Kai Eide: Problems in Afghanistan will not be solved through War
May 23, 2011
Author: Sarah Kneezle, Coordinator, The Future of Diplomacy Project
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: The Future of Diplomacy Project
The only way to succeed in Afghanistan is to use diplomacy, according to Kai Eide, who served as the United Nations’ Special Representative to Afghanistan from 2008-2010.
During his trip to the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) in April 2011, Eide emphasized that continuing to fight a war in the country would ultimately result in a stalemate for both the international community and the Taliban. Eide served as a Fisher Family Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project during his time at Harvard.
“We have to realize that we are not going to win this war -nor is the Taliban,” he said during a Future of Diplomacy Project Interview. “There is need for a [new] political solution. Let us try to engage the insurgency, particularly the Taliban, in a dialogue.”
In the one-on-one discussion with Nicholas Burns, professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics, Eide reflected on his experiences in Afghanistan. He stressed that it is critical to engage to local community and to learn as much as possible about the society, religion and culture.
“Listen to the people who live there—listen to the Afghans,” he said. “Take their advice when it comes to shaping strategies. We have not done that to the extent that I believe is required and we have paid the price for it, unfortunately.”
The greatest challenge he faced during his time in Afghanistan was helping to steer the country through a complex presidential election. He described the elections as being marred by significant amount of fraud and foreign interference but said that they were ultimately satisfactory given the circumstances. However, Eide points out that as a result of the election, President Hamid Karzai emerged to be more dependent “on a group of warlords and power breakers.”
Nevertheless, Eide emphasized that the international community must tone down its criticism of the Karzai government in order to move forward and solve the mission diplomatically.
“We’ve seen a weakened government over the last year or two—I think we’re part of the explanation for that,” Eide said. “We have continued criticizing the government, criticizing Karzai constantly. We need president Karzai in this critical period; he is [still] the president."
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