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Panel discusses future of conflict in Afghanistan

Published: January 29, 2010
Section: News

The American conflict in Afghanistan received special attention Thursday at a panel presentation delivered in the International Lounge at the Usdan Student Center.

Sponsored by the Center for German and European Studies, the panelists included both German Deputy Consul for New England Claudia Schuett and Asbed Kotchikian, a lecturer in Bentley University’s Global Studies office. Asadullah Pasoon IBS ’10 is a Fulbright scholar from Kabul University and acted as respondent and personal panelist as the three gave presentations on past, present and future Afghanistan.

The center’s director, Prof. Sabine von Mering (GRALL), introduced the event as especially relevant. She noted, “NATO [and other] governments are meeting now in London” to discuss Afghanistan, referencing the London Conference on Afghanistan’s future.

In his preview on the history of the diverse Afghan state, Kotchikian decried what he called “imported leadership” in the country, and said “the challenge is not de-Talibanization of Afghanistan, but about creating, not importing, a state.”

All three presenters lamented the current state of Afghanistan, especially moving the message to one where leaders recognize that “you have to win a peace, not the war,” as Schuett said.

The diplomat attested that positive change was possible, however that the West must figure out “how you can responsibly hand over…defense and security to the Afghan people themselves,” Schuett said.

As a representative of Germany, she also stressed the difference between the war in Afghanistan and past wars of occupation, namely Vietnam or Iraq: “Since the tainted name of the [Soviet] ‘Democratic Republic,’ ‘Democracy’ as a term is not very popular in Afghanistan,” she said, “but if you ask them if they would like a say in their taxes, if they would like to be able to remove their leaders without bloodshed, of course they say ‘yes.’”

Pasoon claimed that Afghanistan was ‘the good war”—to him and the rest of the Afghan people. “Both sides are upset with the results, but…before 9/11, Afghanistan was a place of fear,” he said. “It was almost not a place for living,”he said.

While challenges face the West and the government—and people—of Afghanistan, Pasoon advocated continuing help. “The construction of roads,” he said, “health care, access to education: people are enjoying their civil liberties again.”

Schuett’s presentation included Germany’s effort towards peace in the troubled state, and showcased Germany’s contribution to a “reintegration fund” to “help anti-government fighters…become reintegrated into Afghan life.”

Pasoon added, though, that to keep the progress he listed, “military might” was still necessary. But he also agreed that “we need reconciliation: to rehabilitate the moderate Taliban.”

Schuett and von Mering invited guests to attend the German Conference at Harvard Feb. 19 to 20 for a local continuance of discussion on the topic of Afghanistan.