Karl Eikenberry, Oksenberg-Rohlen Distinguished Fellow and Director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative at Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Research Center, gave a lecture on the impact of the War in Afghanistan on Monday, Feb. 13 at Claremont McKenna College’s Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum.
“The Athenaeum collaborates with students, faculty, and our research centers to invite speakers who are experts and leaders in their areas; having guests like Ambassador Eikenberry is an honor and provides comprehensive information, analysis, and opportunities for intellectual engagement for our community,” wrote Priya Junnar, director of the Ath, in an email to TSL.
Eikenberry, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from May 2009 until July 2011, talked about the state of Afghanistan from 2001 to today.
“After 9/11, the United States of America under President Bush put a small expeditionary force into Afghanistan with the mission to topple the Taliban government and to find al-Qaeda leadership and bring them to justice,” Eikenberry said.
Over the course of the lecture, Eikenberry briefly explained how the Afghan war was initiated and how the U.S. army and other resources helped alleviate potential threats from terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, and he outlined the rest of the work that continues today.
The initial operation was only partially successful, he said, as it toppled the Taliban government and al-Qaeda was removed from Afghanistan. But the Taliban leadership escaped into Pakistan and started to reconstitute themselves under newfound sanctuary, which complicated the U.S. mission beyond the previously calculated risks.
Eikenberry said that fifteen years later, Afghanistan still faces great challenges. In some areas of Afghanistan there is still significant activity by the Taliban and the Islamic State, and sometimes both. Over the past year the Afghan government has seen changes in their control of the country; two years ago they controlled about 72 percent whereas now, due to Taliban gains, they only control 63 percent of the country.
Eikenberry said that Afghanistan also struggles with security, especially when it comes to the opium cultivation in the past couple of years. There has been a worrying increase of 40 percent in recent years, meaning that in 2015 Afghanistan was the largest producer of poppy, which can be turned into opium.
“This goes beyond providing revenue for the Taliban; this also is a huge source of corruption and criminality throughout the country,” said Eikenberry.
Eikenberry went on to say that all of these challenges, along with the fact that the the U.S. government has been withdrawing soldiers from Afghanistan, add up to a new fear for the Afghan people. Surveys show that 70 percent of civilians now fear for their safety, up from 40 percent in 2004. The decrease of U.S. forces within the country has also affected the economy.
Eikenberry ended the lecture by talking about possible courses of action for President Donald Trump’s administration.
“When you talk about warfare, if you’re going to commit military sources, you have to have a politically defined objective,” he said.
Wendy Sheng CM ’17 described the talk as “a very nice introduction about the situation in Afghanistan.”
“I think his suggestion for the Trump administration and his ideas about future policy are really insightful and I really liked his discussion about what America should do in Afghanistan, whether it should stay or not,” Sheng said.