The assassination of Kandahar’s progressive mayor, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, this week marked the latest in a wave of high-profile killings in Afghanistan, reviving the debate over whether the Taliban is orchestrating a coordinated offensive ahead of America’s troop drawdown. Taliban leaders were quick to claim credit for Hamidi’s death, along with that of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai on July 12. However, top American officials in the war-torn country, along with one strategic insider who worked closely with Hamidi, are hesitant to verify the Taliban’s claims. “Whether Hamidi’s killing was really orchestrated by the Taliban is difficult […]
Matthew C. DuPée’s WPR briefing last week on Afghanistan’s counternarcotics efforts skillfully analyzes how U.S, U.N. and Afghan policies are failing to achieve an enduring reduction in the country’s opium production. Now neighboring governments, especially Russia, are growing increasingly worried that NATO’s withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan will force them to confront the problem largely by themselves. At present, the main threat Russia faces from Afghanistan comes in the form of Afghan narcotics exports. According to the United Nations, Russians are consuming much of the recent surge in Afghan narcotics production, which has occurred despite stagnant or even declining […]
Farmers in Britain are harvesting a surprising new crop in an effort to combat a shortage of painkillers. It is a crop that is plentiful thousands of kilometers away in Afghanistan, but there, British and U.S. troops are trying to destroy it.
The Obama administration’s decision to begin a process of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan was predicated on the assumption that the U.S. and NATO mission in that country had successfully set it on a “glide path” toward an acceptable level of stability. While always acknowledging the fragility and reversibility of progress achieved to date, there was increasing confidence that, especially after the elimination of Osama bin Laden, the U.S. had turned a corner in Afghanistan. The assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, or AWK, throws all of this into doubt. Whether his killer in fact acted on orders of the Taliban, or […]
On June 26, at a gathering in Kabul marking World Counter Narcotics Day, the mood was somber. Gone was the positive spin of last year’s event, when Afghanistan’s minister of counternarcotics, Zarar Ahmad Moqbil, proudly announced that poppy cultivation had been reduced by up to 50 percent and that 23 out of 34 provinces were then free from poppy cultivation. Sadly, the significant decrease in opium production last year has since been attributed to a convergence of environmental and climatic variables that devastated the crops late in the season, not to effective counternarcotics measures. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan […]
Robert Gates could boast a remarkable public service career when he retired from the Pentagon on July 1. In addition to his other contributions, Gates was the only defense secretary to have overseen two different wars serving under two presidents of two different parties. His solid if low-key Republican credentials and reputation as a prudent hawk helped depoliticize national security issues during and well beyond the presidential transition from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. These qualities also helped Obama avoid the kinds of problems experienced by President Bill Clinton, the previous Democratic president whose clashes with senior military officers […]
For the past 20 years, American and Russian policymakers have been searching for “the big thing” that would serve as the foundation for an effective and durable partnership between the two countries. In the months following Sept. 11, for instance, there was a sense that the “war on terror” might recreate a “grand alliance” between Moscow and Washington akin to the World War II partnership against the Nazis. But grandiose schemes for a revamped European security architecture and even a U.S.-Russia strategic alliance have foundered because realities could never match the rhetoric. Learning from these missteps, the Obama and Medvedev […]