Column about Afghanistan missed the mark
To the Editor:
The column “Winning over Afghanis, one village at a time” by Felicia Muftic brings out hypocrisy in a topic that finally hits home to me, especially in a Memorial Day issue of the paper.
On a trivial note, the monetary currency in Afghanistan is referred to as Afghanis and the people are called Afghans. So the title should have read: “Winning over Afghans,” not “Afghanis.” However, this may be a Freudian slip from the author whose source, James W.D. Frasche, just might be financially opinionated as the former chief operating officer, Afghanistan Natural Beverages, and who had to flee the country because of security and can no longer win over Afghanis (money).
More importantly, the article claims that the solution is assisting the Afghans “to return to their traditional agricultural and governance structure to help win their hearts and minds.” That is what I have been doing in Afghanistan for the over 1,000 days away from my family since Sept. 11 while defending the freedom of speech on which this article relies. Engaging the Taliban and providing security for all civilians (including “aid and ag workers” to legitimize agriculture) is already a priority for U.S. forces. The reason this approach hasn’t yet worked remains to be seen.
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However, Afghanistan is an ultra-complex, drug and power situation whose delicate balance is easily disrupted by most attempts to eradicate opium poppies because such actions only embolden more support for the Taliban (who also profit from opium) and further deteriorate security. This doesn’t even consider the destabilizing effects that pulling the plug on the No. 1 resource (opium) of Afghanistan’s GNP will have.
Most experts agree: The key to winning the “hearts and minds” is education. If you type: “US Army building schools in Afghanistan” into Google, the first two links are un-slanted news sources, PBS and PRI (Public Radio International). Both mention Greg Mortenson, author of the best selling book and Time Magazine’s Asia Book of The Year “Three Cups of Tea.” He has no business ties in Afghanistan and is a true expert on the culture through his struggles while building schools there. The second link in particular (www.pri.org/business/Global-Development/building-schools-in-afghanistan.html), mentions how “The U.S. military contacted Mortenson a year and a half ago, including USCENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus” (a favorite target of leftists) and have already implemented Mortenson’s strategies whole-heartedly.
I encourage everyone to read this entire article about a genuine expert on Afghan society who never fled because of security reasons. Form your own opinions on this subject. I take enormous pride in the 13 new schools built near the Panjshir Valley that were built and protected since Sept. 11, which I have personally witnessed in my travels to Afghanistan. I know there isn’t much news about it, but stories of good aren’t always newsworthy. The change in strategy this article suggests of “Winning the hearts and minds” is already our policy. I can only hope that it will eventually take hold. Civilian collateral damage is tragic and unacceptable, but it is the Taliban who love to kill schoolgirls, shutdown schools, and who have brought the fight to communities. The Taliban should shoulder blame, not Americans or their good- hearted strategies. Happy Memorial Day.
This article’s author must have impressive credentials, but please print them for us to judge. Even William Hamilton provides his as a common courtesy. Here are some pertinent ones of mine: Pilot and Lt. Colonel Air National Guard with over 600 combat flying-hours in Afghanistan.
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