Remembering Afghanistan Part 9: Ashraf Ghani

President Ashraf Ghani’s Turn

Following six months of brinksmanship Afghanistan finally confirmed its new President in September 2104, along with a new and technically unconstitutional system of executive power. The power sharing arrangement between President Ashraf Ghani and the newly minted chief executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah is a success for democracy in Afghanistan if only because it represents the first peaceful, if drawn out, transfer of power from one publicly elected President to the next in the nation’s history. The fact that Abdullah has been given a position that previously did not exist and is not recognized by the Afghan Constitution isn’t even as bad as it sounds. Continue reading

Remembering Afghanistan Part 8: The Return of the Taliban

The Return of the Taliban

While allowances were made to many Afghans of disreputable character, the Taliban were never going to be given equal treatment by the U.S. As numerous former Taliban found out, there was no room for reconciliation in the new Afghan order. They found themselves marked men with no safe haven in their own country. Many fled to Pakistan where, influenced by Pakistan’s intelligence agency and al-Qaeda, the Taliban would regroup. Continue reading

Remembering Afghanistan Part 7: The Problem with Warlords

The Problem with Warlords: The Seeds of Insurgency

Deghett wrote in her article about the man incinerated in the Gulf War that, “Photos like Jarecke’s not only show that bombs drop on real people; they also make the public feel accountable.” Unfortunately an image – or even series of images – can’t exhibit the multitude of intertwined tragedies composing the current situation in Afghanistan. The story is so long, with so many parallel tales running in conjunction with the main narrative, that no one person could possibly master the entire mess. Continue reading

Remembering Afghanistan Part 5 & 6: The U.S. Policy continued

The U.S. Policy (as defined by field commanders)

And so the most destructive American policy in Afghanistan began early; while the State Department struggled to even properly arrive on the scene, field commanders made decisions that the military stubbornly continues to exacerbate. The officers on the ground in Afghanistan then, and even since, were often not given a sufficient understanding of tribal politics in Afghanistan. Their decisions, and those made later, to install warlords such as Gul Agha Shirzai and Jan Muhammad as governors, would make individual Afghans and those who associated with them extremely rich. America fell victim to that centuries old Afghan tradition of robbing its conquerors. Continue reading

Remembering Afghanistan Part 4: The (lack of) U.S. Policy

The (lack of) U.S. Policy

So if Afghans in general are predisposed to be anarchic, distrustful of foreigners and their alien institutions, did the U.S. really get it wrong in Afghanistan? Were our policies well designed, yet a bit naïve and doomed to failure? True, tribalism in Afghanistan poses a unique challenge to Americans who are the product of centuries of nation building and a lifetime of guaranteed freedoms. This does not mean that the foundations of Afghan society are fundamentally at odds with efforts to build democracy. Continue reading

Remembering Afghanistan Part 3: Tribal Roots

Tribal Roots

True to the practical nature that has dominated Afghans for millennia they wanted to switch sides, to reconcile. This was the regular rhythm of power change in this crossroads nation. Centuries ago the Persians vied with India and then withered beneath the Mongols. Later the British and Russians pushed back and forth across the arid mountain ranges in their Great Game. Then the U.S. fought a proxy war with the Soviets over their expansion of power into Central Asia. Continue reading

Remembering Afghanistan Part 2: The Fall of the Taliban Government

The Fall of the Taliban Government

Today there is a full-fledged Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. There are some areas that remain free of Taliban presence, but they are few and inconsequential to the overall internal security of the nation. The Taliban today are not the same as the brutal government that oppressed Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2001. U.S. policy in Afghanistan has played a distinct role in creating and maintaining the current Taliban movement. This policy, and the initial lack of policy, is not solely to blame for the current predicament, but it is a significant cause alongside continued interference in Afghanistan by al-Qaeda, Pakistan, and others. Continue reading