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Afghanistan's Future

August 18th, 2009
05:25 PM ET

The contest for the future of Afghanistan is coming to a head. Crucial elections are scheduled for Thursday. Ahead of the vote, NATO forces have been ratcheting up their efforts to flush out the Taliban. But, at what cost?

President Obama reminds us that the fight against the Taliban is a fight to destroy the forces that harbour elements of Al Qaeda and, as such, is a fight to defend the US’s national interest. This week, I want to hear your thoughts on the future for Afghanistan. To kick start the discussion, here are the thoughts of one of Connect the World’s “big Thinkers” – panelist Eric Margolis.

“I do not believe AQ is growing in Afghanistan. There are many anti-American groups in the region, but the real, hard-core AQ remains tiny, almost invisible. Most AQ have gone to ground in Pakistan. AQ never amounted to more than 300 members at its peak in 2001. Today, it's down to a handful – but there are many sympathizers.
Osama Bin Laden was given refuge by the Taliban because he was a hero of the anti-Soviet jihad. Taliban knew nothing about his plans to attack the US, but after 9/11 refused to turn him over to Washington without a legit extradition process.
It is a serious error to confuse Taliban with AQ. AQ helped Taliban in its fight against the Afghan Communists, but that was the extent of their cooperation."

Send me your thoughts: email me at ConnectTheWorld@CNN.com or reply below. We’ll use as many of your comments as possible on the show this week (CTW, daily at 2100 London time)


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  1. André.F.rochon

    I believe that this war with Afganistan is a terrible waist of time, money and lives.

    These people are living, for the most, in the middle ages. Things like elections democracy, women's rights , don't mean anything to them.

    Their only preoccupation is God.....

    Mind you just a few decades ago women's rights didn't mean much in North America .... As for God many americans still believe that the world was created in 6 days by an old man with a white beard....

    The only policy in that region and also in Pakistan is containment...We should watch these people closely, refrain from arming them and most of all limit their access to technology....

    In fact my belief is that we shouldn't be involved in the middle east either...Let the jews and arabs settle their own problems and if they want to blow themselves up , let them...Why should we get involved in their cycle of hate and violence?

    August 18, 2009 at 7:13 pm | Reply
  2. Charles

    We are all so NAIVE...

    Afghanistan has NO tax structure in place to allow the country and government to collect taxes and distribute back to the people and all their government to function. They are 100% dependent on OUR (U.S, Canadians and Europeans) giving-handing over billions of tax payers dollars and Euros. How long can this last? How long can the U.S support Afghanistan....

    Donations are what is sustaining Ahmid Karzai in power. He and his brother are getting rich and richer by the day at our expense with bank accounts in Dubai.

    He is fooling us into beleiving that we have something to gain overthere. I lived in country( Kabul-Herat) for a year, it all mud. House are built out of mud, Presidentail Palace is built out of mud, it is a pile of mud and should get out of Afghanistan the soonest.
    Relative to time and weaponry the Russian could not win, they walked away, the Britts too walked through 100 years prior.. We have to cut our losses now just as we did in Vietnam in the 70s. Charles

    August 18, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Reply
  3. Humira

    Many inside Afghanistan are turning towards extremist groups because they believe the West especially, the US did not fulfill their promises. Till this day, much of Afghanistan still does not have electricity, corruption is on the rise, the wealth disparity continues to increase and civilian casualties have become a norm. Many groups have committed atrocities and human rights abuses why are we singling out the Taliban? We need to bring them to the peace table and bring about a dialogue of civilizations as oppose to a clash of civilizations.

    August 18, 2009 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  4. Army Officer Jones

    As someone who spent most of 2008 walking around Afghanistan, talking with Afghans and trying to educate the US military about the nuances of Afghan culture, too many Americans confuse every armed resistor in Afghanistan with the Taliban and the Taliban with AQ. Most people don't realize Afghanistan is just like the US was 150 years ago – full of fiercely independent people who are willing to defend their freedom with their lives. I am currently in Iraq right now, and hearing people try to draw comparisons between the two areas simply displays their ignorance; calling the buildup of troops in Afghanistan a "surge" is poor wording, making it seem as if the increase is a temporary thing that will give "tried and true" results. The sad fact is that, historically, successful counterinsurgencies take 12-15 years; here the US is, 8 years into Afghanistan and already the American public is calling for timelines on when to pull troops out of Afghanistan.
    As an Army officer who has fought and had friends die in Afghanistan it pains me to see the American public be unwilling to make those sacrifices worth it by putting the time (and money) into winning in Afghanistan. The fight in Afghanistan isn't simply about keeping America safe; it's about allowing the people of Afghanistan to have the option to choose what their future will be.

    August 18, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Reply

    Ahmed karzai tries to convine the afghan populace that he is still the man for the job by speedily enumerating his achievements in office which compares favourably with Bolt's speed to defeat over-prepared Tyson Gay.

    August 18, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Reply
  6. Muthyavan.

    With the election for a new president of Afghanistan nears, the fight against the Taliban insurgents has become a great challenge for The US lead NATO forces. With daily increasing casualties among NATO forces, how is the voters turn out going to be, and what will be the verdict of the Afghan people. Afghanistan was like a wild horse running on its difficult mountain Terran, has thrown out many of its would be riders, who tried to control and rule it in the past.

    Afghanistan came to the light when it was found has been used as a launching pad by the Al qaeda for the 9/11 attack on New york towers. Besides these planned attacks on many countries it is also a great threat to humans by its local home grown production of drugs,which is circulating around the world in large quantities So it has become an urgent duty of the free democratic world to fight the insurgents to finish by installing a powerful people democratic rule in Afghanistan.

    Will the people will be free to come out on the election day and vote to elect a true democratic government and how the future Afghanistan government will fight the Taliban are the future questions for the democratic world.

    August 18, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Reply
  7. Halabee

    Yeah Eric Margolis. is right . The Taliban are different from Al Qaeda, they didnt hand them over to the US after 9/11 becuase they Americans didnt give them sufficient proof.

    August 19, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  8. Asaf

    Few years ago Osama Bin Laden was our man in Afghanistan who was fighting for “democracy”. We trained and armed him.

    Are we now fighting to give “democracy” to Afghans ourselves, sacrificing our soldier’s lives? It seems that as far as our man is elected we do not care what he stands for on human and women’s rights and how legitimate the election is.

    Or are we fighting, as Obama says to defend the US’s national interest?

    It seems the first is used as an excuse and the second as a threat. We should make our minds what we are there for.

    August 19, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  9. Reshmi De

    Democracy, at any cost is necessary....the question should be who pays for it and how much. I am sitting in Kabul now and it is amazing to watch how seeds of democracy are sowed and starts coming to life in burst and spurts....posters on the walls scarred by IED blasts, women in chowdhury's attending voter literacy classes, night letters threatening people to stay away from polling booths, convoys bringing in ballots...are all part of a non-linear process towards democracy...its never easy and its never perfect....

    August 19, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Reply
  10. Mahno

    Questions :
    1) Does the Afghan people , his best , on the road to democracy ?
    2) If they do , why Afghanistan goverment – Afghan people – NATO forces , can't win 100% ?
    3) In a difficult period of west economy , what are the changes , if all money for this battle going , to west societys and Afghan goverment-Afghan democrats.

    I think:
    1) Maybe the democraty and freedom , means too much , for Afghan people yet. Otherwise they have been more actions.
    2) Afghan goverment and NATO , only trying them bests , and the cost is high. Peoples cant made more democracy under war pressure , they dont want to risk more , because the most of them had learn to live , at this prohistoric situation.
    3) If NATO continue to take the risk , to operate at Afghanistan , it have to change his priorities : a) Protect his forces b) help Afghan gov. and activists (if they exist) c) education Afghan people , to fight more for them freedom and for them life quality.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Reply
  11. Keira

    This entire situation has been a PR nightmare for the U.S. The US 'created' Bin Laden in the (former) USSR/Afghanistan conflict. Obviously, it has backfired.

    If the U.S. would've gone into Afghanistan/Pakistan looking for Al-Qaeda after 9/11 rather than into Iraq (and their fake WMD campaign), AQ would be all but gone now. The Bush/Cheney administration mishandled the entire situation (as usual) and now we're paying a bigger price for it. Now we're up to our necks in debt, negative public opinion and the PR nightmare continues.

    New York

    August 19, 2009 at 7:40 pm | Reply
  12. alberto eleta

    I could not agree more, or stress enough the URGENT Need for the U.S. to end its presence in both Iraq, and Afghanistan. We havo no futher business in either country. It was the wrong ideal to make both theatres the target of America`s wrath after 9/11, because these men, wgho fight every single day as militia, terrorists, bomb martyrs, Al Qaeda, or Talybans, whatever you choose them to be named, are ordinary people desperate for independence and to see their countries free from foreign intervention. most of us are ignoring what are the real consequences of insisting in a campaign that cannot be won. They will never be defeated, and their cruzade will last until we all get the hell out of there, and allow them to carry on with their own destiny.and not make their struggle ours. I wish you Captain Jones (sorry if i did address you by the wrong rank) safe and sound return to your folks soon.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Reply
  13. james s roberts

    Afghanistan is America's 21st century Vietnam. In 1960's it was communism (Vietnam), in 1970's it was socialism (Chile), today it's terrorism. These groups distrust; American policies; militarily, monetarily, economically, politically as they thwarted real democractic reform for political "stoooges" who did what America ordered.

    Look no further than the Iraq political succession after USA unilateral invaded Iraq.

    Eventually America will come to its senses. It will realize it's better to share, then to spend itself into bankrupcty defending its right to hoard.

    The American Debt clock keeps tallying the spending.

    August 19, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Reply
  14. Konigstuhl

    Some nation out there thinks that freedom is something you buy with money. Many of us know that we live in a capitalist enviroment but don't anyone dare say that freedom is not free. No money on this planet will make us pay for something that is already free naturally. So don't you dare say that we have to pay with dirty money for freedom or any type of currency. That's the way a capitalist will think because they are not a human specie.

    August 19, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  15. Ignacio R.

    I come from a third world country. Where there IS people starving in the poor neighborhoods of my country. I see not only this happening all over S. America, but the world (as everyone knows). The reason for my "left" winged opinion is due to the U.S. do whatever it wants with my beloved S. America. If there is anyone to blame is Capitalism, and who’s the father, if your clever you’ll know.

    After the fall of the Communist monster in USSR, the balanced power and arm wrestling came to a halt, the US took over and with it all the power. So now, if the US wants oil, they'll have their oil to fuel the war tools, and the country's veins. Now the U.S. fights for oil, and that’s what is currently happening in the Middle East. Why leave them (Middle Easterners) alone if the US will get attacked? Why not make a frontier thousands of miles away before it reaches home? Well I don’t believe that either. I believe that the 9/11 was a set up by the US gov, into tricking its close minded (to the outside world) people to wage a war against this "Osama Bin Laden". He was trained by the US and well, knew the tactics like the palm of his hand. I think he was (was: BC it was the driving force of the war) at one point alive, whether or not he did commit attacks on the US, Idk, but where did he go? CNN does not talk about him. What happened? Anyways leaving Afghanistan is not an option, who will fuel America's veins and her thirst for oil?

    Continue controlling the citizens of other nations lives, by telling what they can or cannot do, stealing oil, making up excuses to go to war, and yes its just like life, people inside the US will rebel, bad rulers will take over, form an alliance and bring hell into the US.

    "Eventually Every Empire Falls"

    Note to CNN: if this seems agressive in any way, dont forget to read your constitution of freedom of speech (this means freedom of press, which does not exist anymore in the US)

    August 19, 2009 at 9:04 pm | Reply
  16. me

    I think that everyone is so used to the American way, we always get instant gratifaction, we dont understand that most things take time. No one remembers that even in our country it took us from 1776-1784 to approve a constution, and we all wanted the same thing and had no outside groups fighting the creation of our nation. America was not a powerful nation until the recent past. I do not think that we should be funding everything for Afganistan but we should help. I also think that it is sad that the nation turns its back on its military so quick in a nation so strong less then 1% of citizens serve in the military, for people that have never been to Iraq or Afganistan you dont know the great people there that just want freedom and peace.

    August 19, 2009 at 9:08 pm | Reply
  17. Vahid

    i hope that this election which is very important for the People of Afghanistan and their future be hold peacefully or at least with less
    problems. but i think it will be difficult for the security forces to control
    all parts of the country. Nevertheless i advise all afghans to go
    to voting pools and select the president of your futre.

    August 19, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  18. H. B.

    There IS no cost for democracy in Afghanistan, because voting is the only "attribute" of democracy that exists there. If has been an Islamic State since Bush accepted the new Constitution which prohibits ANY law from offending Islam in any way. Democracies do NOT have religious courts that can impose a death sentence for becoming Christian. How have we managed to avoid that revealing factoid?

    And have you noticed that the burkha came off shortly after our invasion, but now it's BACK? Wonder why?

    READ their Constitution, and you'll see it for yourself. If what we've seen going on there since their "democracy" was established, you'd already have figured it out yourself.

    This is merely a veneer of democracy, intended to please Bush and convince the world that it is something it isn't. They'll maintain that image, as long as the money keeps flowing in, and our troops there do things that the present leader wants of them. We must cater to them, in order to remain there to pursue the maggots who attacked us.

    We will never truly win hearts and minds in either Afghanistan OR Iraq. They are required by their god to hate us. We are infidels. "An infidel is worse than a murderer," according to the Quran. And the last thing they want is a genuine democracy, which is the inside-out of Islamic values.

    READ the Quran and Hadith, cover to cover. It's all right there.

    Our collective ignorance of these things is the worst threat we have to our own security. We're intellectually lazy, and let the media tell us what the truth is. We don't double check much at all. Try it for a change, and READ what I've suggested to you. It's all free online.

    August 19, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  19. philip from nigeria

    it is unfortunate that there are people out there that will still target innocent people,intimidating them and therefore trying to stop them from excercising their rights-voting.i hope they will overcome their fears and come out and vote.and show these people that hide in shadows that the strength of the people will overcome and see them build a stronger,better and safer country.

    August 19, 2009 at 9:48 pm | Reply
  20. H. B.

    The "clash of civilizations" is the default status of any Islamic State and every Muslim. It clashes because their god tells them it MUST. Dialog only produces results if THEY want them. Remember Arafat? He broke pacts before the ink dried; he was only being a good Muslim. They're required by their god to lie to, cheat and confuse all infidels.

    Forget democracy. Islam and democracy don't mix;; never can. Nor can we eliminate Islamic terrorism; we can only temper it and hold it down. A Muslim who wants democracy wants it only for himself and people he likes – for anyone else, nothing.

    As for the opium, if Karzai had two brain cells, he'd have issued an edict that ALL opium production be sold to legitimate pharmaceutical companies of the world, competing for the price. The revenues could be taxed, and help build up employment and infrastructure. The Taliban and AQ would be SOL. To do this, Karzai would have to be able to ENFORCE it, yet he does nothing with police or military except to protect himself and big cities. Rural areas get nada. But for a wise leader, the investment in enforcing the edict would be profitable. It seems to be the ONE resource there with profit potential, and it's all going to terrorists, who bargain at gunpoint.

    True, Taliban and AQ are different, but not by that much, at least not any more. And either of them is bigger than claimed here. A huge chunk of the Islamic world strongly favors one or both of them.

    Never underestimate the value of hate and violence. Especially when their god applauds it.

    August 19, 2009 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  21. Cheng

    I can't disagree with Taliban more.Their criminal acts are too many to count.The discrimination of female, tens of thousands of people's death,and the cruel things they do all turned a decent country into a hell.I strongly believe that if Taliban does not dissappear one day,Afghanistan won't have the freedom of expressing their own suggestion without fear of being theratened and killed.

    August 21, 2009 at 3:56 am | Reply
  22. sophia

    im afghan and i hate to see all this killin of those people happen over there cause it hurts me inside to see all of that ..i hope hamid karzai wins maybe he can try to bring some kind of peace to his country..

    August 24, 2009 at 4:05 am | Reply
  23. T2

    I actually partially disagree with Eric. I believe, if US had concentrated on Afghanistan after the war and rat-trapped all the AQs and then washed them out, we wouldnt have this situation now. Iraq was a pandora's box that Mr. Bush opened and now we all know how good its working out (sarcasm). I totally agree that AQ and Taliban are not the same thing. Now in order to shift the blame, Mr. Karzai and Mr. US President (Bush or Obama) are saying that all the AQs are in Pakistan. Only if US had concentrated on Afghanistan rather than starting the "i am going to finish what daddy started" and "Oil for my hummer" war. We wouldnt be having all these discussions.

    AQ and Taliban is now just a "brand name" that every militant uses to spread hate and war all over the sub-continent. Most of the AQs and Tablibans are not even Afghans or Pakistanis. All the enemies of US are concentrating in Afghanistan and trying to force US out of there just like USA did in the time of the Afghan/USSR war. Proxy war is the name of the game these days.

    August 26, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  24. peter gill

    Seeing that contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Afghanistan I can imagine little rush to end the conflict. The longer it lasts the better the bottom line for Halliburton etc. Its a racket and everybody knows it. Incidentally, I understand Afghanistan holds the worlds largest reserves of natural gas.

    September 2, 2009 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  25. mo

    First the u.s. Backed Saddam, then they backed osama, and now the guy with the foney American accent Kharzi. I mean dah! It gets worse and worse. There are no clear objectives. Who is aq really. Where is osama, he's the reason all this started isn't it? I thought that the taliban were good guys that we helped against the russians. Every now and then we get to see a couple of poorly equiped guys jumping up and down tyres with guns in there hands with arabic music in the background in a few video clips. And these guys are suppose to be aq. Yeh these guys are supposedly whipping our butts. Why are we there ? Is there something I missed. Somebody please help!

    September 4, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Reply

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