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Is Afghanistan a Sinking Boat? Anxiety about the 2014 Withdrawal

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps on patrol in Sangin, Helmand.

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps on patrol in Sangin, Helmand. Photo: Al Jazeera English/flickr.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by 2014 has been the central foreign policy issue of both of Obama’s Presidential campaigns. American citizens seem to generally support the initiative, while both criticizing the timing and questioning the outcome for the U.S. and Afghanistan. Many ordinary Americans have asked why the U.S. should keep engaging with Afghanistan post-2014, or why the withdrawal cannot come sooner so as to avoid the unnecessary losses of American soldiers. Others argue that the United States, as a world leader, should act responsibly to prevent Afghanistan from falling into a devastating civil war, and thus criticize the withdrawal as a product of poor judgment that will lead inevitably to chaos. As an example, they cite the post-Soviet withdrawal, following which the U.S. abandoned the country and it fell under Taliban control.

Serving as political affairs officer for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) last year, I observed – like many others inside and outside the country – that for various reasons the local population did not feel very hospitable towards the international forces, to say the least. Many Afghans, either ignorantly or deliberately, do not see any difference between the ISAF and the international community, referring to all of them as Americans or American puppets. For that very reason, the incident that occurred on 1 April 2011, when the UN compound in one of the regions was attacked by demonstrators infuriated over the burning of the Qur’an. More recently there has been a steady increase in so-called green-on-blue attacks on ISAF soldiers. Instead of going into the details of each incident, we can ask more generally: Do Afghans want Americans in their country beyond 2014? » More

Afghanistan Post-2014: Will the Dark Days Return?

Will they be able to fight the Taliban after the Americans leave? Photo: Sally Armstrong, , RN/MOD via Helmandblog/flickr

October 7th marked the 11th anniversary of the United States-led war in Afghanistan. International combat forces are due to leave the country at the end of 2014, yet the war has remained “mission unaccomplished“. After years of conflict, NATO forces are set to handover responsibility for securing the country to the Afghan armed forces. However, it remains to be seen whether the Afghan’s will be able maintain order and stability after the withdrawal of foreign troops?

In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in order to dismantle the Taliban regime and the core leadership of al Qaeda. After several weeks of conflict, NATO troops successfully ousted the Taliban from various cities and helped to establish a new democratic country — the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. » More

Afghans Show Restraint Over Anti-Islam Film

Protests against the anti-Islam movie in the Eastern Nengarhar province. Photo by: Ehsan Amiri

Afghanistan blocked access to YouTube for the first time on September 12, 2012 after the trailer for the highly-controversial film the highly-controversial film the Innocence of Muslims was disseminated online.

The film was allegedly produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian and portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a philanderer and a religious fake. This sparked protests in many Islamic countries and led to the killing of a US ambassador and three other American diplomats in Libya.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the filmmakers had engaged in a “devilish act” and that insulting Islam is not permitted by freedom of speech. Aimal Marjan, the general director of Information Technology at the Ministry of Communications told Reuters that they had been asked to block YouTube until the film was removed. » More

China’s Afghan Game Plan

The game of Weiqi

The game of Weiqi. Photo: fabiocosta0305/flickr.

MADRID – In his latest book, On China, Henry Kissinger uses the traditional intellectual games favored by China and the West – weiqi and chess – as a way to reveal their differing attitudes toward international power politics. Chess is about total victory, a Clausewitzian battle for the “center of gravity” and the eventual elimination of the enemy, whereas weiqi is a quest for relative advantage through a strategy of encirclement that avoids direct conflict.

This cultural contrast is a useful guide to the way that China manages its current competition with the West. China’s Afghan policy is a case in point, but it also is a formidable challenge to the weiqi way. As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from the country, China must deal with an uncertain post-war scenario. » More

Regional Cooperation in Afghanistan: What Makes the Heart of Asia Beat?

ISAF soldiers provide aid at Kabul airport.

Turkish civil-military cooperation teams from the ISAF’s Regional Command provide aid at Kabul airport. Photo: isafmedia/flickr.

The new grand bargain went into its next round. On 14 June 2012 the Heart of Asia group gathered in Kabul to push forward the Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan. The real potential for regional security and cooperation, however, remains a contentious issue. Some observers disregarded the gathering as yet another useless meeting which failed to take concrete steps towards a regional security architecture. Others like UN-Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon praised it as “real progress on the path to security and broad-based development”. » More

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