U.S. job far from done in Afghanistan
June 27th, 2014
09:05 AM ET

U.S. job far from done in Afghanistan

By Stephen J. Hadley and Kristin M. Lord, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Stephen J. Hadley is chairman of the board of the United States Institute of Peace and a former White House National Security Adviser. Kristin Lord is acting president of the United States Institute of Peace. The views expressed are their own.

As the United States draws down its forces in Afghanistan and shifts from direct combat to the narrower mission of countering terrorism and training Afghan forces, some might think this is the time to declare “job done” and focus U.S. attention elsewhere. That would be a mistake.  As the current violence in Iraq illustrates, the gains won by our military are fragile. Peace, once won, must be sustained.

Afghanistan is now in the delicate process of laying the foundation for a democratic political transition – the first since President Hamid Karzai assumed the presidency. As many as 7 million Afghans, or around 60 percent of eligible voters, have twice defied the Taliban and cast ballots to select the country’s next president, first in the general election and again in this month’s runoff.

The high turnout and lower level of violence than many had expected are a testament to how non-violent conflict resolution and peacebuilding can multiply and solidify the investments of the United States and the sacrifices made by American troops. The potential for international assistance to help resolve electoral disputes that have cropped up in the past week illustrates the need for continuing engagement.

Organizations like the United States Institute of Peace, which we both serve, have been helping create the conditions for a peaceful transition that will make Afghanistan more stable and less violent, while improving the lives of the Afghan people. A stable and prosperous Afghanistan can be a vital ally of the United States in a troubled region, and will help ensure that al Qaeda and its associates never again gain a foothold in the region’s mountains and valleys.

Investing in the powerful tools of peacebuilding is both effective and cost-effective, but peacebuilding takes time. Some of the best-spent dollars are those used to prevent or reduce conflicts that can engulf regions and threaten American interests, investments that foster strong allies and partners. We should heed the lessons of our experience in Germany and South Korea, where our unflagging, long-term commitments in the aftermath of war have established thriving partnerships with now-critical allies.

For the past several years, U.S. and other international organizations in Afghanistan have been supporting local institutions and civil society groups, working hand-in-hand to develop and employ innovative approaches that would help ensure a credible, inclusive and transparent election.

Afghans organized forums where women challenged presidential hopefuls on economic, political and social issues, and the country’s burgeoning media outlets promoted an almost non-stop run of televised candidate debates. At the grassroots level, activists organized poetry competitions that drew on treasured Afghan traditions, and ran a radio show to raise awareness about rule of law. There was even a rap video contest to devise an election anthem, and graffiti promoting a peaceful election, to engage the youth who are so important to the process and to Afghanistan’s future.

The Afghan-led efforts were underpinned by research, expertise and financial backing from the U.S. and other international donors. The outcome might help U.S. troops and their NATO-coalition partners to withdraw most of their military forces, as planned, with greater confidence that the gains won by more than a decade of fighting can be sustained.

Tools for preventing, mitigating and resolving violent conflict – national or interfaith dialogue, facilitation skills, multiparty negotiations, and education and training to build support for the rule of law are just a few – will become only more crucial as technology spreads and global power becomes more diffuse. And the costs of such tools are relatively modest. USIP’s recent annual congressional appropriations of about $35 million equals approximately the amount needed to field one light infantry rifle platoon in Afghanistan. Imagine what we could achieve with even more concerted efforts and funding for peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

Well-done and well-resourced, peacebuilding can help prevent the loss of American lives, enhance American security and preserve U.S. tax dollars, while relieving human suffering and demonstrating America’s commitment to peace. It maximizes other U.S. government investments in diplomacy, foreign assistance and the armed forces. It also strengthens local institutions around the world that can sustain long-term campaigns against deadly violence for decades after America’s investment ends.

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Topics: Afghanistan • United States

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. palintwit

    Piyush (his real name is not Bobby) Jindahl is a friend of Sarah Palin's and attends exorcisms. He also keeps his wallet and his car keys up his nose. We need someone like him in the WH.

    June 27, 2014 at 9:33 am | Reply
    • So true

      Well I'm Piyush's car and I DON'T approve of him putting his car keys up his nose.

      June 27, 2014 at 10:12 am | Reply
  2. The GOP Solution

    The GOP Prayer/Mantra/Solution: Dear God...With your loving kindness, help us to turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then, with your guidance and compassion, we will whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. God...Grant us the knowledge to then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. God...Give us the strength during our speeches to repeatedly yell........TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!..........and........GET RID OF SS AND MEDICARE!!!
    In your name we prey (purposely misspelled, or is it?)........Amen

    June 27, 2014 at 10:13 am | Reply
  3. Mike Smith

    What a load of baloney.

    For the run-off election, fewer than 5 million legitimate ballots were cast, or about 1/4th of the eligible voters. Another 2.6 million fraudulent ballots were orchestrated by Karzai, Karzai's chief of staff (recorded on tape), Ashraf Ghani (recorded on video tape held by Abdullah) and the Chief of Karzai's hand-picked Election Stealing Goon Squad, the IEC (recorded on 16 audios tapes). It was the most fraudulent election in human history, and US and UN diplomats, obsessed by process, and trying their best to ram this feces sandwich down Abdullah throat. To diplomats, holding an election is a means to getting promoted, and outcomes are unimportant.

    The first election took place, not in "relative peace," put on the single most violent day in Afghan history, a fact adroitly covered up and concealed from the world public, but known perfectly well to American intelligence agencies.

    And the notion that Afghanistan is a democracy, simply because we say it is,is fatuous. "Democracy" is simply another game to Afghan politicians, another means of taking power whose methods and loopholes are to be exploited in order to gain the reigns of national corruption. The idea that the people should select their leaders by voting is absolutely unknown in Afghanistan, which has no tradition or history of democracy. It's just a game to be played and won. Calls by Ambassador Cunningham and his ilk to "respect the process" are absurd, given that Karzai, Ghani and their cronies have no respect for the process whatsoever.

    This entire op-ed piece is just complete rubbish.

    June 27, 2014 at 11:21 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Karzai has once again his finger in the pie. He didn't want to sign the BSA with the US and said he would leave it to his successor. He favours Ashraf Ghani, a Pashtun and has tried to prevent Abdullah – who has the Tajik vote bank – from being elected. The latter has declared the election rigged. This may delay the process of installing a new president. If no successor is found, no BSA will be signed and Karzai remains in power.

      June 30, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Reply
    • G.B Adams

      I totally agree. To suggest we stay in this tribal narco-state because it worked for us in Germany is silly. We killed Bin Ladin, and that hole is not worth one more American life or $. I support the troops, which to me means bring them home.

      August 4, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  4. The Great Middle East

    We need a peace plan and economic development plan for the greater Middle East region – this would create great benefits and a million new jobs for us and them.

    June 27, 2014 at 11:33 am | Reply
  5. banasy@

    I am an insect. I am in a pond in Afghanistan. A big bull frog is chasing me. Please help me. It wants to swallow me whole.
    and I can't fly. My left wing is broken

    June 27, 2014 at 11:47 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      Still gargling with Massengill, I see, Roem.

      June 27, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  6. stuart

    Banasy. Are u trying to be funny? Well u are not. There are a lot of things happening over there.
    Please refrain from such bizarre and childish remarks.
    thank u

    June 27, 2014 at 11:54 am | Reply
  7. George Patton

    Good post Stuart. I couldn't agree more.
    Thank you.

    June 27, 2014 at 11:56 am | Reply
  8. banasy©

    Time for an outraged post from the "real" 'George Patton'. Get on it, 'phunnie boy.'

    June 27, 2014 at 12:11 pm | Reply
  9. Joseph McCarthy

    I say those people will never change. G.W. tried to help them but apparently they just don't want it.

    June 27, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Reply
    • G.B Adams

      If W had not dodged the draft during the Viet Nam war, he might have learned the folly of trying to democratize tribal nations.

      August 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm | Reply
  10. Allan Kinsman

    Afghanistan has many problems. One of many has to do with perspective. It seems after hundreds of years of fighting imperial powers it continues to reject western ideologies. It brings up a lot of good questions. Many of which never seem to be asked from a western perspective in print. We may widen any point of view by a careful study of the facts as much as possible. Can we learn from mistakes made? This in my mind is a more important question as we observe a reaction to our present policy in the entire region.

    June 27, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Can we learn from our mistakes?, Allan. Yes, we can. Unfortunately, the stupid Neocns in Washington evidently don't think so! They just go blindly on and on and..............!

      June 27, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Reply
      • Allan Kinsman

        An important point about opinion. Thomas Paine suggested it is important for all opinion to be open to examine every point of view. What makes this an interesting endeavor is to allow us to change our minds. But I notice you don't use the same name as Mr. Isotta-Fraschini which has a copyright. I am curious why are you trying to be another person? What is wrong with your own opinion? This seems an injustice, don't you agree?

        June 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
  11. Marine5484

    U.S. job far from done in Afghanistan? This is one "job" that never should have been started in the fist place!

    June 27, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  12. rupert

    A tsunami just hit ohio. Why is this not in the news.
    I am in a sink hole water chin deep.
    help.
    who stole my name and icon above. Stop it

    June 27, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Reply
  13. chri§§y

    Lol @ Allan Kinsman, that would require common sense and a conscious. Neither of those things possessed by this troll. And good one @ banasy on the phunnie boy post! And @ rupert, its a mud puddle dude, im in ohio right now and its hot and sunny. If you quit laying down and putting your chin in the mud puddle you will be just fine. Physically only. Go see a doctor for the mental thing!

    June 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      It's essential to know chrissy, that the same person is posting under all these different screen names for his (or her) own amusement. This is why the true George Patton refers to him (or her) as "Phunnie boy". This individual, as you may have noticed, does this to me all the time. As for Afghanistan, we need to return that country to it's own people instead of trying to occupy it by proxy as in setting up a pro-Western pseudo-democracy.

      June 27, 2014 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  14. Tom Posey

    Ummm. Faux Joey. You say this while you steal JIF's name.
    You might be more credible if you used your own name. It is ironic you saying that, as you do the same precise name. You name thief.

    June 27, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  15. chri§§y

    Lol @ Tom GMTA!

    June 27, 2014 at 10:14 pm | Reply
  16. Joey Isotta-Fraschini@

    JIF signed in and left.

    June 27, 2014 at 10:45 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      JIF, go back to the copyright. The @ is a common troll tactic.

      Here. ©

      June 28, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        @ banasy©,
        Thank you. I was not aware that the symbol changed.

        June 28, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
  17. EU - Europe

    EU has great interest for stability, peace, business, economy for the greater Middle East region. People in the Great Middle East are our friends – not enemies.

    June 28, 2014 at 2:54 am | Reply
  18. afghan

    can the america go to their own country, since they came it has became worth. go we do need ur fake peace

    June 29, 2014 at 8:44 am | Reply
    • No Asians wanted

      So, can please 'j.a.p.a.n.e.s.e, south koreans and chinese' go out from America.

      July 1, 2014 at 4:09 am | Reply
      • Atomik1

        And what would you do without them? Beer and supper ball?

        August 2, 2014 at 8:54 am |
  19. Gonnagetemville

    We have no right being Afghanistan. Our original purpose for being there is over. Complete. It's time to do what we should have done in the beginning. Wipe the slate clean and leave. End of Story!

    August 26, 2014 at 6:13 am | Reply
  20. Gonnagetemville

    THE Bush and Obama Administrations have done nothing but feed the American people a pack of lies. Deceit since, if not before, 9-11. We invaded Afghanistan before Iraq, when Bush promised at Ground Zero to go after those responsible for 9-11. The truth was, Bush, Like Obama, has a separate Agenda. With Bush, the fuel prices dropped, then they escalated to at or more than $4.00 at the pump and haven't dropped since. With Obama, He has focused on nothing. He continues to lie to the American People about Behngazi as well as other cover-ups to prevent the American people from seeing the truth. The United States is in ruins. The word FREEDOM means Nothing. The U.S> is run by corrupt Big Business and corrupt politicians. THE U.S. has become the joke of the world. The politicians fix elections to prevent a true leader to do the right thing and lead by example, not with lies and deceit.

    The days of the U.S. as we knew it, are numbered.

    August 26, 2014 at 6:23 am | Reply

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