music in the hour). Since the intro to the show was on the long side, I decided to use different pieces of music to maintain momentum, and to reinforce some of the thematic points in the script (plus, you can never have enough Los Lobos in a program). The songs start “hot” in the clear for a second, and then continue for a bit then fade. The hot start signals a “chapter” and then when the music fades out, it draws the ear in deeper to the conversation. Then, the next piece comes in to signal another point and chapter.

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Captain Kid

goats3Bob Cline is a farmer. He’s also a lawyer. He’s a captain in the Indiana National Guard and is currently serving with the 1-19 Agribusiness Development Team based at FOB Salerno in Khowst Province. He’s an Animal Husbandry Subject Matter Expert. In other words, he’s the head goat herder on the base.

I should also disclose that he’s the Public Affairs Officer for the ADT, so it’s his job to get me to say nice things about the ADT and his work. And as a reporter, it’s my job to question and look for the truth in his story, or anyone else’s.

That said, Captain Cline and his goats are on the front line of the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.*

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