Dear Afghanistan Crossroads readers,
Take a look at some blog highlights below, and thanks again for being a part of the blog over the past two years.
– Whatever happened to bin Laden? (Now we know!)
– Operation Moshtarak: The battle for Marjah coverage | Behind the scenes
– U.S. bases in Afghanistan say goodbye to Whoppers, DQ
– Nic Robertson: Shelter tries to help abused child brides
– Jill Dougherty: Lapis lazuli: Afghanistan's blue treasure
– Nick Paton Walsh/Tommy Evans: Inside a firefight | Additional photos
– Michael Holmes: Reminders of a hell for 1,000 men
– 'Shaming' her in-laws costs 19 year old her nose, ears
– Ed Lavandera: A real-life band of brothers
– Viral post pits coverage of Sheen, fallen soldiers
The Taliban have been forced out of power, Osama bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda, by many accounts, is not nearly as powerful as it once was.
But 10 years after the start of the war in Afghanistan, many issues still plague the country.
CNN.com asked five people - either Afghans or Afghanistan experts - to explain what they think is the most important thing needed for a successful Afghanistan.
Editor's Note: Melissa Labonte is an assistant professor of political science at Fordham University. Peter Romaniuk is an associate professor of political science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
By Melissa Labonte and Peter Romaniuk – Special to CNN
Recently, after militants undertook a 20-hour assault on the U.S. embassy and NATO compound in Kabul, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, downplayed the implications. “This really is not a very big deal,” he said, adding that, “If that’s the best they can do, I think it’s actually a statement of their weakness.” Following the recent assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, former Afghan President and leader of the government’s efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban, the ambassador should rethink his poorly chosen words.
The uptick in violence in Afghanistan includes multiple attacks in the capital (the British Council, the Inter-Continental Hotel, and the Afghan Defense Ministry), as well as the recent assassinations of four of President Hamid Karzai’s closest advisers: his half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai; Kandahar city mayor, Ghulam Haidar Hameedi; long-time mentor, Jan Mohammad Khan, and outspoken Taliban opponent, Mohammed Daud Daud. These events have occurred against the backdrop of a particularly deadly summer for U.S. forces – at 70, U.S. casualties in August set a record for any month in America’s near-decade long engagement. By any measure, the current situation in Afghanistan is a very big deal.
Three veterans of Afghanistan's conflict reflect on their years there and their hopes for the embattled country. Journalist Carlotta Gall, American John Christopher Turner (who has worked on and off in Afghanistan since the 1960s) and Afghan opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah weigh in on what it will mean when the U.S. troops begin withdrawing.
"I think you're going to have instability and insurgency still," says Gall. "And you're going to have people very nervous - who are anti-Taliban - who will start agitating to say we have to defend ourselves. ... There's great trepidation in 'what's next?'" FULL POST
Civilian security forces in Afghanistan take matters into their own hands. TV 2 Norway's Yama Wolasmal reports.
The passing of Maj. Richard "Dick" Winters has reduced the ranks of the legendary "band of brothers," the men of Easy Company, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
But their valor lives on in today's troops, especially the young men and women of the Army's "Screaming Eagles" 101st Airborne Division.
As a reporter who has regularly traveled through Afghanistan with them, let me assure you at some moment, suddenly, Easy Company is there with you in that war zone, just as earlier members of E Company were there for each other and for their country in World War II. FULL POST
The assassination of the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province is a major setback for progressive forces in that country and a deeply worrying sign for U.S. strategy in the region, says analyst Fareed Zakaria.
For the United States, this issue is actually at the center of whether or not it will be able to succeed in Afghanistan. Let's remember, the strategy in Afghanistan cannot succeed as long as there are sanctuaries for the Taliban and al Qaeda in neighboring Pakistan.
Right now what happens is the Taliban crosses the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan, regroups, gains support, logistics, resources in Pakistan, and then comes back to fight the U.S. forces or Afghan government forces. This has been the key to their ability to survive and thrive, so unless you can deal with the sanctuaries in Pakistan, you're not going to make any headway in Afghanistan.
The entire leadership of al Qaeda and the leadership of the worst elements of the Taliban are all in Pakistan now. In order to deal with that, to destroy those terrorist groups, the Pakistani army has to be willing to go into the areas where these various groups have their strongholds, mostly in a part of Pakistan called North Waziristan.
So far, the Pakistani army has refused to do so. The most important reason is that they fear a backlash within Pakistan. They're too nervous about the political consequences of having this frontal struggle against Islamic extremism. So if you can't confront Islamic extremism with things like the blasphemy law, what hope is there that they actually go ahead and mount large-scale military operations in North Waziristan?
Norine MacDonald talks to CNN's John King about why most Afghan people don't understand the American military presence.
Editor’s Note: Abbas Daiyar began his blog, Kabul Perspective, last year to look at issues in Kabul and around the world. He has worked with newspapers in Pakistan and reported for news agencies in the past and is now a member of the editorial board of the independent Daily Outlook Afghanistan newspaper in Kabul. The opinions expressed in this guest blog are solely those of Abbas Daiyar.
Once again the talks about talks with Taliban are gaining momentum. It got hyped when President Hamid Karzai announced a Peace Council to talk with the insurgents. This is apparently the most serious attempt, but the process is a complex one, as shown by the contradicting media reports.
It was a U-turn when the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus said NATO has let at least one Taliban commander come to Kabul. Some reports even suggested Taliban commanders were flown to Kabul in a NATO aircraft. It’s more of a political statement rather than a policy, or a green signal for the insurgents, showing a change in the U.S. reluctance over talks with Taliban. But it’s just propaganda when military commanders in Afghanistan say Taliban are under pressure, therefore more are forced to talks. The fact is that 2010 has been the deadliest year for U.S. forces since the start of war. FULL POST
Editor's note: Khalil Nouri is the co-founder of New World Strategies Coalition Inc., a native Afghan think tank for political, economic and cultural solutions for Afghanistan. Michael Hughes is a journalist and blogger for The Huffington Post and Examiner.com. He is also a strategist for the New World Strategies Coalition. The statements and opinions expressed in this guest blog are solely those of the authors.
By Khalil Nouri and Michael Hughes, Special to CNN
President Barack Obama doesn’t have a viable Afghanistan exit strategy due to a fatal flaw in America’s policy development process: a complete lack of input from native Afghans. It is time for the U.S.-led coalition to realize there is only one solution for peace in Afghanistan – and that is an Afghan solution.
The alternatives bandied about to date are formulas for state collapse – a nearly 10-year-old failed counterinsurgency effort; a power-sharing arrangement that would divvy up Afghanistan between corrupt government officials, Islamic fundamentalists and mujahideen warlords; and a partition strategy guaranteed to yield perpetual civil war.
However, as paradoxical as this might seem, the U.S. cannot withdraw until an indigenous political solution is in place, because abandoning the field to the Taliban would create dire consequences that make the present military occupation look good by comparison. FULL POST