Analysis

Amid ongoing, deadly attacks in the Afghan capital and elsewhere, the Taliban has reached out to the United States to begin peace talks aimed at ending more than seventeen years of conflict between US-led forces and the once-ruling extremist group.

At least, that’s what the group’s open letter in February reads. In it, the Taliban states it is imploring the American people and members of Congress to convince the Trump administration of the necessity for the talks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on February 28 extended his own olive branch by offering to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political group as part of a proposed peace process. He said he was making the offer “without preconditions.”

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Supply teachers are not to be envied. While they may be highly qualified in a particular subject, they re often sent in to teach classes they are not familiar with and doing so without the necessary training.

Over the past several years, similar scenes have been repeating themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Western troops have been training local armed forces. While competent in combat, the military instructors have essentially been functioning like supply teachers: teaching without the necessary educational background, and only for a limited period of time.

Now the United States and the United Kingdom are addressing the issue: both countries are pioneering Teacher Corps. Other countries should follow their example.

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This article is part of a series that reflects on the first year of the Trump administration.

US President Donald J. Trump reversed former President Barack Obama’s policy to pull US troops out of Afghanistan.

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The Trump administration has cut off what is expected to be as much as $1.3 billion in annual security aid to Pakistan in an effort to compel this South Asian nation to end its support for terrorists. Is this a winning strategy? Unlikely.

The United States has a longstanding relationship with Pakistan. However, in recent years it has become strained by Pakistan’s continued support for terrorist organizations which directly harm US interests. Though it is a complex issue with a long history, US President Donald J. Trump has decided to get tough with Pakistan.

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Life for women in Afghanistan has seen many advances since the end of Taliban rule, but the country still ranks poorly when it comes to gender equality. Spousal abuse and child marriage are rampant, while the criminal justice system is ill-equipped to handle complaints from women. Societal silence on these issues compounds the cultural cage in which many Afghan women are forced to live.

But there are many women breaking out of that cage in dramatic fashion and some of them are literally broadcasting their views. Afghanistan’s first female-oriented, female-run station, Zan TV, started operations in May of 2017. It is the brainchild of media entrepreneur Hamid Samar, who provides 100 percent private funding. All reporters, anchors, and, most importantly, news content decision makers, are women. 

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US President Donald J. Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan effectively puts the onus on Pakistan to end its support for terrorists.

If this strategy is to succeed, the United States must “adopt a very serious policy toward Pakistan,” said C. Christine Fair, the provost’s distinguished associate professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.

In an August 21 speech, Trump said Washington could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations.”

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting ... that will have to change,” Trump added.

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US President Donald J. Trump should have stuck to his original line of questioning of his national security team before sharing his new “strategy” on Afghanistan and South Asia: what outcome are we seeking, and how will we get there?

Trump’s August 21 speech, in which he outlined his policy on Afghanistan, exemplified the truth of Lewis Carroll’s quotation from Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

Long on assertions, but short on specifics, Trump’s speech failed to lay out a clear roadmap to “victory” that is based on history and regional ground realities. Indeed, Trump did not identify any benchmarks for actions to be taken by Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Russia, or even the United States.

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US president’s policy will send a clear message to the region, said Atlantic Council’s James B. Cunningham

US President Donald J. Trump’s approach to Afghanistan—marked by an indefinite US troop presence—sends a clear signal of the United States’ commitment to ending the war in that country, said James B. Cunningham, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

“This is the first time that it is clear that the United States and its international partners are in this for the long term, and that we are going to make our future decisions based on events that are happening on the ground and in the region and not against a timeline,” he said.

Trump’s August 21 speech, in which he outlined his policy on Afghanistan, also sends an important message to Pakistan, which, by providing safe haven to terrorist groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, has been an impediment to ending the nearly sixteen-year-old war in Afghanistan, said Cunningham.

“One of the things that has impeded the effort to get Pakistan to act has been Pakistan’s own doubts about what the American goals and commitments are in the longer term. Now that the president has spoken to that that should be the basis for approaching them with a different set of choices,” he said.

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Atlantic Council’s Sean McFate warns against plan that would rely more on military contractors

A proposal that would have the United States rely more heavily on private military contractors instead of US troops, and install what would essentially be a US viceroy in Afghanistan, is an example of “reckless foreign policy,” according to Sean McFate, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

Erik Prince, the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and the brain behind the proposal, says it will reduce the cost of America’s longest war and allow the United States to shrink its troop presence in Afghanistan.

McFate agrees that what the plan has going for it is that contractors are cheaper than US troops. Nevertheless, he added, there are serious problems with Prince’s proposal, the first being that it is “deeply un-American.”

“Using a neocolonial model to ‘fix’ Afghanistan is preposterous,” said McFate, a former private military contractor who has worked in Africa.

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