Washington Post international reporter talks future of Afghanistan war

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Washington Post senior correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran speaks on Tuesday, Feb. 15 at the International Institute. Buy this photo

Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 15, 2011

One year ago, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, an associate editor and senior correspondent for The Washington Post, was up to his chest in water, working alongside American soldiers to forge a canal in a town in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, Chandrasekaran found himself in a different atmosphere, as he stood before a crowd of roughly 80 people to talk about his experience as an embedded reporter in Afghanistan. The lecture — delivered at the University’s International Institute — drew University students, alumni and guests who filled almost every seat in the lecture hall.

Chandrasekaran has been to Afghanistan 12 times in the last two years and writes mainly about counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts and the implementation of United States military policy. The focus of his lecture was to present the successes and failures of the COIN implementation in Afghanistan.

In his lecture, Chandrasekaran spoke about the turmoil surrounding reconciliation between the Taliban and other peace deals in Afghanistan. He said constitutional compromises might be necessary to restore peace to the country.

Chandrasekaran also emphasized the difficulties the U.S. faces in deciding whether to continue funding Afghanistan’s reconstruction amid America's own faltering economy.

“I spent a lot of time this afternoon talking about weaknesses in the COIN Strategy,” Chandrasekaran said at the event. “But perhaps the biggest weakness is the disconnect between the desire for quick results on the part of the American public, many members of Congress and the White House, and the reality that counterinsurgency takes time.”

Staying on top of news abroad is vital, Chandrasekaran said. He added that America’s ongoing involvement in Afghanistan will likely be a key issue in the 2012 elections.

“I think one of the most important things people can do is to both better understand the situation out there and also to appreciate the sacrifices people are making there,” Chandrasekaran said in an interview after his presentation.

Chandrasekaran’s lecture was part of an ongoing series sponsored by the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies titled “Afghanistan 2011: Connections, Communities, Crises.”

LSA senior Andrea Rondquist, who attended the event as part of a class requirement, said she enjoyed the lecture and wants to attend similar talks in the future.

“I think he had a lot of good things to say about what’s going on with the insurgency at this point in time and … how an agreement might be reached eventually to bring some peace to Afghanistan,” Rondquist said. “The main thing that I learned is that there is still a long ways to go, and there will still be a lot of decisions that will have to be made that will be crucial to the success or failure of the campaign in the end.”