Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Afghan Friend Test

Given that Obama is considering whether or not to send more troops to Afghanistan, I would encourage everyone to watch the new PBS Frontline documentary.

Then, putting political considerations aside, take the "Afghan Friend Test." 

Jotman's Afghan Friend Test

You get a call from Kandahar.  Mohamed Akbari, your dear Afghan friend says, "I don't know what to do.  Should I work with the Americans or should I try to keep my distance from them?" 

"What concerns you?"

"I have seen the latest poll numbers," Akbari says.  "American public support for the war is wavering -- big time. I fear that even if Obama gives the go-ahead, Americans will eventually decide to cut and run anyway. My question:  if I support the Americans, do you suppose they will still be there for my family five or ten years from now?  Or do you imagine they will eventually give up hope of victory and leave me and my burka-burning daughters to the Taliban?"

What would you advise your friend to do?  Should he openly cooperate with the Americans?  Or should he keep his distance?  

Your friend asks you another question.

"Let's say I openly support the American war effort, but suppose the Americans then decide to leave prematurely.   What are the chances the American government will grant me and my daughters refugee status in the US?"

Can you assure your friend Akbari that the US will stand behind true friends like him? Supposing worst came to worst, do you you feel confident that you could successfully lobby the US government to compassionately act on your friends behalf? (Before you answer this question, you might want to familiarize yourself with the timeline of Rahman Bunairee's really bad summer.)

What would your advice be?   This is your friend Mohamed Akbari and his family we are talking about. 

Americans are good at sales and marketing.  Most of the debate in Washington is about whether the Afghans can be won over.   The Afghan Friend Test supposes that this is the wrong question.

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