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Afghanistan: Mending it Not Just Ending It

04/13/2011 4:00 PM 34"101
Richard Samuels, Ph D, '80, Ford International Professor of Political Science, Director, Center for International Studies; David Miliband, SM' 90, British Foreign Secretary, 2007"2010

Description: While the U.S. and coalition allies may have an end date in mind for the war in Afghanistan (2014), they have not yet articulated an end game, which to David Miliband threatens "both the substantive long"term interests we have in Afghanistan, and the final narrative of the Afghan drama that began on 9/11." In his talk, the former British foreign secretary lays out his ideas for an "end game process."

The past 60 years of world history have demonstrated repeatedly that "there is no military solution to insurgency," says Miliband, which is why it is "high time we developed a political solution" to the conflict in Afghanistan. A framework for peace will not simply evolve out of the current situation on the ground: Taliban numbers are growing; President Karzai is linked to "cronyism, corruption and caprice;" the Afghan people remain desperately poor and undereducated, in spite of aid programs; and neighboring states such as Pakistan have been undermining Afghanistan's nascent attempts at independence and stability. To overcome this "strategic stalemate," says Miliband, Afghanistan requires a "reconciliation process" that deals in all players, and takes the nation's history and culture into account.

What's needed is "a unified and powerful Western view on the issues of security, the constitution, human rights and governance." Miliband believes the West must not impose its notion of political organization, but accept Afghanistan's long"standing tradition of "decentralized politics," in which clans and tribes play critical roles. Karzai will have an important place "in or out of office" but must understand that institutions matter more than individuals. Miliband warns that while the West hopes to promote "equal treatment of all citizens," it cannot "stand against a political settlement on the grounds that it is not politically progressive enough."

Miliband recommends first the appointment of a United Nations mediator to facilitate talks, with the mandate of setting out principles of an end game, and to canvass all parties, including the Taliban. This mediator would help broker confidence"building measures for all sides, leading to localized ceasefires, the end of roadside bombings, and Taliban disassociation from Al Qaeda. Mediation would also attempt to engage regional neighbors, especially Pakistan, with the goal of achieving a balanced, respectful relationship with Afghanistan. This process would secure the meaningful agreement of the U.S. that "political factors have primacy in a counter insurgency." These negotiations, says Miliband, "would start in conditions of minimal trust and maximal fear on all sides of humiliation." It is not clear if all will engage, but "we can't know until we give it a go."

About the Speaker(s): David Miliband has been a member of parliament for South Shields since 2001. Before serving as foreign secretary, he held the posts of secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, and minister for communities and local government.

Miliband was educated at Haverstock Comprehensive School in London. After graduating with first class honors in philosophy, politics, and economics from Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, he completed a master's degree in political science in 1990 at MIT, where he was a Kennedy Scholar. A lifelong soccer player, he also serves as president of the South Shields Football Club.

His first job after completing his education was with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. He then held a position as research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, followed by secretary of the Commission on Social Justice, which was set up by Labour Party leader John Smith to work out new approaches to welfare policy. From 1994_1997, the secretary worked as head of policy for Tony Blair before going on to lead the prime minister's Policy Unit from 1997_2001.

Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, Center for International Studies

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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December 16, 2011 19:03
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