In this op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Cynthia Schneider (who served as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands and is currently Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University as well as Co-Director at Most Resource) writes about the “potential to achieve a just and lasting peace in Afghanistan, one that aligns American security with that of the Afghan people.”
Ambassador Schneider makes the point that the “U.S. never should have accepted the Taliban demand of excluding our partners, the Afghan government, from peace talks.” Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani was elected in a democratic election and Schneider explains that this is “an example of exactly the kind of nation-building Americans and Afghans by the thousands have fought and died to bring about.”
She goes on to write, “American commentators pressing for withdrawal dwell on the ‘waste’ of a nearly two-decade commitment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But Afghans have made huge strides in what is actually a short period of time. The Afghanistan government shows the nation’s gross national income has increased fivefold since 2003 (U.S. troops arrived in 2001). The Taliban banned education for girls; now about 4 million are in school. Women are working in every aspect of the economy and in government (more than 25% of the Afghan Parliament is female).”
Dr. Schneider highlights the advancements of the Afghan culture noting that when the Taliban were in power, media, music, culture and sports were all suppressed or forbidden. Recent successes include: the Afghan cricket team cementing its participation in the World Cup this year; the world tour of an all-female Afghan orchestra; an Afghan female robotics team competing in an international contest and recognition for Afghan journalists like Lotfullah Najafizada for their fight for press freedom.
“Triumphs in so many spheres have provided Afghans a growing sense of identity, national pride and view of the advantages civil society offers,” comments Professor Schneider. “A deal with the Taliban alone would risk upending these hard-earned advances.”