September 28, 2010
Ashraf Ghani met and spoke with students before his Wooster Forum appearance.
WOOSTER, Ohio, Sept. 28, 2010 – America has the most
powerful, sophisticated military in human history, but “use of force alone is
not going to solve the challenge” of bringing peace and stability to
Afghanistan, said Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister, presidential
candidate, and adviser to President Hamid Karzai. “Political imagination will
make the difference between success and failure,” Ghani told an attentive
audience at last night’s Wooster Forum event.
Though commentators often refer to the nine-year U.S.
involvement in Afghanistan as America’s longest war, Ghani said it is more
accurate to describe it as a very short war, which the U.S. fought and won in
late 2001, followed by almost eight years in which America’s leaders turned
their attention away from Afghanistan, and a renewal of hostilities in 2009, when
President Obama decided to send more U.S. combat forces into the country.
Beginning in 2002, the Bush administration “repeatedly chose
to accommodate Afghanistan’s past rather than align with its future,” Ghani
said, in order to focus resources and attention on the war in Iraq. It was a
past characterized by violence, corruption, and the repression of women. Those
elements still exist in Afghan society today, along with a thriving drug trade
fueled by European demand, but Ghani insisted they are only part of the
Afghan civil society is growing stronger, he said. There is
a vibrant media, emerging networks aimed at empowering women, and a growing
culture of entrepreneurship. More than 42 percent of the population is under
the age of 20. Moreover, given the country’s mineral wealth, Afghanistan has
the potential to become one of the world’s largest producers of iron and
copper, as well as “the Saudi Arabia of lithium” — an essential component of
batteries for electric vehicles.
According to Ghani, General David Petraeus, the U.S.
commander in Afghanistan, is making an enormous difference. But while nine
years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught the U.S. military to
continuously learn and adapt to changing conditions, the civilian branches of
the U.S. government, such as the State Department, and international
development agencies have not followed suit. “Afghanistan shows the bankruptcy
of the development system. One of the largest problems we face is how to
coordinate the development actors with one another and with the military.”
Despite many challenges, Ghani remains optimistic about
Afghanistan’s future. He believes that if multiple networks of resources can be
brought to bear, both inside and outside the country, those challenges can be
“Fate has brought us together, and that fate was called
9/11,” Ghani said in closing. “You are part of the solution. Work with us, and
together we can solve the problems.”
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