What Should the International Community's Next Steps Be To Support Afghanistan?

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
March 27, 2009
Boy Holds Torn Kite in Afghanistan

On March 31, Secretary Clinton will attend the "International Conference on Afghanistan: a Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context" at The Hague. The Hague Ministerial should reaffirm the solid and long-term commitment of the international community to supporting the Government of Afghanistan in shaping a better future for Afghanistan and its people.

What should the international community's next steps be to support Afghanistan?



Shane H.
Washington, USA
March 27, 2009

Shane H. in Washington writes:

The international community should collectively urge the U.S. to not escalate this war.

March 27, 2009

Bernard in the Netherlands writes:

Well, what happened after WO-II? Marshall funds helped Europe to get back on its feet again. Something similar would help Afghanistan: micro loans -> meso loans, macr loans. When objective are successfully accomplished, loans can be changed into gifts.

FYI For a completely different purpose I drafted a 10 page addendum on 'local benefits' to meet local demands for prosperity. Drafted them into a 'growth scheme' allowing locals to learn from small project and gather experience to tackle larger and larger projects. List of beneficiaries include. Just whistle if you need it, its for free.

California, USA
March 27, 2009

Heather in California writes:

Although security is the key concern, it seems that if people had more opportunity and hope they'd be less likely to turn to the Taliban and radical groups. The int'l community should focus on development aid, women's issues and school building to creat a climate of hope.

March 27, 2009

Sofia in Portugal writes:

Engage civil society; economic and social development, cooperation with local NGO's should be the primary goals,not more military action.

Jennifer S.
West Virginia, USA
March 28, 2009

Jennifer S. in West Virginia writes:

Women - whatever we do, whatever the international community does, it has to involve women, women in Afghanistan, women in the region, women everywhere. Somehow our aid and efforts must be tied to and must include women in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. We cannot allow the Taliban and Sharia Law to dominate, control, oppress, and punish women. I think men obviously have to be part of the solution, too. Muslim men. Moderate Muslim men who see women as equals.

I wonder if there is any possibility that micro-finance opportunities for women could work there? Obviously, it wouldn't under the kind of Taliban control that does not even allow women out of the house without a male relative as an escort, but it just seems that if there were some way to empower women that might bring real, sustainable change.

It would be good to hear the thoughts of former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes, who stayed in Afghanistan and started the Arghand Cooperative. http://www.arghand.org/ I would seriously consider involving her in any kind of talks about how to proceed in Afghanistan. I heard part of an interview she did with Terri Gross on Fresh Air and need to go back and listen to the full program. If you would like to as well, here is a link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100189461

~Jennifer in WV

*Also, why not invite a citizen, an ordinary person to accompany Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke on a trip to Afghanistan for a summit on the issue? Let that person do some video podcasting during the trip. This citizen vodcaster could capture the summit from a special perspective and also perhaps have the chance to talk to citizens in Afghanistan to find out what THEY think. She could ask women there what they think could be done to help them and their country. And involve Sarah Chayes and possibly even Christiane Amanpour, who has done some amazing reporting on the region. But don't leave out the voices and perspective of ordinary citizens! Let some of us go to the summit and have a chance to interact not only with high-level representatives but also citizens in Afghanistan. Let us talk together so that we can be a part of the solution and perhaps let us record through video and audio this special interaction to share via your social networking sites. Need a volunteer? ;)

Ohio, USA
March 27, 2009

Leonard in Ohio writes:

1. Back away from the mad (and doomed to fail) notion of a military solution. Anthropologists, historians, diplomats and traders are needed far more than soldiers. Would-be rulers all the way back to Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane have tried to forcibly subjugate the place -- yet the moment they're gone, Afghanistan begins reverting to its complex indigenous format. Each successive conqueror has left its imprint upon the people and their culture, but those imprints are analogous to Internet browser plug-ins: they may add function and style, but they are not strictly necessary and the underlying source code is wholly independent.

2. Abandon the idea of the "nation" of Afghanistan. There is no such thing; at least not in any sense we might recognize. Culturally and historically, the existence of a unitary government in Afghanistan has always been tenuous at best. Hamid Karzai can call himself the Afghan president all he likes, but in reality he is just another feudal ruler in charge of little more than his own fiefdom of Kabul and its immediate environs. Without the U.S.A. propping him up, Karzai would be gone in a matter of months if not weeks. In the glaringly obvious absence of any true nationalist sentiment, Afghanistan is a geographic region, not a country. Given the lack of an Afghan "shogunate," the various chieftans have nothing to lose by maintaining their fiefs through force if necessary, but mainly through sheer inertia (both options aided by unforgiving terrain, of course). We think we have to win, whereas they know all they have to do is wait.

3. Apply market forces to the economics of opium cultivation. If al-Qaeda typically buys a Pashtun farmer's opium crop for $20 (or whatever the going price happens to be), that same farmer should *always* be able to get a higher price from the American mission and/or other legitimate buyers. If the farmer knows that he will get double or triple al-Qaeda's price for his crop from the Americans, to whom is he more likely to sell that crop? It matters little whether the crop is then merely destroyed (which would seem to be a terrible waste, given the state of global health) or converted to morphine, codeine and other useful derivative medicines which could then be distributed to organizations like Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross/Crescent. It may not be a "hearts and minds" operation, but where money is concerned that may not be strictly necessary in such an impoverished place. Not only does it remove a major source of al-Qaeda funding (choking off their ability to operationalize their schemes), it also interdicts a massive quantity of illicit substances before it ever reaches the EU and U.S.A. Diverting the base product into legitimate channels for the benefit of the region and others (African medical aid immediately springs to mind) is a bonus. Either way it's a two-birds-one-stone option, and would seem to offer a far better chance of success than the current strategy of crop prohibition and destruction.

New York, USA
March 28, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

U.S.-Afghan Priorities:

1- Clear the Hard-Drive of Afghan Narco-Corruption.
2- Establish Rule-and-Role-of Law from Kabul to all
3- Enforce security and local police protection
4- Develop licit economies; Agriculture, Mining, etc.
5- Control the Borders and stop the Pakistani Game.
6- End the delusion of a Karzai surrogacy.

Patricia S.
New York, USA
March 28, 2009

Patricia S. in New York writes:

More citizens of Afghanistan must be able to be included in the decisions made for their future. Without citizen support, prospects for peace, security and a better, will not be realized.

New Mexico, USA
March 28, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

(as sent via text message)

Dear Secretary Clinton,

Just saw the President's remarks on Afghan strategy going forward, and wanted to thank both you and all the folks involved in the process.

As my friend Ali ( Godson of the late Zahir Shah ) once put it to me in describing the effect of collateral damage by coalition air strikes on the Afghan population: ( His family home near the palace was bombed by mistake in the first days - Oct 2001, killing four Norwegian de-miners)

"You and I have been friends for a long time, no?" he asked me.

"Of course."

So he reached out and pinched my arm -hard.

As I drew my arm away in confusion he said, "Aha! exactly. This is how people naturally react to pain. Now we are good friends, yet how many times will it take for me to pinch you like that till you reach out and physicly make me stop?"

His point was well taken, so here's a suggestion that may prevent such tragedy in the future.

If Karzai would ask his people to inform the local commander when a wedding was to take place, the local commander could then send salt and rice to the happy couple rather than mistake the firing of ak's in celebration as Taleban activity and send bombs.

The people have had nothing for so long that they are grabbing everything they can thinking it won't be there tommorrow, nor will we have their backs over the long haul against the Taleban.

This has fueled the corruption, to a great extent.

Like Ali said when Zahir Shah refused to again be King, "Now that the king no longer wishes to be king, everybody wants to be king.", grinning.

"Well, that's democracy for you." I replied.

It's important to remember that the Taleban came into power by carrying photo's of Zahir Shah, promising his return to the throne.

They lied, we delivered. And so Afghanistan has already come full circle in one respect, that of being full of a sense of national self, and self worth.

Karzai is correct, it is not a "failed" or "failing state", it was a "destroyed state".

Considering the fact that we were not physicly prepared nor organized to mount a "Marshal Plan for Afghanistan" when 9/11 happened, and agencies had to kluge resources and personel into sort of a rapid response nation building effort and coodinate it on an international level, we didn't do to badly for "on the job training" as it were, and Afghan efforts to "grab the brass ring" of national prosperity have been substantial.

Pretty remarkable, but when I suggested to Ali in the fall of 2001 that it would take 10 years of peace to realize, Ali said, "You do not know my people, they will do it in five if given the resources."

A "million times better" job must be done by all, and not shirk from the fight. The Afghans know they own it, Pakistan cannot avoid making the same realization, or risk all.

It's my hope Madam Secretary, that you'll see fit to pass these thoughts on to President Obama, with my best regards.

"We can do this hard thing, so long as we remember our joy."


Kentucky, USA
March 28, 2009

Mary in Kentucky writes:

Economic development and education are crucial for rebuilding Afghanistan. One person below suggested microlending to women, and I second that proposal.

California, USA
March 28, 2009

Wendy in California writes:

My greatest worry is that in the interests of "engaging" the putatively moderate Taliban, we allow the continued violent suppression of women and girls. I know we must make many compromises for other cultural versions of How Lives Are Led, but brutality to women and girls is not moderate.

I hope a woman, preferably SecState Hillary, is always in the room when Mssrs. Holbrooke & Petraeus et al are deciding who is moderate.

New York, USA
March 28, 2009

Tae in New York writes:

Create a kind of International Program Management Consortium to execute and manage programs (e.g. infrastructure; housing; business development) in a deliberate and goal oriented approach.

The President Obama's outline is very sound and appear to be the best that can be done at this time. Balancing military surge with that of civilian support is critical both in terms of need and PR. Civic "normalcy" (including build-up of business, education, culture, etc.) however must factor the differences as much as commonalities between the West and Afghanistan. Goods and services must be that which satisfy Afghanistan's core/historical needs first and foremost while opening/leading opportunities for well paced and managed modernization. With respect to infrastructure, for example, providing 24hr electricity may not be the number one priority just because such would be the expectation of developed nations. Strategic and well paced growth will take not only resources but consistent and dedicated administration (with a sensitive but firm hand) which will take a generation if not longer.

United Arab Emirates
March 29, 2009

Jamil in U.A.E. writes:

Classic. The U.S. has to take the high moral ground. This translates into one single matter in any society, any time. Its the law, the law the law stupid.

Along with other absolutely necessary diplomatic and security maneuvers and arrangements, the only condition sufficient to make the effort a win win success for the U.S. +allies and for the Afghans is: lead the way to invest heavily in constructing a robust nationwide legal system. The Afhganis supply the laws the Hague conferees supply the funds to make law available to citizens across the nation. Make the legal system the foundation of the new political process.

Test it at the Hague.

California, USA
March 29, 2009

Justin in California writes:

I have been following the development of this site with interest and I think the work of Secretary Clinton is to be commended. One of the most important things I feel as though she can do that will aid international development is to work on the development of the UN Security Council.

When there are representatives from all different nations there, it will provide a basis that will be able to affect all different areas of international cooperation. For one thing it will aid development of the Arab world and include them in the process of global decision making. At the moment I feel as though this crucial membership is often overlooked in the process of peace making.

Pennsylvania, USA
March 29, 2009

Sandy in Pennsylvania writes:

The people of Afghanistan will never have a chance unless the women of Afghanistan are treated as equals.

Address the appalling lack of gender equality there, and the appalling treatment of women and girls in a patriarchical society that keeps them unemployed, uneducated, and allows them to be abused and murdered by their own family members.

Women's rights are human rights, and its time all the Middle East starting treating women like human beings.

District Of Columbia, USA
March 30, 2009

Rebecca in Washington, DC writes:

The goal of the international community in handling Afghanistan should be to create a lasting solution that will benefit the Afghani people and allow equal treatment for women. We must keep peacekeeping troops present to maintain ordered but our focus should be to provide developmental aid. There should be an increase in loans to help develop industry, education, healthcare etc. Although many people are against the surge of troops, International troops need to work alongside the Afghan National Army against the minority Taliban and with the recent increase in violence this is necessary. The U.S. has gotten itself into a situation that it cannot easily abandon thus the U.S. and the International Community should take all necessary steps to maintaining the peace and providing developmental aid.

South Korea
March 30, 2009

Palgye in South Korea writes:

may, it`s needing (logical) islam reliegion experter.

in my opinion, resident think, they ignored (conqured) by foreign power. althogh, they have their`s culture and way of life.

we, first, respect their`s way of life, above all, religeon is very important. terrorist`s base is religeon. we never destroy this and must join. join.

and built industry, at first, stock farming and cotton industry in massive (developing underground water), domiciliate of nomads( tax is important and we known who is who?) -- times past, they find their`s own.

domiciliation will built city, civilization and Secondary industry from stock farming, cotton industry or some kind of(it`s needing woman`s labor). (transportation) -- some country have many machine and tec, technicians

second, built school (agricultural,industrial is first and more) by ng o(or us gov?) and hospital.

third is first, destroy (narcotic) drug and rottenness (want not long, but may)

i lost this, woman`s right is i believe, Sec is very well known that and how to. (really, needing long time)

March 30, 2009

A. in Europe writes:

Pakistan's ISI has a central role on Al-qaeda and International terrorist activities.

New Mexico, USA
March 30, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

This should address some of the human rights and legal concerns expressed in commentary here.

When I consider the difference (by definition) between a terrorist and a freedom fighter, The targeting of civilians, and the methods employed may serve. The philosophy behind our revolution, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, was born from resistance to oppression with "live free, or die." being at the core of it.

As Hamid Karzai once suggested, this is the Afghan jihad, the true jihad, to be free to live in correctness with one another. That jihad lies in one's heart, the struggle to live a correct life, in the eyes of the Creator of all.

This is the English translation of the Afghan Constitution directly from the source, and I've included the preamble as an excerpt:

Link to Afghan Constitution


We the people of Afghanistan:

--Believing firmly in Almighty God, relying on His divine will and adhering to the Holy religion of Islam;

--Realizing the previous injustices, miseries and innumerable disasters which have befallen our country;

--Appreciating the sacrifices, historical struggles, jihad and just resistance of all the peoples of Afghanistan, admiring the supreme position of the martyr's of the country's freedom;

--Comprehending that a united, indivisible Afghanistan belongs to all its tribes and peoples;

--Observing the United Nations Charter as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

And in order to:

Strengthen national unity, safeguard independence, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country;

Establish an order based on the peoples' will and democracy;

Form a civil society void of oppression, atrocity, discrimination as well as violence, based on rule of law, social justice, protecting integrity and human rights, and attaining peoples' freedoms and fundamental rights;

Strengthen political, social, economic as well as defense institutions;

Attain a prosperous life and sound living environment for all inhabitants of this land;

And, eventually, regain Afghanistan's appropriate place in the international family;

Have, herein, approved this constitution in accordance with the historical, cultural and social realities as well as requirements of time through our elected representatives in the Loya Jirga, dated January 3, 2004, held in the city of Kabul.


@ Jamil in UAE, This isn't about a U.S. vision for Afghistan, and what we want isn't all that important to our success.

What is, is fully supporting and resourcing Afghan's vision of a naton whole, free, and at peace, with opportunity for all to live in prosperity.

They themselves have taken the moral high ground, we're just there to help them defend it until they are fully capable of doing so as a soverign nation.

What are friends for, eh?

America's founding was uncertain, shaky, and faced opposition by the world's greatest "superpower" of that age, Great Britan.

We had an imperfect union, and many amendments to our constituton later, and some 230 years, we finally elected a person of color to this naton's highest office.

Proving we are capable of being true to the legal documents that bind us together as peoples, nations within nation.

The Afghan Constitution may in fact be more important to the people of the world than what our's means to us. Or at least 1.3 billion Muslims who can now be witness to the very first national legal attempt to implement Sharia law in a way that is consistant with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I call that social evolution within the "great experiment" called democracy.

Change is inevitable, peaceful change is desirable, and "Democracy R us", sayeth the people.

These things are universal. But there's no mass production available for democracy, because it can't be automated, or computer driven. It must be hand crafted and talored to circumstance by the will of the people and helped along by governments that are like minded.

Virginia, USA
March 30, 2009

Dan in Virginia writes:

The heart of gaining popular support and legitimacy for the Afghan Government is to end narcotics corruption and to deliver basic public services to the Aghan people. But the former is the key to the latter, as narco-curruption undermines everything else that goes on in the country. We need a new, comprehensive counternarcotics approach to the problem in Afghanistan, one that offers real development alternatives to the rural poor, together with strong crop eradication and law enforcement and a vetting of all Afghan government officials to make sure they are not tainted by the narcotics trade. A new emphasis needs to be given to this, as past efforts have largely failed. A good assessment of those failures should preceed devising the new policy. Confronting opium production and illicit trafficking should be made an issue for candidates in the upcoming Afghan elections. Candidates should be told that unless they are willing to confront the narcotics problem, they will not enjoy coalition support, period.

Amanda D.
West Virginia, USA
March 30, 2009

Amanda D. in West Virginia writes:

Make sure that the government is standing firm. Help the economic situation by recruiting teachers, doctors, anyone volunteering to help Afghanistan become for independent. Make sure its strong enough to defend itself against attaches.

Tennessee, USA
March 30, 2009

Joe in Tennessee writes:

Help shore up Pakistani solvency and not alienate them. A strong Pakistan will help create a strong Afghanistan.

Pakistan has made some major advances in the Parliament this session, from women's rights to labor rights. They have passed allowances to help those who that were adversely affected from war, indiscriminate crime and the handicapped. The allowances will be made to the head female of the family in those cases, thus empowering them at the civic home level. Pakistani president, Asif Zardaris speech to Parliment Saturday was quite something.

If you want to help Afghanistan, then how we deal with Pakistan will be paramount. Giving them ultimatums and challenging their authority is not going to help.

Afghanistan: Corruption is the major problem at all levels of Government. The establishment of a good judicial system would help most. Our problem with the people there is the same as it is in Mexico to a large part: Everyone is related, in one manner or another, and the family unit precedes any legal formats.

Massachusetts, USA
March 31, 2009

Wolf in Massachusetts writes:

Two things need to happen:

1. Fight corruption in the government.

2. Support women's rights in the region. Look what's going on: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/31/hamid-karzai-afghanistan-law

California, USA
March 31, 2009

Corene in California writes:

Call on President Karzai to rescind the law that human rights advocates describe as "Worse than the Taliban" in the treatment of women. Especially given Secretary Clinton's remarks at her confirmation hearing about the importance of human rights for all, including women.


New Mexico, USA
April 1, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Corene and Wolf -- I gotta take the Guardian's conclusions as speculative at best given the fact that the law Karzai is supposed to have signed has not even been published yet by the Afghan Supreme court.

Trying to judge the contents of something before it's officially released is devoid of common sense, but then the Guardian is not exactly known to exibit a whole lot of journalistic restraint anyway.

Nor can a law be passed that violates the Afghan Constitution or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is clearly referenced in the preamble of the constitution included w/ link in my previous post here.

Of course if such a law were passed, it's constitutionality would be automaticly suspect and challenged by a whole lot of Afghans, and vocally so in the extreme. If not violently opposed.

Perhaps the Guardian has it's own motives for trying to cast Karzai as a hypocrite, but that's for them to explain to their readership.

Texas, USA
April 1, 2009

Rebecca in Texas writes:

Fight for women's rights. As has been mentioned in previous comments, this new Shia Family Law, which legalizes marital rape, is appalling, and such base treatment toward any human being should be put to an end.

Jennifer S.
West Virginia, USA
April 1, 2009

Jennifer S. in West Virginia writes:

Sarah Chayes was a reporter for National Public Radio. In 2001 her reporting took her to Afghanistan where she covered the country following the fall of the Taliban. Chayes left journalism in 2002 to help with the rebuilding of Afghanistan and later launched a cooperative in Kandahar that uses local fruits, nuts and botanicals to create fine skin-care products. This offers local farmers an alternative to opium production. www.arghand.org

I've listened to insightful interviews of Sarah Chayes on Fresh Air and watched her on the Bill Moyers Journal and have become a great admirer of hers. I just visited her website and found her thoughts about what the international community should do to help Afghanistan:
Link to website.

She also just wrote an Op-Ed for the LA Times:
Link to Op-Ed.

I would really like to see Sarah Chayes and perhaps some members of her Arghand Cooperative become part of the conversation. I hope Secretary of State Clinton has an opportunity to meet Ms. Chayes and listen to her ideas which are grounded in her experience of living in and helping to rebuild Afghanistan since 2001.

Again, would it be promising and a new approach to have some kind of summit or some kind of strategic meeting in Afghanistan involving our Madame Secretary, Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, other key "high level" entities AND people like Sarah Chayes and those who run the Arghand Coop? And, invite some everyday citizens from the United States to go on this trip to reach out to Afghan citizens, like those who operate the Arghand Coop.

There are so many of us who want to help and who have backgrounds, interests, skills and areas of expertise that could be enlisted by the U.S. Department of State. For instance, there are a lot of us in higher education who might have something to offer as I'm sure there are lots of wonderful, knowledgeable teachers and administrators from the K-12 arena who would like to help in some way. Invite a few of us to accompany SOS Clinton on a trip to connect with folks like Sarah Chayes who are trying to make a difference. Some of us could even be charged with shooting video of the trip and our conversations/interactions with folks like Sarah Chayes and others who are engaged in ways to rebuild Afghanistan through economic development. We could produce vodcasts/video podcasts from an everyday citizen's point of view, which the Department of State could use in its social networking outreach. The vodcasts could serve as blog discussion starters and perhaps programs to involve both the K-12 and higher education communities.

Jennifer S
Marshall University
Huntington, WV

Maryland, USA
April 1, 2009

Patrick in Maryland writes:

Hi, People of the States Department and Netizens.

I'm, Glad to see the conference went so well. I hope the build up of troops helps end the war in Afghanistan sooner. I think Hillary and the States Department are doing a great job working on the problems in Afghanistan.

Thanks for keeping me up to date on things in Afghanistan.

......Cya :)....

California, USA
April 1, 2009

Carol-Jean in California writes:

I don't have enough information to ultimately "know."

My hope is that there is international leaders support, wisdom, compassion and the best and careful judgment behind the policies put into place.

My hope, also, is to reduce the violence, troops in the area and bringing home the dollars spent there to use here for our FAILING U.S. systems.

Thank you.

April 2, 2009

Dionysus in China writes:

Good day,

I think the the administrations general direction of building a stable civil infrastructure is a step in the right direction. Actually, I came to this website to find out if there were any volunteer opportunities in this area. I have been living in Asia (mostly China, though I have travelled through Central Asia) for most of the last eight years and have a good deal of experience setting up schools under less than optimum conditions. I went to graduate school in Washington (American University) though that was ten years ago. I am also a veteran of the U.S. Army, so I am sure there is something I could contribute.

Ok, I guess I have abused the spirit of the question long enough.

On the security side, it seems that reaching out to Haqqani is an option we may want to explore. He has the the competence and the pedigree to to be a valuable ally and seems philosphically and culturally antagonistic to the traditional Taliban leadership.

Thanks for your time,
Dion T.



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