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Chris Johnson | Jolyon Leslie


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Widely portrayed as the 'success of the war on terror', Afghanistan is now in crisis. Increasingly detached from the people it is meant to serve, and unable to manage the massive amounts of aid that it has sought, the administration in Kabul struggles to govern even the diminishing areas of the country over which it has some sway. Whatever political progress that has been possible now takes place against a backdrop of mounting casualties among innocent Afghan civilians and NATO troops. Many Afghans feel themselves to be trapped, hostage between two forces, both of which claim to be their liberators. Perceived by some to be part of a wider struggle that extends to Iraq and Palestine, NATO's campaign in the south seems 'unwinnable'. Now, more than ever, it is important to understand Afghanistan and examine the recent experience of international engagement, and the myths and half-truths that abound. Drawing on long experience of living and working in Afghanistan, Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie examine what the changes of recent years have meant in terms of Afghans' sense of their own identity and hopes for the future. They argue that lasting peace and stability will only be brought about through a form of engagement that respects the rights of Afghans to determine their own political future, while delivering on the responsibilities that come with military intervention.
Chris Johnson lived in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2004. She first worked for Oxfam, the set up a joint UN/NGO/donor research unit, the Afghanistan research and Evaluation Unit, where she worked until early 2002. She then undertook a wide range of consultancy work for different organisations concerned with the transition. She now works for the United Nations Mission in Sudan. Jolyon Leslie is an architect who has lived and worked in Afghanistan since 1989. He currently manages an urban conservation programme in Kabul and Herat.
'There is no doubt about the authors' exceptional understanding of and deep affection for Afghanistan...All said, this is an indispensable book for anyone wishing to gain an understanding of what has been done in and to Afghanistan in the last 30 years. It is also a book that raises profound questions about how and why well-meaning organisations operate in countries which they, often one-sidedly and driven by their own perception of good and evil, believe to need assistance.' Asian Affairs 'A vivid, intelligent journey through post 9/11 Afghanistan and the wider region. Thoughtful, intelligent and deeply moving - this account of the post-war crisis in Afghanistan addresses all the major issues of our disturbed world today. The clarity and intellectual forthrightness of this book will help us all understand the violent and confused world we all live in now. This is a deeply sincere and intelligent book in which the voices of ordinary Afghans describe their past and their future. The most powerful book on post 9/11 Afghanistan that you will be likely to read.' Ahmed Rashid 'Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace provides a devastating critique of US and UN post-conflict policies in Afghanistan. Writing out of more than fifteen years experience in the country and a deep empathy for the Afghan people, the authors dissect the flawed assumptions, misunderstanding, errors and--in some cases--lack of good faith than have stalled progress in rebuilding this shattered country. It should be required reading for all those interested in why post-conflict peace operations can fail--despite good intentions.' Andrew Mack, University of British Columbia in Vancouver . 'Amidst a burgeoning literature on Afghanistan, two seasoned observers have treated readers to a trenchant review of decades of international toying with the Afghan people and state. Their outrage is palpable -- and contagious.' Larry Minear, Tufts University 'This is a refreshing new look at the layers of complexity that characterize assistance to Afghanistan. The style is blessedly free of academic jargon and bureaucratic rhetoric - and occasionally enlivened by wry asides. The often blunt analyses of ground realities gain credibility from the many years Johnson and Leslie worked within the aid delivery system, heightened by their sustained engagement with Afghans in the cities and in villages. The difficulties the international community and government have in trying to understand one another are interwoven with unusual insights into the nuances of attitudes rooted in social customs. The recommended operational changes will benefit all who care about the well being of Afghanistan.' Nancy Hatch Dupree, The ACBAR Resource and Information Centre 'Johnson and Leslie have brought together a wealth of first hand understanding of Afghan society and its changing conditions to produce a very rich and moving book. It is informative, thoughtful and unsettling. It makes for very valuable reading.' Amin Saikal, The Australian National University ' Drawing upon their own experiences, as development workers in Afghanistan, the authors explain the present situation, setting this in the context of competing interests, globally, and the disastrous effects of imperialist policies. These are for us to challenge, here in Britain and in the USA - Afghanistan is very much our business too. This book is essential reading for us all.' Marjorie Mayo, Goldsmiths, University of London

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Abbreviations viii
Glossary ix
Preface xi
1 | The mirage of peace 19
Illusions of peace 21
‘Liberation’ 23
Raising the stakes 25
Bombing-in a peace 29
Losing hearts and minds 31
New beginnings? 34
‘Failure is not an option’ 39
Notes 40
2 | Identity and society 41
New values and old 41
Rooted in Islam 46
Identity and others 48
Civil society? 57
Making decisions, being represented 59
War and social change 63
Ethnicity 70
Closing ranks 75
Managing the world beyond 75
Dreaming a past 77
Notes 80
3 | Ideology and difference 81
Confronting the Taliban 84
The UN and the Strategic Framework for Afghanistan 87
An alien way of looking at the world 92
Could it have been different? 96
The legacy of confrontation 100
Note 101
4 | One size fits all - Afghanistan in the new world order 102
Reasons for war 102
Early courtship 105
Changing attitudes 107
Isolating the Taliban 111
Aid, rights and the US project 113
Stitching up a country 116
Human rights 121
NGOs - wanting it both ways 123
Failing the Afghans 124
Notes 126
5 | The makings of a narco state? 128
Seeding recovery 128
Or corrupting the state? 133
Transitional attitudes 141
Agency responses 143
Double standards - or caught in a bind? 145
Notes 151
6 | State 153
State and nation 153
A short history 156
The Taliban state 163
Aid and the state 165
The UN and the failed state model 166
The legacy of centralization 171
7 | Bonn and beyond, part I: the political transition 173
Inauspicious beginnings 175
Imagining a state 176
The political transition 182
Building state failure 188
Enduring security? 192
Notes 196
8 | Bonn and beyond, part II: the governance transition 198
The state: who is in control? 198
International failure 215
Letting the Afghans down 225
Notes 226
9 | Concluding thoughts 227
Notes 234
References 243
Index 248