Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Third Way for Afghanistan?

A comment I've received to my essay on the two policy directions for Afghanistan: there is a third compromise choice. Nation/state-build in Kabul and in some of the other cities (option 1) and disengage from the countryside (devolving power to traditional authorities and negotiating the terms of their association with the central government as well as denying use of their territories to terrorists).

It's an interesting approach. But for it to work the two "worlds" co-existing in Afghanistan would then have to have workable agreements to negotiate their interconnections. For instance, agreements on traffic flowing on national highways--how tolls would be divided, what actions would be taken against bandits, etc. There would also have to be some way, perhaps akin to medieval European laws about sanctuary in cities, to allow for people who don't want to live under harsher social codes in the villages to be able to safely move into the urban zones.

Could this help to square the difference between the U.S. interest in nation-building and human rights and the interests in winding down the conflict and preventing a resurgence of groups basing in Afghanistan that seek to do us harm?

Again, just some thoughts to consider.

The fight in Afghanistan is inherently rural, so the "third way" (which looks an awful lot like the Soviet approach from the 1980s) seems unlikely to work--at least to the extreme that you suggest. But merging traditional and more modern systems does seem to be a likely element of any effective way forward.
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