Traveling through Afghanistan, one is struck by stark contrasts and divisions. With different factions and militias ruling in different regions, the prospects for a prolonged peace seem dim--or at least would require a serious international effort. But the Bush Administration's attention has already passed to its plans for a war in Iraq, and it seems ready to forget Afghanistan once again.
After the September 11 attacks, the global threat of radical Islamist terrorism gave the United States an opportunity to rally much of the world behind it. But by mixing up the struggle against terrorism with a very different effort at preventing nuclear proliferation, and by refusing to take the interests of other states into account, the US risks endangering itself and its closest allies.
One should not minimize how difficult it would be to sharply cut back drug protection in Afghanistan. The network of drug dealers is fully intertwined with the traditional local elite in many parts of Afghanistan, as it is in parts of Central Asia.
Listen to audio from this special LIVE AT CARNEGIE event. Senior Associate Anatol Lieven discusses his three-week research trip to Afghanistan.
In almost all realms of international politics, the United States faces a new, more complex set of political, economic, and security, challenges after September 11th. U.S.-Russian relations offer one bright counter to this otherwise gloomier international picture.
What next in the war on terrorism? The mission in Afghanistan is not over and al Qaeda is not finished. But this does not preclude dealing with Iraq. How we act will decisively affect our future security and will shape the emerging world order. Either it will be conducive to our liberal democratic principles or will be one where tyrants can hold democracy and international security hostage.