Three anthropologists said yesterday that the solution to the increasing violence in Afghanistan might just be to put the Taliban back in power.
In a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Russian and East European Studies yesterday, the experts discussed their solutions to the conflict in Afghanistan.
David Edwards, professor of social sciences in the anthropology and sociology at Williams College, Nazif Shahrani, professor of anthropology at Indiana University and Alessandro Monsutti, a social anthropologist and postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, spoke to a room of about 60 people. The event was also broadcast to two other locations on campus.
Douglas Northrop, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies, said the department decided to host the event after students expressed interest in the complex country.
“(These speakers) spent years living there, learning its languages, and understanding its cultures,” Northrop wrote in an e-mail. “Given that the USA is now sending tens of thousands of troops into Afghanistan, surely it is critical for all of us to learn more about the place, its peoples and its challenges — and these three visitors are the very best guides we have.”
While the speakers disagreed on some specifics, all three were certain that the United States failed in its effort in Afghanistan under the Bush administration. They all said they are hopeful for the opportunities of the future.
“We have to start acknowledging that what has been done since 2001 is a disaster,” Monsutti said. “First we have to agree on that.”
According to Shahrani, the United States went wrong by trying to impose governance on the people of Afghanistan. To move forward, he said the strategy should allow the people in the country to elect their own local government in line with their cultural values, even if it means giving the Taliban limited government power.
“We have to accept the principle of community self-governance based on community values,” Shahrani said.
Monsutti added that Americans need to think about how they would react if another country invaded the United States and governed them.
“Let’s reverse the situation and think and see and realize how problematic is our way of thinking about Afghanistan,” Monsutti said.
Engineering senior Braden Schrock will be affected by Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan more than most. Schrock, who attended the event, is in the Navy ROTC program at the University and believes he will eventually be deployed to Afghanistan. He said in order to implement the ideas presented in the talk, a major shift in thinking would be necessary.
“It’s interesting to think about putting the Taliban in power when we came in to topple them basically,” Schrock said. “There’s so much negative connotation with the Taliban its interesting to think about actually letting self-determination work it’s own way through Afghanistan as opposed to telling them what they should want.”