February 18th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

5 ways forward for the U.S. in Afghanistan

Editor’s Note: Cynthia Keppley Mahmood is an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, specializing in the anthropology of violence, war and peace, terrorism and guerilla warfare. The opinions expressed in this guest blog are solely those of Cynthia Keppley Mahmood.

The United States is losing respect and gaining enemies the deeper it involves itself in terror wars. We may tell ourselves otherwise and hope otherwise, but those who actually study how people on the ground react understand the veracity of this point, no matter what their personal politics.

The recent civilian deaths at Marjah crystallizes the point. We name the operation “Moshtarak” or “Together” (fooling no one), and we quickly apologize for what happened. Yes, many of us both here and there believe President Obama is sincere in his desire to further mutual respect and bring peace to a bloody and underdeveloped part of the world. But still, the bodies of women and children go into improvised graves before another sun rises, as we have learned by now, is required by Muslim tradition.

A group of expert scholars on South Asia met last year at the University of California to consider possible futures for U.S. relations with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Despite our disciplinary and political differences, we arrived unanimously at five points of advice as to how the United States should proceed in Afghanistan.

1. Support self-determination. Many people in the South Asian region see the U.S. presence there as a continuation of British colonial influence, or in the case of Afghanistan, a continuation of an attempted invasion and takeover by a superpower. Like people everywhere, South Asians want to be in charge of their own futures, and the United States can influence events in the region only as a partner and assistant in helping them to do that. Appearing as an occupier, it is not surprising that locals respond by fighting, as they see it, for their freedom.

2. Demilitarize. Although top political as well as top military leaders in the United States have recognized publicly that there is no military solutions to the problems of the region, our military involvement continues to escalate. Surveys show that anti-American sentiment is rising in direct correlation with the increase in U.S. military presence, so much so that in Pakistan the U.S. now tops India and the Taliban as the most threatening enemy. The plain fact is that we are not winning hearts and minds, whatever our intentions. We are creating enemies.

3. Recognize religious and organizational diversity. The complexity of tribal affiliations, ethnic collectivities, religious sects, and political alliances in Afghanistan is staggering. In the face of poverty, illiteracy, and long term warfare we tend to imagine these cultural complexities as fading in importance, but they are the very stuff of life for Afghan society. The web of groups that comprise “the Taliban,” for example, itself demands a nuanced grasp of language, local hierarchies, schools of Islamic thought, and internal and external alliances. We should ask ourselves with brutal honesty: do we know enough to fight an enemy like this, or to help a people like this, or to build a nation based on a society like this?

4. Respect the legitimacy of religious politics. This is a hard one for most Westerners, brought up on a steady diet of separation of church and state. But in South Asia, religion in the public sphere is not necessarily to be feared as anti-democratic. In India, the very term “secular” welcomes a public discourse inclusive of many religions. Ghaffar Khan, a Pashtun like most of the Taliban today, was known as “the frontier Gandhi” because he led a pacifist movement among the same people we now imagine as somehow inherently violent. For centuries, it was Islamic courts in these regions that provided the basic structures of justice and order, as empires came and went; madrassas that provided the bases for literacy in a land in which knowledge of letters was otherwise restricted only to the wealthy. So for many today, the longing for a religiously based political order is simply a way of stating a desire for morality in public life – for a government that is principled, incorruptible, and based on the needs of the common people. Western rhetoric that seems to fear all religious politics is heard as nonsensical, elitist, or at worst, as a simple form of prejudice.

5. Consider regional solutions. Even if the U.S. remains involved in South Asia, it is important that we remain open to local solutions drawing on neighboring countries, perhaps involving a wider range of issues than “terrorism” per se. Although the U.S. was drawn into this region because of the attacks of 9/11, it is still a newcomer there. Even we have already moved beyond the initial goal of exacting justice by capturing or killing bin Laden and eliminating his al Qaeda cohort; wider issues loom heavily, like the stabilization of the relationship between India and Pakistan, nuclear neighbors. The American public has been less aware than our military leaders that a single-minded focus on wiping out al Qaeda and its sympathizers had the potential to disrupt the finely-tuned balance of Pakistani politics; every triumphant killing of a top terrorist leader risks a backlash from radical Islamists. Civilian deaths from unseen and unclaimed attackers in the sky rally support, of course, as nothing else could.

The real puzzle here is that President Obama himself knows better than his decision to escalate would indicate. He is an intelligent and observant student of history. He must see that we have now scattered a small band of dedicated enemies from a single nest to locations throughout the world, and multiply their numbers geometrically with every Pyrrhic victory.

Perhaps the Pakistani poet of Partition, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, said best how many of us, saddened, somehow still hopeful, feel about Obama’s military escalation in Afghanistan as we watch the broken bodies of the people of Marjah pulled out of their shattered homes: “This stained dawn is not the one we’ve waited for . . .”

The question is, is any other possible? Our group believes so. We are waiting for a courageous leader to take a step consonant with the facts – down the unknown path away from a war we cannot win, towards a peace we can and must achieve.

soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. vijay joshi

    well,in afghanistan so mant efforts already done in past, in current situation people of afghanistan is the key factor, without local support and their active participation in existing fight no one can succeed even after long long fight. people of afghanistan is the key factor in this fight one should understand finally.

    vijay joshi
    vadodara
    gujarat
    india

    July 1, 2010 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. Nikhil

    Can Mr. Obama influence Pakistan to change its political and cultural DNA? Can Mr. Obama contain the raw impulses of pan-Islamization in Pakistan and replace them with old-fashioned nationalism? If yes, Afghanistan and the region will fall in place without large American presence. Otherwise, we will limit ourselves in publishing papers on 5-point plans for ways forward that no one is actually willing to walk.

    May 25, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    Yes Ms. Mahmood, it does sound very simple. In reality, it is, but not the way that you draw it up. First, demilitarize it? The taliban do not tolerate anything Western. You could bring in all the aid workers you want, but if you do not have a properly trained security force to protect them, beheadings will be very commonplace. Second, they just want prosperity. That's it. I could walk into a mosque for $5. I went to the blue mosque and the only reason I was invited was because the mullah needed new tiles, otherwise I'm sure we would not be welcome. So you are asking the international community to pay up, and let them do what they want with the aid. Who signs blank checks like that? Why is there a 26% desertion rate amongst the ANA? These are questions that need to be answered by Afghans. If you truly want independent rule, how can this happen? In a country facing such high unemployment, joining the military would seem like a sound economic choice, let alone one of national pride and citizenry. I just got the impression that they [Afghans] were just not that serious or interested in saving their land.

    May 21, 2010 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. risab

    by the way what americans are doing in Afghanistan to catch or kill Bin Ladin as I remember it was america's first priority, but he never claimed that he did the 9/11 attack.
    instead of going behind Bin Ladin its better to question israeli MOSSAD why you attacked america on 9/11??????

    April 18, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Northwood

    Protect the Heroin crop, send in the troops.

    April 9, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. henry gerszonowicz

    there is only one way to defeat the taliban. create just like in ww2 partisan groups in each village. throw off the uniforms organize the people with usa support. this will create uncertainty amoung the taliban. threats against civilians will stop.a new kind of war which they cannot win for the lack of support of the people.........hg....

    March 17, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rob Craigmyle

    Excellent points here by Rafiq and many others. I hope some American-exceptionalists who infer or proclaim their societal superior to those of Afghani tribes will allow themselves to consider the history of the USA: Our bloodiest war by far was against each other, and although we have a very long way to fall, it only takes a little economic downturn for the strain in our Union to show.

    When invaded past, present, or future- it is not in our (human) sociopolitical DNA to accept foreign assistance at gunpoint. Afghani resistance has very much in common with the behavior that would result in the Bible Belt if the United States is ever so unfortunate as to experience the poverty and foreign meddling that has been ravaging the various tribal valley-states of Afghanistan for longer than the USA has enjoyed our comfortable but finite time reaping and concentrating the greatest economic harvest in history. If we persist in letting our American dogma chase the world's karma, it won't be all fun and games in the future.

    March 15, 2010 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  8. Rafiq

    We are there because we were attacked!? what do you say: 'hogwash'. The people of Afghanistan did not attack you. They did not even know what and where the twin towers were. You say Usama Bin Laden organizaed the attack. How stupid of you was it then to go after him with the air force. No wonder you did not catch him. You do not find an ant with an air force. You should have gone after him on foot and you might have cought him a long time ago (if you really wanted to).

    And forget that the people of Afghanistan and Iraq should be grateful to you for your humanitarian help. You destroy houses and then offer a bottle of water and then are surprised when the people do not even want to accept that. (I know, I was in Iraq too).

    March 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike Mick Michael

    To all those who mentioned the Afghan National Army being imbedded with the U.S. military as reason enough that the Afghan people support the mission. The Soviet military worked alongside the Afghan military during their occupation from December of 1979 onward. It is a mistake to assert that just because Afghans are assuming a secondary role in the fighting that are forces are not somehow seen by many as an occupation force. The number of Afghan soldiers that desert is still very high which leads one to suspect that plenty of them have second thoughts about working with the Americans.

    March 3, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Daniel

    The United States,Great Britain and France will be happy only when the Afghans stop chanting "Allah Akbar" and then start chanting "Allah Akbar,but the West Akbar-er"I guess that sadly enough,these countries are getting closer to their goal.

    March 3, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Daniel

    The United States,Great Britain and France will be happy only when the Afghans stop chanting "Allah Akbar" and then start chanting "Allah Akbar,but the West Akbar-er"

    March 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Peter

    Anyone who separates out Allah from the world He has created is extremely misguided. While you may refer to westerners as filthy pigs in your self-righteous and mean-spirited tone...I recommend that you step back from your bad self and realize that Allah has created and blessed the US, Britain, etc. and if I were you I wouldn't condemn that which Allah has blessed with so much power and responsibility. Allah does not just operate in Islamic lands or in Arabic but has created ALL people and has only made 1 in 5 of them Islamic. Did He make a mistake? I don't think so. Next time you see a Hubble photograph of the Cosmos...you need to thank not only Allah for creating it but the US for showing it to you. Also, those who like to diminish this life in place of the afterlife are missing one of the greatest gifts...THIS LIFE! This life is EVERY BIT as important as the afterlife for they are both part of the same ONE life so those who would murder in the name of Allah couldn't be any more wrong. THIS IS A VERY REAL LIFE (you've never been to the afterlife, right, but you ARE here aren't you?)...and Allah has shown this clearly by who He allows power, weapons, armies and great humanitarian responsibility as opposed to the phony, ragtag, hide-in-a-cave centipedes of darkness called Al Quaeda and Taliban.

    March 2, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  13. vince

    I have read the "recommendations" and ,frankly,they are dissappointing. They offer no viable alternative. If we hand Afganistan back to the Taliban there is no reason to believe there will be any result other than a reprise of 2001. We are not there because we want anything from them. We are there because we were attacked . Additionally how can the female "scholars in this group be so insensitive to the fate of females under the rule of the Taliban? These professors seem woefully ignorant of culture and history

    February 27, 2010 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. Daniel

    There's only one decent way forward in Afghanistan and that is to get all those filthy foreign troops and all the foreign political pigs and merceneries out of Afghanistan.But I guess the United States,Great Britain and France won't give up and neither will the islamic aristocrats who value U.S.dollars far above Allah.To them,Allah is great,but the Americans and their dollars are far greater.

    February 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeff B

    One thing is for certain. There is a segment of the Afghanistan and Packistan soceity that is neither peacable, willing to negotiate or to respect the rights of others. When you neighbor's house is on fire, do you stand and watch it burn hoping it will not spread to your house or do you go and help put the fire out? I am for fighting the fire at the origionation point, not waiting for it to come to me.

    February 25, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  16. John

    Just what is it that's at stake? Whatever that is, it's not mentioned in your post.

    The current goverment of Afghanistan is just as oppressive and reactionary as the Taliban. Maybe invading and occupying Afghanistan in support of htat government isn't "doing what's right." Maybe invading Southeast Asia and subjecting a defenseless peasant population to saturation bombing and concentration camps wasn't "doing what's right" either.

    If the leaders against western imperialism are oppressive, then that's a matter for resolution between those leaders and the people or nations they purport ot lead. It's not a green light for another invasion.

    February 23, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Anthony

    I know to many of you her anti-American attitude makes her brain in the right place, but it's a lot more at stake than an argument over imperialsim, racism, slavery and the typical reasons to hate America and the west. For all those who hate the racism and oppression in the USA, how can you defend the Taliban? Why is it that Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and the rest of the leaders against western imperialism are more oppressive than any modern western society yet the American left always feels the need to make the world's most evil villains into the biggest heroes. I am glad that this time, unlike when my uncles were serving in Vietnam, the vast majority of the world didn't turn their back on doing what's right to stand beside the bleeding heart media.

    February 23, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  18. John

    This professor's brain and heart are in the right place.

    She needs to ditch her fuzzy feel-good program and come out as a strong anti-imperialist.

    This war is about pacifying the region to make it safe for a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also about strategic power projection into the underbelly of the former USSR, the lightly defended Western region of China, and of course, putting another 150,000 troops next to Axis of Evil member Iran.

    February 23, 2010 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  19. Anthony

    I've spent almost three years in Iraq since 2003 and I'm about to leave for a year in Afghanistan and I have to say that the years that I spent in Iraq did a lot more than create enemies. I can say that there was more hope for their future and positive feelings for the USA when I left in 2008 than when I got there in 2003 when zippo type lighters commemorating the collapse of the WTC was still a popular item for vendors in Mosul (when you flip open the lighter the top of the building breaks off and the flame gloes where the plane crashes into the building, sorry I had to share that.) Of course there will be those who will say anything against the USA but they are our enemies, I expect that, but it ticks me off to see that stuff at CNN. Would you be able to write this if you were living in Afghanistan under the Taliban? Do you think the people of Afghanistan deserve as much freedom?

    February 23, 2010 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  20. Jesse Sjoberg

    I would argue for an additional point of advice not necessarily put forward by the panel. What I propose does not negate the value of the five points already debated here, but would rather be a 6th point of advice I believe merits strong consideration.

    Research shows a rise in prosperity strongly correlates to a decrease in violent deaths. Further research, and our own US experience, tells us entrepreneurial activity and small firms drive the economic growth leading to this prosperity. As a case in point, research by the Kauffman Foundation shows that from 1980–2005 firms less than five years old accounted for all net job growth in the United States.

    This body of research affirms my own experiences as both a United States Marine Corps financial management officer in Iraq and a former small-businessman here in the U.S. In addition, many service members with experience in Iraq and/or Afghanistan can often attest to the power of fledgling businesses in stabilizing local economies, and by extension local populaces. It does not take a great leap of faith to see the implications for long-term success in Afghanistan.

    This does not imply Afghanistan should suddenly sprout manufacturing plants and technology firms. On the contrary, it is local entrepreneurs, who by definition seek to fulfill unmet human needs, who will find sensible answers within the constructs of their local economies and populations, produce needed goods and services to fulfill identified needs, provide jobs in doing so, and thus create stability and long-term prospects for prosperity.

    In addition to the fundamental needs of basic security and rule of law, which are currently the focus of our efforts, Afghan entrepreneurs need encouragement in the form of favorable endorsements and policies from both their central government and the international security forces. Basic enablers such as a legal foundation for contract enforcement and infrastructure, things we often take for granted, are also needed. Those who would help also need patience – namely, the patience to not require the Afghan solution look immediately like our American one. We should remember the entrepreneurial landscape of America’s early experiences does not resemble the one we see today. Additionally, and very importantly, there MUST be access to lines of microcredit. Small lines of credit in the thousands of dollars, extended to local entrepreneurs, will go much farther than millions of dollars targeted at more centralized solutions.

    Major Jesse Sjoberg, USMC
    Student, US Army Command & General Staff College
    Fort Leavenworth, KS

    Disclaimer: The views expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Marine Corps, United States Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

    February 22, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      namely, the patience to not require the Afghan solution look immediately like our American one. That statement stood out to me. So prosperity shall be modeled after the US? We cannot force a cultural shift. No one will be able to change what goes on there. There are a couple of problems that doom Afghanistan to always live in their current situation. If you are bright, and have potential, you are also smart enough to know you have the biggest opportunities abroad, so the brightest domestic minds leave and never return. Add that to the fact that many women do not, are not allowed to contribute to society basically reducing your brain trust in half, and combine that mixture with bribery and other forms of corruption and they are doomed to be farmers, opium producers, and unfortunately for us, they will allow terrorists to train there with autonomy. What happens when Afghanistan is asked to pay the salaries of their own military? When is that going to be? They will not be independent for decades to come.

      July 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Bill Stone

    Terry Howard
    Reading all these comments it appears your the only one in favor of Ms Mahmoods opinion. No need to get all worked up. Everyone is entitled to state their own opinion.As for me I dont agree with Ms Mahmoods one sided vieweither. By the way,none of this would be going on if we weren't invited to the battlefield.

    February 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Terry Howard

    @Bill Monroe
    You miss my point. The fact that the opinions in this guest blog may be solely Cynthia Mahmood's, but she doesn't present the point you raised as her's. She says that this is how the people in the South Asian region view us. She did not say that is what she thinks we are.

    @Trevor Hayes
    I just think it is ludicrous for a commenter to say that someone with years of experience in the matter doesn't know what she is talking about. Maybe you disagree, but the fact of the matter is CNN asked her to write this blog not you.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Brian

    There is really nothing new in this brief essay. First, we wouldn't be there if 9/11 hadn't happened. That means the colonialism comparison is invalid. The Afghans may feel that way, but our involvement only became significant in any way after 9/11. Second, with what elements of the Taliban will we discuss and incorporate these five noble ideas? They don't exist.

    I am not saying that the only solution is military, but to suggest that we withdraw and think Afghanistan will become stable and no longer be a haven for bin Laden, et al, is quite naive.

    February 22, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  24. cris

    If you havent been there and seen it first hand, you dont know what you are talking about. Those people live a life that is so foreign to anythimg we as americans can ever imagine, it would blow your mind. And the fact of the matter is, they do not want to change... They like it the way it is... Simply stated, They dont want us there!! They hate us and rightly so. In what twisted universe do you give a child a piece of candy and think he will magiclly love you, after you just dropped a bomb on their home and killed their entire family!!... Think i am being dramatic? That is exactly what us going on over, I have watched it happen... America has no buisness in Afghanistan,

    February 22, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  25. Mary Davis

    James,
    It seems like you and Ms Mahmood are friends or maybe you just work together. Regardless, I was very intriged by you sharing that Ms Mahmood actually lived with the Taliban. I would have never expected that group to allow anyone to associate with them for an analysis. With her education level and that kind of experience I'm certain she is more than qualified to discuss her opinions.

    February 22, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  26. Donazetti

    What
    hogwash! The USA cannot possibly loose respect over their invasions of
    Afghanistan and Iraque. You can't loose what you don't own anymore. The
    lies of Bush, Blair, Howard and others are on par with the lies that
    where used by their infamous comrade in spirit for the invasion on the
    1st of September 1939. And the blessings of the USA's fight for good
    and against evil (no, not the evil inside it's own heart and soul) has
    showered the world with war for close to a century now.
    The Nuremberg trials had gotten rid of some of the monsters but the
    majority of them then and since continue to line their pockets at the
    expense of millions upon millions whose flesh they have burtned and
    whose bones they have pulverized.
    And the fools, the tax paying fools, have been shovelling, and continue
    to shovel, trillions and trillions of dollars into their laughing
    snouts. Are the immature kids in uniform who are playing out their
    favorite computer war games in other countries, other peoples' homes
    and schools with lethal weapons of mass destruction, heroes? Be fooled
    again so that you are willingly handing over your trillions
    of dollars for some more years to come till the country is fully broke
    and it's wealthy leaders and commanders own the remaining 15% or so of
    wealth not yet in their possession.
    Laugh as hard as you can, while you can.

    February 22, 2010 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  27. Nancy Graham

    Col Gregory T. Breazile, USMC,
    Thanks for the web link. I read the Camp Leatherneck web page every day. My son is an Infantry Leiutenant going to Afghanistan in April.
    Semper Fi
    Nancy

    February 21, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Hemant

    The Best thing to do will be for USA to achieve its initial targets at all cost as early as possible, then vacate the region as early as possible
    If USA stops funding Pakistan militarily then India can deal with it appropriately as it has all the wisdom and courage to do so.

    February 21, 2010 at 6:24 am | Report abuse |
  29. Philosopher of Reason

    IN the USA a woman can be a professor and offer advice to the President but she cannot sit in a council in Afganistan where her presence and advice would be disregarded as not fitting the culture.
    She cannot judge the Taliban becasue she thinks all cultures are equal. She can criticise the USA but cannot criticize a foreign culture. The taliban aided and supported Bin Laden and the 9/11 terrorists. It used its pretense as a civilized government to finance, provide logiistical support, train, and arm Al Queda. Judgement is how humans measure the intent and actions of others. Failure to judge and act is a great crime against civilization. Read Hannah Arendt on the guiltiest in 1933. The judgment on the Tailiban is hunt them down and kill them one by one for the ideas the Islamic idea of Jihad they hold which are evil.

    February 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Daniel Boone

    Yes finally someone has come forward and expressed the truth and facts. But regardless the Maddness continues. NATO will never be able to crack the terrorists, and yes Cynthia knows what she is talking about.

    February 20, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  31. John Donne

    Mr Wakankar or Kankar, your religion and culture, has caused you to be the best people on earth.. So you are entitled to order Pakistanis and others what to do and what to be.
    Good sense will never prevail over you due to the deeply ingrained Indianness you suffer from
    Why should Pakistan change its name or identity? Why don't you change your counry's name to Hindu India? Indus valley is a distinct geo-political entity? And Pakistanis belong to a global Muslim civilization; they are not a regional entity like you.

    Thanks for the venom against Pakistan. But sorry it will continue to be indefinitely, even though it is a sore in your eyes.

    February 19, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  32. A. Smith, Oregon

    Five Ways Forward in Afghanistan

    1) Order the American and Allied Troops to Leave Iraq.
    2) Tell President Karzi he has two choices, flee to exile or stay and defend yourself.
    3) Begin the exodus of equipment out of Afghanistan.
    4) Order the American and Allied Troops to Leave Afghanistan.
    5) Declare success and award the troops their campaign medals when they reach home.

    5a) Order the Pentagon to stop all war plans involving propping up corrupt dictators by the guns of the US Military upon the citizens of a foreign country.

    5b) Order the CIA to get out of the Opium-Heroin and Cocaine business.

    February 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Col Gregory Breazile

    If you really want to know what's happening in Afghanistan then check out the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan webpage.

    http://www.ntm-a.com

    It has current news about how the coalition forces are building the Afghan Army and Police. This is probably the best source for the real story.

    Semper Fi,
    Col Gregory T. Breazile, USMC

    February 19, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  34. Trevor Hayes

    Terry
    Are you Cynthias publicist? The rebuttal on her opinions is arguable. She hasn't done enough research to draw the conclusion that a superpower has invaded with intentions of a takeover. Why is it so hard to understand that the US Military is conducting operations with the Afghans to dismantle the Taliban. These barbarions have been killing civilians and now they are using civilians as human shields. No one on this planet wants to live their life worrying if some maniac suicide bomber will explode themselves in a public place.

    February 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  35. ROLLAND

    American invelment in Afghanistan is not design as an everlasting engagement.Obama has set a deadline to withdraw American troops.It will be a big blunder for America to leave Afghanistan without cracking the extremists.Both Afghan and American casualties are acceptable sacrifaces for human freedom and security.

    February 19, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  36. Bill Monroe

    @Terry Howard
    Read the editors note. The opinions expressed in this guest blog are solely those of Cynthia Keppley Mahmood.
    If these people in that region view the US presence as an invasion or takeover than they are iliterates and belong in the 4th century. Many people in Afghanistan welcome the US for forcing the Taliban out and letting people live a free life. In case you dont know the Afghan National Army is embedded with the US Marines in this operation.

    February 19, 2010 at 6:14 am | Report abuse |
  37. Terry Howard

    @Bill Monroe: "Many people in the South Asian region see the U.S. presence there as a continuation of British colonial influence, or in the case of Afghanistan, a continuation of an attempted invasion and takeover by a superpower." It is not Ms. Mahmood's opinion that the U.S presence there is a continuation of British colonial influence or a continuation of an attempted invasion by a superpower. She merely states that this is how they view us.

    @Helen Flynn: Please tell us what credentials you have that allow you to claim that a professor of anthropology who has spent years studying in the South Asian region and written books on these issues "does not at all know what she is talking about"

    February 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  38. James

    In response to the following responses, consider the following:
    Professor Mahmood has lived with terrorist, and has the experience and knowledge to make a reasonable assertion about what and how terrorist think.
    Her ideas aren't really cuddly or cute, but regarded as a realist view of global events. Therefore, I challenge you to google the ideas of realism, specifically John Mearshiemers ideas about offensive realism and apply them to war in the Middle East, Professor Mahmood's theories will make more sense.
    Likewise, the Koran is written in only arabic, so I am pretty sure Helen that you did not read it from beginning to end. Likewise, realize that arabic culture and western culture are unique, and though it is true that women are unequally treated in the middle east, it is not a valid reason to make an ad hominem assault on Mahmood.
    Nonetheless, thank you, we are an elite university.

    Love,
    James

    February 18, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  39. MaxVanguard

    Cynthia Keppley Mahmood, I'm afraid you're more blissfully ignorant of the situation on the ground in the region than you claim our government to be.

    Your obvious pacifism is noble, cute, and cuddly, but I would be interested to see just how strongly your pious nobility would hold up in the face of an enraged Taliban extremist with a loaded AK-47 pointed at the back of your head who was chanting "Allahu Akbar" in preparation for your summary execution.

    The freedom and independence from which you write your flowery opinions were ultimately brought to you by violence and warfare, not some tea-drinking council of Gandhi-like pacifists. Pacifism has its place, but it fails when you have uncompromising enemies like the Taliban and Al Qaeda who are unreceptive to peaceful overtures.

    Please let our military complete its work there - they're not just blowing everything up in sight and slaughtering civlians by the dozens, contrary to what you vaguely imply. For more civilians have died at the hands of the Taliban, and you know it (or at least you should). You appear to be almost completely unaware of all the good things our military is doing for the Afghan people (beyond security operations). I'm horribly disappointed that someone of your supposed education is blind to our military's often uncredited humanitarian efforts, and even more disappointed that you would blatantly insult their honor and integrity by implying that civilians are casually disregarded by our military. You should know better. The fact that you don't know better speaks volumes about the value of the rest of your opinions.

    February 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Bill Monroe

    Ms.Mahmood
    Glad to read that you recognize the U.S. was drawn into this region because of the attacks of 9/11.
    I don’t agree with your opinion that the U.S. presence there is a continuation of British colonial influence, or in the case of Afghanistan, a continuation of an attempted invasion and takeover by a superpower.
    I also think your wrong about The United States losing respect and gaining enemies the deeper it involves itself in terror wars.
    Civilian deaths, as terrible as it may be are an unfortunate byproduct of any war. More horrible are civilian deaths by suicide bombers in a public place.
    The US Military is conducting operations in Afghanistan to disrupt and eliminate the Taliban from more terror attacks on innocent people. They will help the Afghans install a government and a security force and leave in 2011. Iraq seems to be better off now. Don’t they? Do the Scholars know of any other country that would take on the challenge?
    Your more than entitled to share you opinion but for a person with an education level such as yours it seems that you support just a one sided view.

    February 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Helen Flynn

    The woman does not at all know what she is talking about–read the koran please from beginning to end. You would not be on the staff of an elite university if we were all under the Law of Shariah and The Book.

    February 18, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  42. Dan Nelson Lafayette,IN

    I think that we should continue to kill or capture the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They like bin Laden and al Qaeda use their religion to justify their killing of the infidel and their own people if they do not follow their strict Islamic laws. They do not give any mercy as you have seen that they shoot women in the head in public. This is the 21st century and all people should be able to be free to believe what they want and free to say whatever they want and not be persecuted which is what the Taliban are fighting against. Until all Taliban are caught or captured along with foreign fighters we should continue fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan. When they put down their arms and decide to be a part of the newly democratic state of Afghanistan then and only then should we stop fighting them!

    February 18, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  43. S R Wakankar

    Yes I fully agree with the views expressed by Ms.Mahmood.Regional solution is the best if could be achieved.Kabul/Islamabad/Delhi?Dhaka should come together,form a joint force and establish law and order in the region.This is the easiest way out.But the biggest hurdle in this is Pakistan's obsession with Medieval anti-Indian Muslim Imperialism.Pakistan's ruling clique is a poor prisoner of this dead ideology which has no relevance today.Can Pakistan conquer India today the way Central Asian invading hordes did in the Middle Ages? But Pakistani rulers
    dream this.They attacked kashmir in '47 and Kabul in '94.Pakistan misuses the Pashtun people by invoking Islam and Jihad.In '47 they named these people as "Kashmir Lashkar";in '94, "Taliban" name given to these people.
    Therefore,Pakistan has to change totally,if we want peace in the region.Pakistan is the peice of the problem.Pakistan should change like Bangladesh. Should change its name also,like Bangladesh.It should become "Muslim India", which it is, in deed.But it tries to become more Muslim than the Arab, and tries to identify itself with the Arab World, while it is non-Arab and South Asian in character.Pakistan's pathetic anti-Indianism is the basic problem.
    Thanks.

    February 18, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  44. Peter

    Afghanistan's people are not deserving of religious thug rulers—not the children, nor the men nor especially the women who are persecuted for seeking what other peoples have secured for themselves—a decent education.

    Since these thugs are well armed, intransigent and devious, they need to be rooted out with power. All people deserve a protector of their human rights and if some die in the process, so be it. Countless of our own people have died in securing these rights for us.

    It's not pretty, nor antiseptic, but Obama understands that this is the time to end the mystique of warlords and to help Afghanistan become occupied by its own people.

    February 18, 2010 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |