"While a key policy takeaway—avoid civilian casualties—seems obvious, even taking great pains to minimize civilian suffering is no guarantee that civilians can be won over. Cognitive biases that predispose individuals to favor (or excuse) the actions of their fellow in-group members, while simultaneously using negative actions by the out-group (like ISAF) to confirm prior prejudices, are powerful frameworks not easily overcome during wartime. Without engaging these underlying psychological biases, however, efforts to win hearts and minds are likely to be expensive, protracted, and, in the end, fleeting."
Authors: Graeme Smith, Nader Nadery, Daniel S. Markey, Seth G. Jones, and Clare Lockhart
Afghanistan faces a critical year as NATO-led troops draw down, international aid drops, and elections could deliver the country's first democratic transfer of power. Five experts weigh Afghanistan's prospects in 2014.
The French newspaper Le Monde interviewed Afghan President Hamid Karzai on December 10, 2013. He discussed the U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement about U.S. military assistance in Afghanistan after 2014 and his conditions for signing it.
"While there is a great deal of variation in the responses based on region, province, urban versus rural, education level, income, and gender, the 2013 survey findings give reason for cautious optimism as Afghans move into critical elections and security transition in 2014."
The United States maintains important interests in Afghanistan, even as most U.S. and allied troops are withdrawn in 2014. Seth G. Jones and Keith Crane assess the political, security, and economic challenges facing U.S. policymakers in Afghanistan and evaluate a range of policy options.
Following recent decisions made during a meeting of the Afghan grand assembly, Gayle Lemmon discusses how Afghans, U.S. foreign policy leaders, and others are working to shift the international perception of the Afghanistan war from one of hopelessness to one that reflects the strides the country has taken in economic growth, development progress, and human rights.
"When asked if Karzai was concerned that the US might lose faith and withdraw altogether, the president's spokesman said: 'We don't believe there is a zero option.' This rock solid belief that the U.S. will not walk away from Afghanistan gives Karzai the confidence to hold out when the Americans, as well as everyone at the jirga...are pressing him to sign."
"[Karzai] would support an alternate center of power in the provinces in order to undermine the official one, such as the governor, that he had formally appointed. That way, both could be controlled by being balanced against each other; two weak allies were better than a single strong one who might break away. The result was perpetual instability. The tragedy of Karzai is that his survival strategy has been one that ultimately promotes weakness rather than strength."
Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan President Karzai agreed on a draft text regarding the U.S.-Afghan security partnership after international combat troops withdraw. The agreement is set to take effect on January 1, 2015 and remain in force through 2024.
"Independent reports by human rights groups back Karzai's contention that there are too many civilian deaths in Afghanistan. But if they have become his rallying cry, it is also because they bring to mind the broader issue of Afghan sovereignty — the feeling Afghans have that they have become colonized subjects."
"The most recent spate of denials could affect a broader range of interpreters. They go to the core reason that the program exists — the threat facing Afghan men and women who worked for the U.S. government here."
In his testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa & Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Stephen Biddle argues that short term success in Afghanistan is less important than the United States' ability to secure its long term interests beyond 2014.
"For decades the model for understanding PTSD has been 'fear conditioning': quite literally the lasting psychological ramifications of mortal terror. But a term now gaining wider acceptance is 'moral injury.' It represents a tectonic realignment, a shift from a focusing on the violence that has been done to a person in wartime toward his feelings about what he has done to others—or what he's failed to do for them."
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