Anne-Marie Slaughter on Afghanistan

Slaughter: The biggest challenge in Afghanistan is putting the people first, putting the people’s security first, putting their economic development first, putting their education and healthcare first.  When we first went in and we toppled the Taliban, we genuinely were greeted as liberators, as forces that would give ordinary Afghans a better life, and we have a lot of support from ordinary people, and that support is essential to defeating Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups because you have to have the cooperation of the population, or put another way, the population can’t be continually terrorized by visitors in the night.  If they’re working with you and people come in the night and threatened them or kill members of their family and you can’t stop that, you’ll stop getting that cooperation very quickly, and that’s exactly how the Taliban operates and how Al Qaeda operates.  We’ve been focused on the central government on Kabul, on getting a democracy, but that central government is incredibly weak, and in many ways, very corrupt.  And what’s happening in the different provinces is the people themselves are less and less secure and they’re starting to play a double game – they’ll talk to us but they’ll talk to them.  The Afghans have had to do that for centuries.  And in the end, like all people, they’re going to put their own family, their own clan, their own tribe first.  So, what we have to do is, first of all, change our military strategy where instead of being on bases, our troops have to get out into the villages, which is no easy feat in a country as mountainous as Afghanistan.  I mean effectively you’re talking about a series of narrow valleys that are cut off from the next valley.  But our strategy has to be to be in with the people, so when they’re attacked, we’re attacked and we defend and that they understand we’re not just sitting on our bases coming out and showing the flag, we’re actually there for them and that we will be there for them until we push back the people who are menacing them as much as anything else.  That’s a big change in strategy.  That’s going to require our commitment over years and the commitment of other forces, NATO forces.  And, indeed, a stronger, ultimately a stronger Afghan government, but we’re going to have to put more in before we can start pulling out in that country.  But it’s essential because the forces they are fighting really are the forces who gain strength by attacking the West.

Anne-Marie Slaughter offers advice on Afghan politics.

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