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Rory Stewart: Stabilizing Afghanistan

Interviewee: Rory Stewart, Chief Executive, Turquoise Mountain Foundation
Interviewer: Greg Bruno
April 14, 2008

The state of affairs in Afghanistan is often seen from the top down, but Rory Stewart, an Oxford-educated author, former British soldier, and one-time coalition deputy governor in Iraq, has a different perspective. For nearly a decade Stewart has maintained an intimate relationship with Afghanistan and its people. He now runs a non-government organization in Kabul, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation.

Stewart’s take on Afghanistan differs from many western military and political assessments. He says the country is “divided into two quite different areas.” People in the north, west, and center “are prospering” and remain grateful for the international focus on their homeland, he says. But Afghans in the south and east “are very traumatized, very impoverished,” and harbor deep resentment. “By and large, the reason why we’re fighting in southern Afghanistan and not fighting in the center and the north is that we’ve got more consent and more legitimacy in the center and the north than we do in the south.” Stewart says the best way to bring lasting stability to Afghanistan is through small, locally focused redevelopment projects, as opposed to top-down mandates from governments half a world away. “We need to be targeting our resources on what’s working, rather than trying to do things we can’t do.”

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