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Andrew Lubin talks on the way ahead for Afghanistan

Published: February 28, 2013
Section: News, Top Stories

Author, defense analyst and embedded journalist Andrew Lubin spoke to Heller students in the Coexistence and Conflict Program on Wednesday afternoon about the current situation for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Lubin has had seven embeds-overall 13 months-in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. During this time, he has learned the ways of the villages, interacted with the people and observed how the U.S. Marine Corps work to help create a safe environment for the citizens.

Lubin started his talk with a briefing of the geography of Afghanistan, then focused in on his area of expertise, the Helmand Province. Located in the south, the province is a hot desert with one main river running down the middle. In a casual manner, Lubin told the room about the months he spent there in 145 degree weather.

Students also got a glimpse of the preview for the PBS documentary Lubin is currently making. The documentary will present the work of the U.S. troops through Lubin’s lens, as he followed them in their aim to help Afghanistan improve the safety of their people.

The focus of the talk was to present a different side of how relations work between U.S. troops and the people of the villages. “They love us,” said Lubin. He spoke of success stories he’d participated in throughout the scorching desert with which he became so familiar. “If you want a picture of how it could be, go to the Helmand Province.”

He told one story of citizens who started improving their village by borrowing scrap metal and wood from the U.S. troops, and soon were asking to borrow their forklift. The villagers had built a waterwheel, and wanted to install it in the river to create electricity. They did this, and Lubin said it “gave them ownership of their village.”

Lubin admits that while relations are going well between Americans and the Afghans now, the state of the country is up in the air come 2014. “It’s up to Karzai.” The current president of Afghanistan has a few options in shaping the fate of his country. If he decides to change the constitution, Lubin predicts, then foreign aid from countries such as the United States would stop instantly.

Lubin was passionate in his presentation, arguing that the Americans are doing the right thing in regard to the training and resources that U.S. troops are providing the Afghans.

“Training people isn’t a question of money, it’s a question of time,” he says. The students in the room matched his passion, unafraid to ask questions throughout the presentation—eager to jump at the opportunity to spar one-on-one with an expert in the field.

An elderly audience member questioned why the United States was aiding Afghanistan when there were still people with needs in America. “We can’t take care of the whole world,” he asserted. But Lubin disagreed on this point. “It all comes back to 9/11,” he said to the audience member, “remember that.”

“Development is essential for this mission,” Lubin reinforced. He is confident in the “new profession” of the military, where they do not always have to shoot a gun to make a difference. “Do we want to win the war, or do we want to succeed?”

Lubin’s presentation is part of a series of presentations sponsored by Heller’s Coexistence Program. The next program in the series will be on Friday, March 8, where speaker Deborah Kolb will talk about gender issues in honor of International Women’s Day.