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. FULL POST