A Tribe Apart - Afghan elites face a corrosive past by Barnett Rubin

A Tribe Apart: Afghan elites face a corrosive past
Barnett R. Rubin, Boston Review, Jan/Feb 2009

The Asia Society stands out from its neighbors on New York’s Park Avenue. The façade, constructed in a spirit of cross-cultural cooperation, mixes Oklahoma’s red granite with Rajasthan’s red sandstone, the stone from which the medieval emperors of Delhi, descendants of conquerors from Afghanistan and Central Asia, hewed the Red Fort of Delhi. Like traditional Persian forts, the Asia Society has both public and private audience rooms (diwan-i aam and diwan-i khas). Several times I have heard Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai speak in the public auditorium, but last September I took the elevator to a small, private room, where Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, was briefing a few colleagues.

As Abdullah somewhat bitterly recounted how the international community had prematurely declared victory in Afghanistan, he reminded me of a fall 2002 conference we both attended in the United Kingdom. A British deputy minister had just finished a self-congratulatory speech about success in Afghanistan. I asked for the floor, and reported complaints from colleagues in the Afghan government. They were spending half their time trying to make up for the political harm done by Coalition military actions, there was neither a plan nor adequate funding for economic recovery, and armed commanders were consolidating control of all the provinces and borders. The distinguished British official responded, “Well, I’ve just heard the voice of doom!”

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