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Afghanistan

One of the more disturbing aspects of the 2016 presidential campaign — besides the name-calling, the callousness and the outright falsehoods that all of the candidates engaged in over a span of eighteen months — was the fact that nobody really spoke in concrete or detailed terms about America’s military involvement in Afghanistan. If Afghanistan were some blip on the radar screen, where the president decided to deploy a couple hundred special operations forces to assist the Afghan government with security functions, this would be understandable. But Afghanistan is about the exact opposite of a small-blip; indeed, when Americans hear the words “quagmire” or “stalemate,” Afghanistan usually comes to mind right next to Iraq.

 

Then, Hanifa found a new group of friends – in an unlikely place. What binds her to these young women is not talk of mothers-in-law and child-rearing, but of climbing mountains. She is a member of Ascend, an American NGO that is trying to empower young Afghan women by training them in mountaineering. In a country where women are traditionally barred even from appearing in public spaces without a male escort, putting together an all-female mountaineering expedition seems like a tall order. But, for Ascend founder Marina LeGree, there was no other option. “I love the outdoors, I grew up hiking and being free, and that is something I wanted to share with Afghan girls,” she says. “I wanted the girls to experience freedom.”

 

The security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly, along with America's position there. The question now is whether the administration of President-elect Donald Trump will decide to pursue the war or will withdraw U.S. support for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, letting it fall to —or make a deal with —the Taliban and other Islamic forces.

 

It is a crystal fact that peace has its own cost. To achieve peace the Afghan government and the people are rendering huge sacrifices. It cannot be achieved easily. More importantly, Afghanistan is home to all of us. We welcome all terrorist groups who are willing to shun violence in this home.

 

A resurgent Taliban is threatening to overrun a substantial part of Afghanistan and is just 200 miles away from Kabul. An ISIL offshoot, ISIL-Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP), is emerging in the east. Afghan security forces are stretched thin fighting on multiple fronts. The war is pulling American troops back into combat: The United States sees no way out of Afghanistan.

 
 

As the center of the Heart of Asia, Afghanistan has the potential to serve as a hub of connectivity between China, Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia. As a crucial part of the ancient Silk Road, Afghanistan is trying to restore its historical position to play a substantive role in regional stability and connectivity. Challenges such as terrorism, radicalization as a sociopolitical process, bilateral rivalries and economic fragmentation are undermining the future revival of the Silk Road.

 
 
Leaders in Kabul say Russian support for the Afghan Taliban appears to be mostly political so far. But a series of recent meetings they say has taken place in Moscow and Tajikistan has made Afghan intelligence and defense officials nervous about more direct support including weapons or funding.
 
The war on terrorism in Afghanistan cannot be won as long as militant safe havens exist in neighbouring Pakistan, a former American general told lawmakers on Tuesday.  
 

“We need to identify cross-border terrorism and a fund to combat terrorism. Pakistan has pledged $500m for Afghanistan’s development. This amount can be spent to contain extremism. Afghanistan suffered the highest number of casualties last year.

  “We need to identify cross-border terrorism and a fund to combat terrorism. Pakistan has pledged $500m for Afghanistan’s development. This amount can be spent to contain extremism. Afghanistan suffered the highest number of casualties last year.
 
A newly launched program from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is bringing an emerging trend in aid work—transfers of cash, rather than goods—to a war zone. Starting this fall, the IRC has committed to distributing $1 million in cash aid to tens of thousands of people in parts of Afghanistan. The effort leverages cell phone technology and local informal banking networks to help ensure the cash winds up where it’s most needed: with impoverished families displaced by the Taliban and ISIS.  
 


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