The current strategy in Afghanistan depends now more than ever on the cooperation and trust of Afghan communities. However, a new study by the Open Society Foundations shows that the past nine years of civilian casualties, wrongful and abusive detentions, deteriorating security, and a lack of accountability by international forces have eroded much of that trust.
Failure to understand and respond to Afghan anger over the conduct of international forces and broader international community policies has led to ill-informed policymaking that has not been as effective as possible, or worse, has exacerbated existing problems. Many Afghans interviewed not only regarded the international community with suspicion, many accused internationals, and the international military in particular, of directly or indirectly supporting insurgents in order to justify their continued presence in Afghanistan.
This panel event explores where these perceptions come from and their impact on the success of policies ranging from counterinsurgency to reconciliation to Afghan government stabilization efforts.
Andrew Exum is a Fellow with the Center for a New American Security. He is a native of East Tennessee and served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 2000 until 2004. He led a platoon of light infantry in Afghanistan in 2002 and a platoon of Army Rangers in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Most recently, Exum served as an advisor on the CENTCOM Assessment Team and as a civilian advisor to Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan. He is the author of This Man's Army: A Soldier's Story from the Frontlines of the War on Terror.
Exum studied classics and English literature at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the American University of Beirut. He is a doctoral candidate in the Department of War Studies at King's College London and founder of the counterinsurgency blog Abu Muqawama.
Jack Fairweather was the Daily Telegraph's Baghdad and Gulf correspondent for four years, winning the UK's award for war reporting. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. He writes for the Atlantic, Mother Jones, and Harper's Magazine, and regularly reports from across the Middle East.
Erica Gaston is a program officer for the Afghanistan-Pakistan Regional Policy Initiative of the Open Society Institute. In addition to monitoring the conduct of warring parties, much of her work focuses on supporting civil society involvement in these issues.
Prior to her work with OSI, she was the Afghanistan research fellow for the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, whose mission is to encourage warring parties to provide compensation, victim assistance, recognition or other redress to victims of conflict.
Gaston graduated from Harvard Law School in 2007. She worked as a researcher and writer on several advocacy projects with the Harvard Human Rights Program and Human Rights Watch. She also helped provide research and analysis for the United Nations Committee Against Torture and Senator Richard J. Durbin's Judiciary Committee Staff.
In addition to her human rights work, Gaston has published articles related to the accountability of private security companies, issues and problems inherent in the humanitarian project, and the improvement of emergency preparedness for homeland security and counter-terrorism purposes. She graduated with a BA in international relations, with a specialization in international security, from Stanford University.
Michael Semple is a regional specialist on Afghanistan and Pakistan with 25 years experience in the two countries. He currently holds a fellowship with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School.
As a political officer with the United Nations he contributed to the building up of the post-2001 Afghan political order, and from 2004 to 2007 served as deputy to the European Union special representative for Afghanistan. He is consulted on issues concerning insurgency, reconciliation, and political developments in the two countries.
Erica Gaston, program officer for the Afghanistan-Pakistan Regional Policy Initiative of the Open Society Institute, presents the findings of her latest report on perceptions from the ground in Afghanistan. Surprisingly, Gaston found international forces were perceived to be more dangerous than insurgent forces, though propaganda may have had much to do with it.