‘Is Afghanistan Lost?’

From The Harvard Gazette:

“When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

Maliha At a panel discussion Monday at the Harvard Kennedy School, Maleeha Lodhi evoked Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat to describe the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. The title of the event that Lodhi, formerly the Pakistani ambassador to the United States and currently a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, was taking part in was, “Is Afghanistan Lost?” Neither she nor any of her fellow panelists answered that exact question in the affirmative. But they each made a strong case that American policy has lost its way in Afghanistan.

“The war is going on almost on autopilot” is how another panelist, Barnett Rubin of the Center for International Conflict at New York University, put it. “The U.S. and NATO have, I would say, lost sight of their original objectives.” Moreover, the international presence in Afghanistan, from which Rubin has just returned in recent weeks, is undercutting the country as a sovereign state — not least because of the way visiting foreigners provide for their own security. They turn to private contractors like Blackwater, that in turn subcontract with former warlords now active as security guards for hire. The subcontractors end up with more money, prestige, and firepower than the official Afghan national forces. This is true not only in the case of the U.S. military, Rubin said, drawing chuckles from his audience with a reference to the “Soprano-like figure” who heads the team protecting the Bagram Air Base. It’s true of aid organizations as well.

More here.