April 7, 2013

Washington Post Journalist Criticizes U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan War

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Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a senior correspondent and associate editor of The Washington Post, said Tuesday at Cornell that he thinks America’s strategy in Afghanistan –– the country that has sustained United States’ longest war –– was not as successful as it could have been.

Chandrasekaran, who traveled extensively through the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar reporting on the war in Afghanistan for The Post from 2009 to 2011, said he thought the war has been prolonged.

Chandrasekaran said that despite the poor quality of life under the Taliban’s religious zealots, the Afghan people distrusted their new government  that was established in 2004 and backed by the U.S. government. He said Afghans condemned their government as a regime of “thugs and warlords,” and that the country struggled to establish a stable government without the support of its citizens.

Another reason for the length and failures of the war in Afghanistan is “tribal rivalries … not in Afghanistan, but in the Pentagon,” Chandrasekaran said. He added that U.S. Marines did not want to work together with the U.S. Army or the Canadian Army, which led to internal divisions, as the Marines wanted to preside over their own “patch of the desert.”

Not only did the administration need to manage challenges on the international front, but they also struggled with the “bureaucratic front in Washington” as a result of countless disagreements between the State Department and the White House, Chandrasekaran said.

Chandrasekaran said the conflict in Afghanistan was also drawn out because the U.S. lacked an understanding of Afghan culture.

“[The war] has been a decade-long process of the U.S. trying to make solutions with a fundamental lack of understanding of Afghan culture and tradition, and … a lack of communication with Afghan people,” Chandrasekaran said.

Chandrasekaran added that the U.S. misstepped when it attempted to rapidly reconstruct Afghanistan without properly understanding the region. Throwing money at the problem created as many problems as it solved, he said, likening Afghanistan to a parched man on a hot day. Instead of giving him a glass of water, America “turned a fire hose at full blast on him.”

“Afghanistan is a dirt poor country,” Chandrasekaran said. “Afghanistan was starved of reconstruction resources by the Bush administration.”

However, the Obama administration’s attempt to pump money into Afghanistan — spending $4 billion in 2010 alone — fueled new rivalries and sparked corruption, according to Chandrasekaran.

Chandrasekaran stressed that the lack of cohesion between various factions within the U.S. government has prolonged the war and caused much failure.

“Our nation has been unable to adapt. … Nobody, it seems, wants to work together,” Chandrasekaran said.

Following the talk, Catherine Weldon ’16 said that Chandrasekaran “was very thorough explaining American strategies and failures in his talk.”

“More Americans need to be aware about the intricacies of the war in Afghanistan, given the amount of time and money we’ve spent there,” Weldon said.

Original Author: Rachel Weber