Come Back to Afghanistan


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Table of Contents

Map of Region… 4

“Come Back to Afghanistan”…7

Summary of Text…8

Cultural Themes …8

Analysis of Writing Style…8
Short Story


Summary of Text …13



“Love of a Nation”…16

Summary of Text and Analysis of Writing Style…17

Analysis of Cultural Themes…17

Traditional Music…20

Current Events
“CIA contractor guilty in assault”…20

“How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad”…25

Summary of Text…40

Works Cited…41

Intro into Afghan Culture

In early history Afghanistan was made up of different tribes that were often taken over and added to great empires. It was only until the reign of Ahmad Shah Durrani, who in 1747 founded the monarchy that ruled the country until 1973 were the tribes untied as a political entity. In 1979, with the new Afghan democratic government and army unable to cope with the large number of violent incidents and the start of civil war, the Soviet Union sent troops to end the uprising, install a pro-Moscow government, and support the new government. On December 25, 1979, the Soviet army entered Kabul. This was the starting point of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which ended only in 1989 with a full withdrawal of Soviet troops under the Geneva Accords reached in 1988 between Afghanistan and Pakistan. For ten years they were ruled by the soviets with harsh censorship laws. After the soviets left, the Taliban stepped in, making the censorship laws even more intense. Throughout the Taliban’s rule, about ten years, and the ten year soviet occupation, many of Afghanistan’s scholars, writer, poets and educated people found themselves in self imposed exile for their own protection. They spread out in Europe and some in the United States. Since the fall of the Taliban after 9/11 the country is attempting to regain its distinct heritage.

The Middle East has always been a point of interest to me, I grew up with uncles talking about Desert Storm and Iraq, and when I was in fifth grade 9/11 occurred. Immediately after, the United States went into Afghanistan in search of Osama Bin Laden, and then soon after that the U.S. stated paying more attention to ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq and Afghanistan was put on the back burner in the eyes of the American people. Since then, the Afghan people, thanks to the U.S. troops, are building bridges, rebuilding schools, and gaining running water. I was told that the novel “Come back to Afghanistan” told the story of a Californian teenage in Afghanistan during that time. Immediately I was interested, and I easily found Afghan poetry, traditional Afghan music, and current events. Finding an Afghan short story proved to be more difficult, but in the end I found one.

Map of Region

Population: 31,889,923
Age Structure:

0-14 years: 44.6%

15-64 years: 53%

65 years and over: 2.4%
Life Expectancy:

total population: 43.77 years

male: 43.6 years

female: 43.96 years
Religion: Sunni Muslim 80%, Shi'a Muslim 19%, other 1%

total population: 28.1%

male: 43.1%

female: 12.6%
Poverty: 53% below poverty level
Number of Working Telephone Lines (Mobil and Main Line): 2.8 Million

With Paved Runways: 12

Without paved Runways: 34


Akbar, Said Hyder, and Susan Burton. Come Back to Afghanistan. New York City: Bloomsbury, 2005.

Said Hyder Akbar is obsessed with a country he has never set foot in. After the events of September 11th and the fall of the Taliban he finally gets to see his family’s homeland. Said Fazel Akbar, Hyder’s father, returns to Afghanistan after years of self imposed exile. Father and son return to a country that has known nothing but war for the last twenty years. Hyder works beside his father in the first post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. Both father and son now are now in a country full of radical change, blood feuds, displaced loyalties, and American troops. Creating a government in this type of situation is hard especially “…when so much has been obliterated, it’s hard to know what to save” (Akbar 5). Hyder spends every summer for three years in Afghanistan. He lives a strange double life; he can travel Afghanistan’s rural mountains and California highways with ease.

One of the main themes in “Come back to Afghanistan” is come to terms with ones identity. In Afghanistan Hyder is known as “Hyderakbar, son of Fazelakbar.”(Akbar 33) In Afghanistan there are no last names “you’re the son of whomever” as Hyder puts it (Akbar 33). In America he is a community college student, but in Afghanistan he is the son of an important political player. In American he can joke and see his entire family, but in Afghanistan he can rarely see his mother. Throughout the novel Hyder combines both cultures. Hyder finds himself running in Kabul wearing a kameez partgoon and Nikes with his disk man in hand. By the end of the novel Hyder has come to understand both his Afghan culture and his adopted American culture.

“Come Back to Afghanistan” is half memoir, half current events. Throughout the novel, Hyder creates an in-depth portrait of a country that is full change. He does this by using flashbacks throughout the novel. The reader is captured even more if they have been keeping track of the current events in the Middle East. In “Come Back to Afghanistan” Hyder gives his first hand accounts of the prisoner abuse scandals in 2003. Hyder gracefully intertwines his personal life with first hand accounts of military and civilian life in Afghanistan.

Short Story


By Zaheda Ghani
April-June 1998

Paper is falling out of the sky. I am in the garden, it's a sunny day. It comes back to me, it is in slow motion. I'm three years old. My father is often amazed at the fact that I should remember this far back into my childhood. I tell him these are unforgettable memories.

The paper continues to fall; communist propaganda literarily rains down on us. The helicopters are so noisy, so high up in the sky. I stand looking up, my arms are wide open, I want to catch all the pieces of falling paper: "paper, paper, everywhere"
At least it's better then when they decide to shower us with bullets.
Mother is at school. She is a teacher at the school across the street. You can see the school when you go outside the huge walls of my grandparent's property. The walls, made of thick hay and mud, I remember the walls. The height of them makes me feel protected, I always try to imagine these walls to be strong enough to stop the rockets. They never would.
I go inside the house to play behind the big black couch in the main guestroom. That's where we hide when the sirens sound in the middle of the night. One night I hear my father pray for us to die together if we are hit. That night he holds mother and I close to him. I can feel him shivering as I secretly agree with him. I've never seen father frightened before.

Now I play with my big red doll when it happens. I hear a loud noise, I know it is a bomb. I run out into the garden. Somehow I find my hand in my aunt's hand, I am being pulled behind her. Small feet trying to catch up. Everyone gathers outside, smoke rises from the direction of the school; I see it come over the wall. The noise numbs my ears, there is screaming and shouting on the other side, where mother is.

We run out of the gates, into the street, though I am hesitant, as I don't want to see her pieces lying before me. She would have been coming home for lunch now.

All I see is smoke. My heart has stopped, my knees shake, I know she's gone. Everyone is crying. My grandmother holds me, my head at her chest, I watch the smoke. I don't say a word. I want her to walk out of the smoke. That's all I want.

I break free of my grandmother, I stand alone, but I do not cry. After that I don't remember what happens. What I do recall is my mother, running out of the smoke. She runs towards me. I'm in her arms. I can smell her, she smells of mother. She holds me tight. She cries as she whispers "we have to get away from here."
My mouth is dry.

Ghani, Zaheda. "Afghanistan..." AfghanMagazine.Com. Spring 1998. 7 Apr. 2008 .

“Afghanistan…” is a memory. The narrator guides the reader though one of his memories from when he was three years old in a soviet occupied Afghanistan. The narrator tells of how propaganda is dropped by helicopters and the people are sometimes shot at. Then the narrator remembers hearing bombs fall around her home. At the end of the story the narrator remembers seeing the school her mother teaches at hit with bombs. In the end her mother is okay and her mother proclaims “we have to get away from here.”



My sisters, tie your veils around like waistbands,

Pick up rifles and go off to the battlefield.
On our native soil, the martyrs’ drops of blood

Are the red tulips of freedom’s spring time.

If you do not have a wound in the center of your chest

I shall remain indifferent, even if your back is riddled

Like a sieve with holes.

If you truly love me, my love, go off and liberate our


My exquisite and tender mouth will belong to you


Marjrouh, Sayd Bahodine, comp. "Battle." Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women's Poetry. Trans. Andre Velter and Marjolijn De Jagar. New York: Other P, 1994. 44-45.

Love of a Nation

By blood, we are immersed in love of you.

The youth lose their heads for your sake.
I come to you and my heart finds rest.
Away from you, grief clings to my heart like a snake.
I forget the throne of Delhi
when I remember the mountain tops of my Afghan land.
If I must choose between the world and you,
I shall not hesitate to claim your barren deserts as my own.
-Ahmad Shah Durrani

Durrani, Ahmad Shah. Come Back to Afghanistan. Comp. Said Hyder Akbar and Susan Burton. New York City: Bloomsbury, 2005. xi.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan one of Afghanistan’s most well known poet, Sayd Bahodine Majrough, collect the songs and poems of unknown Pashtun women. All of the women poets had never gone to school or had any outside influences when they wrote. Overtime their poetry gained form rhythm, so the poems are more like melodies. Most of these poems were passed orally from mother to daughter for several generations before they were shared with Majrough. The Afghan women call their poetry, landay, meaning “the short one” because most of the poetry is very short with each stanza containing two lines of nine or thirteen syllables. Most of their poems praise nature, they depict the mountains and rivers of Afghanistan, but some, like “Battle,” were inspired by the soviet occupation.

Ahmad Shah Durrani is thought to be the modern founder of Afghanistan. He was an outstanding general and a just ruler. Durrani governed with the help of a council of chiefs, each responsible for his own people. Because of this all national issues were centralized, but let each chief rule their own tribe. His arrangement won the support of the people, and was the main ruling pattern in Afghanistan until the end of monarchy in 1973. Ahmad Shah's vast realm soon broke apart. During his rule he wrote several odes in his native Pashto language and Persian.

“Battle” and “Love of a Nation” focus on a person’s love for their country. Both poems show the nationalism that the author is trying to convey about Afghanistan. The reader gets the vivid image of an Afghan woman preparing to fight and die for her country in “Battle.” “Battle” has an overwhelming sense of love for ones country that causes irrational decisions to be made—even if the woman’s feelings are irrational it doesn’t matter though since it is what her heart desires. The woman wants to protect her home. “Love of a Nation” is about the need to make sacrifices to protect ones home no matter what. No matter how many sacrifice their lives, it will be all right in the end, Afghanistan will be protected. And if the author would be given a choice between one of the great empires and Afghanistan he would always claim the mountains and deserts his own.

Traditional Music

During the Soviet’s twenty-five years of music censorship has left many Afghans, most importantly the younger generations, without knowledge of classic folk traditions. War has forced many of Afghanistan’s musicians and teachers to permanently move to other countries, taking with them their vital knowledge of Afghan music. The Afghan Music Project is an organization founded by two Berkley College students in an effort to bring a vital part of Afghan culture alive again. The two college students flew to Kabul and recorded an eleven track album of local musicians. Now the album is being sold on iTunes and other digital music stores in an effort to raise money to pay teachers in Kabul to continue the spread of music in their schools.

Traditional Afghan music is mainly traditional folk songs, ballads, and dances. Among the stringed instruments, the six-stringed rohab is thought to be the ancestor to the Western violin and cello. Other instruments include the santur, a hand-pumped harmonium, the chang (a kind of plucked mouth harp), and a variety of drums beat with different parts of a person’s hand. The attan dance from the Pashtun areas is the national dance. The attan is performed in a large circle with the dancers clapping their hands. The dancers quicken their feet with the beat of the music. Most of the traditional music is played on religious holidays or at important events.

Current Events

CIA contractor guilty in assault

Prisoner died following beating with flashlight during interrogation


The Associated Press

updated 2:50 p.m. CT, Thurs., Aug. 17, 2006

RALEIGH, N.C. - A former CIA contractor accused of severely beating an Afghan detainee with a flashlight during questioning was found guilty Thursday of assault.

The beaten prisoner later died, but David Passaro, 40, wasn’t charged in his death. The federal jury found him guilty after about 8 hours of deliberations of three counts of simple assault and one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury.

Passaro faces up to 11 1/2 years in prison. No sentencing date was immediately set.

Passaro was the first American civilian to be charged with mistreating a prisoner during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was accused of beating Abdul Wali while the man was being questioned in 2003 about rocket attacks on a remote base where Passaro was stationed with U.S. and Afghan troops.

Passaro’s actions were “unlawful, reprehensible, and neither authorized nor condoned by the agency,” CIA Director Michael Hayden said in an e-mail sent to agency employees and shared with reporters.

Hayden said that Passaro’s actions “were totally inconsistent with the normal conduct of CIA officers and contractors, who reflect the core values of our nation and, day in and day out, are risking their lives to help keep all Americans safe.”

Defense promises to fight
Passaro was impassive as the jury verdict was read. After jurors left the courtroom, he stood up and quietly extended his wrists so federal marshals could handcuff him.

“Dave was disappointed in the verdict. We’re going to keep on fighting,” said defense lawyer Joe Gilbert. He declined to say if Passaro planned to appeal.

Members of Passaro’s church watched from the gallery as the verdict was read, and a retired minister leading the small group from Flat Branch Presbyterian Church in Bunn Level said they continue to support him.

“David will be strong,” Bert Pitchford said. “He has good faith.”

Lawyers painted vastly different pictures of the defendant during the trial.

Prosecutor Jim Candelmo said Passaro beat Wali “mercilessly for 48 hours before he died” as he tried to get information about rocket attacks on the Asadabad base in remote northeastern Afghanistan.

“This is a flashlight,” Candelmo told the jury. “It is used by many of you and me to illuminate a path in the darkness. ... He used it as a bludgeon.

“Why is he hitting him? To inflict pain to get him to talk.”

Defense lawyer Joe Gilbert argued that Passaro tapped Wali with the flashlight.

“Basically, Dave lost the game of musical chairs,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here if this terrorist hadn’t died.”

Fingerprint connection

Candelmo said fingerprints from the flashlight batteries linked Passaro to the crime. Pathologists testifying for the prosecution and the defense disagreed over whether photos of Wali’s body and testimony from guards show that the prisoner probably died from beatings.

Prosecutors had charged Passaro with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon with intent of bodily harm, and two counts of assault resulting in serious bodily injury. The jury instead convicted him of lesser charges, an option the judge offered during jury instructions.

Passaro was tried under a provision of the USA Patriot Act, which allows charges against U.S. citizens for crimes committed on land or facilities designated for use by the U.S. government.

“The assault took place 8,000 miles away from here,” acting U.S. Attorney George Holding said. “The person assaulted was an Afghan farmer. ... But because it was done at a U.S. base with an American flag flying over it, that victim found a little bit of justice here today.”

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


"CIA Contractor Guilty in Assault." MSNBC. 17 Aug. 2006. The Associated Press. 14 Mar. 2008 .

How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad


August 12, 2007

Two years after the Taliban fell to an American-led coalition, a group of NATO ambassadors landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, to survey what appeared to be a triumph — a fresh start for a country ripped apart by years of war with the Soviets and brutal repression by religious extremists.

With a senior American diplomat, R. Nicholas Burns, leading the way, they thundered around the country in Black Hawk helicopters, with little fear for their safety. They strolled quiet streets in Kandahar and sipped tea with tribal leaders. At a briefing from the United States Central Command, they were told that the Taliban were now a “spent force.”

“Some of us were saying, ‘Not so fast,’ ” Mr. Burns, now the under secretary of state for political affairs, recalled. “While not a strategic threat, a number of us assumed that the Taliban was too enmeshed in Afghan society to just disappear.”

But that skepticism had never taken hold in Washington. Since the 2001 war, American intelligence agencies had reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat, according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports.

The American sense of victory had been so robust that the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan had long since moved on to the next war, in Iraq.

Those sweeping miscalculations were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions that helped send what many in the American military call “the good war” off course.

Like Osama bin Laden and his deputies, the Taliban had found refuge in Pakistan and regrouped as the American focus wavered. Taliban fighters seeped back over the border, driving up the suicide attacks and roadside bombings by as much as 25 percent this spring, and forcing NATO and American troops into battles to retake previously liberated villages in southern Afghanistan.

They have scored some successes recently, and since the 2001 invasion, there have been improvements in health care, education and the economy, as well as the quality of life in the cities. But Afghanistan’s embattled president, Hamid Karzai, said in Washington last week that security in his country had “definitely deteriorated.” One former national security official called that “a very diplomatic understatement.”

President Bush’s critics have long contended that the Iraq war has diminished America’s effort in Afghanistan, which the administration has denied, but an examination of how the policy unfolded within the administration reveals a deep divide over how to proceed in Afghanistan and a series of decisions that at times seemed to relegate it to an afterthought as Iraq unraveled.

Statements from the White House, including from the president, in support of Afghanistan were resolute, but behind them was a halting, sometimes reluctant commitment to solving Afghanistan’s myriad problems, according to dozens of interviews in the United States, at NATO headquarters in Brussels and in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

At critical moments in the fight for Afghanistan, the Bush administration diverted scarce intelligence and reconstruction resources to Iraq, including elite C.I.A. teams and Special Forces units involved in the search for terrorists. As sophisticated Predator spy planes rolled off assembly lines in the United States, they were shipped to Iraq, undercutting the search for Taliban and terrorist leaders, according to senior military and intelligence officials.

As defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld claimed credit for toppling the Taliban with light, fast forces. But in a move that foreshadowed America’s trouble in Iraq, he failed to anticipate the need for more forces after the old government was gone, and blocked an early proposal from Colin L. Powell, then the secretary of state, and Mr. Karzai, the administration’s handpicked president, for a large international force. As the situation deteriorated, Mr. Rumsfeld and other administration officials reversed course and cajoled European allies into sending troops.

When it came to reconstruction, big goals were announced, big projects identified. Yet in the year Mr. Bush promised a “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan, the country received less assistance per capita than did postconflict Bosnia and Kosovo, or even desperately poor Haiti, according to a RAND Corporation study. Washington has spent an average of $3.4 billion a year reconstructing Afghanistan, less than half of what it has spent in Iraq, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The White House contends that the troop level in Afghanistan was increased when needed and that it now stands at 23,500. But a senior American commander said that even as the military force grew last year, he was surprised to discover that “I could count on the fingers of one or two hands the number of U.S. government agricultural experts” in Afghanistan, where 80 percent of the economy is agricultural. A $300 million project authorized by Congress for small businesses was never financed.

Underlying many of the decisions, officials say, was a misapprehension about what Americans would find on the ground in Afghanistan. “The perception was that Afghans hated foreigners and that the Iraqis would welcome us,” said James Dobbins, the administration’s former special envoy for Afghanistan. “The reverse turned out to be the case.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the administration’s policy, saying, “I don’t buy the argument that Afghanistan was starved of resources.” Yet she said: “I don’t think the U.S. government had what it needed for reconstructing a country. We did it ad hoc in the Balkans, and then in Afghanistan, and then in Iraq.”

In interviews, three former American ambassadors to Afghanistan were more critical of Washington’s record.

“I said from the get-go that we didn’t have enough money and we didn’t have enough soldiers,” said Robert P. Finn, who was the ambassador in 2002 and 2003. “I’m saying the same thing six years later.”

Zalmay Khalilzad, who was the next ambassador and is now the American ambassador to the United Nations, said, “I do think that state-building and nation-building, we came to that reluctantly,” adding that “I think more could have been done earlier on these issues.”

And Ronald E. Neumann, who replaced Mr. Khalilzad in Kabul, said, “The idea that we could just hunt terrorists and we didn’t have to do nation-building, and we could just leave it alone, that was a large mistake.”

A Big Promise, Unfulfilled

After months of arguing unsuccessfully for a far larger effort in Afghanistan, Mr. Dobbins received an unexpected call in April 2002. Mr. Bush, he was told, was planning to proclaim America’s commitment to rebuild Afghanistan.

“I got a call from the White House speech writers saying they were writing a speech and did I see any reason not to cite the Marshall Plan,” Mr. Dobbins recalled, referring to the American rebuilding of postwar Europe. “I said, ‘No, I saw no objections’, so they put it in the speech.”

On April 17, Mr. Bush traveled to the Virginia Military Institute, where Gen. George C. Marshall trained a century ago. “Marshall knew that our military victory against enemies in World War II had to be followed by a moral victory that resulted in better lives for individual human beings,” Mr. Bush said, calling Marshall’s work “a beacon to light the path that we, too, must follow.”

Mr. Bush had belittled “nation building” while campaigning for president 18 months earlier. But aware that Afghans had felt abandoned before, including by his father’s administration after the Soviets left in 1989, he vowed to avoid the syndrome of “initial success, followed by long years of floundering and ultimate failure.

“We’re not going to repeat that mistake,” he said. “We’re tough, we’re determined, we’re relentless. We will stay until the mission is done.”

The speech, which received faint notice in the United States, fueled expectations in Afghanistan and bolstered Mr. Karzai’s stature before an Afghan grand council meeting in June 2002 at which Mr. Karzai was formally chosen to lead the government.

Yet privately, some senior officials, including Mr. Rumsfeld, were concerned that Afghanistan was a morass where the United States could achieve little, according to administration officials involved in the debate.

Within hours of the president’s speech, Mr. Rumsfeld announced his own approach at a Pentagon news conference.

“The last thing you’re going to hear from this podium is someone thinking they know how Afghanistan ought to organize itself,” he said. “They’re going to have to figure it out. They’re going to have to grab ahold of that thing and do something. And we’re there to help.”

But the help was slow in coming. Despite Mr. Bush’s promise in Virginia, in the months that followed his April speech, no detailed reconstruction plan emerged from the administration. Some senior administration officials lay the blame on the National Security Council, which is charged with making sure the president’s foreign policy is carried out.

The stagnation reflected tension within the administration over how large a role the United States should play in stabilizing a country after toppling its government, former officials say.

After the fall of the Taliban in December 2001, Mr. Powell and Ms. Rice, then the national security adviser, argued in confidential sessions that if the United States now lost Afghanistan, America’s image would be damaged, officials said. In a February 2002 meeting in the White House Situation Room, Mr. Powell proposed that American troops join the small international peacekeeping force patrolling Kabul and help Mr. Karzai extend his influence beyond the capital.

Mr. Powell said in an interview that his model was the 1989 invasion of Panama, where American troops spread out across the country after ousting the Noriega government. “The strategy has to be to take charge of the whole country by military force, police or other means,” he said.

Richard N. Haass, a former director of policy planning at the State Department, said informal talks with European officials had led him to believe that a force of 20,000 to 40,000 peacekeepers could be recruited, half from Europe, half from the United States.

But Mr. Rumsfeld contended that European countries were unwilling to contribute more troops, said Douglas J. Feith, then the Pentagon’s under secretary for policy. He said Mr. Rumsfeld felt that sending American troops would reduce pressure on Europeans to contribute, and could provoke Afghans’ historic resistance to invaders and divert American forces from hunting terrorists. Mr. Rumsfeld declined to comment.

Some officials said they also feared confusion if European forces viewed the task as peacekeeping while the American military saw its job as fighting terrorists. Ms. Rice, despite having argued for fully backing the new Karzai government, took a middle position, leaving the issue unresolved. “I felt that we needed more forces, but there was a real problem, which you continue to see to this day, with the dual role,” she said.

Ultimately, Mr. Powell’s proposal died. “The president, the vice president, the secretary of defense, the national security staff, all of them were skeptical of an ambitious project in Afghanistan,” Mr. Haass said. “I didn’t see support.”

Mr. Dobbins, the former special envoy, said Mr. Powell “seemed resigned.”

“I said this wasn’t going to be fully satisfactory,” he recalled. “And he said, ‘Well, it’s the best we could do.’ ”

In the end, the United States deployed 8,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2002, with orders to hunt Taliban and Qaeda members, and not to engage in peacekeeping or reconstruction. The 4,000-member international peacekeeping force did not venture beyond Kabul.

As an alternative, officials hatched a loosely organized plan for Afghans to secure the country themselves. The United States would train a 70,000-member army. Japan would disarm some 100,000 militia fighters. Britain would mount an antinarcotics program. Italy would carry out changes in the judiciary. And Germany would train a 62,000-member police force.

But that meant no one was in overall command, officials now say. Many holes emerged in the American effort.

There were so few State Department or Pentagon civil affairs officials that 13 teams of C.I.A. operatives, whose main job was to hunt terrorists and the Taliban, were asked to stay in remote corners of Afghanistan to coordinate political efforts, said John E. McLaughlin, who was deputy director and then acting director of the agency. “It took us quite awhile to get them regrouped in the southeast for counterterrorism,” he said of the C.I.A. teams.

Sixteen months after the president’s 2002 speech, the United States Agency for International Development, the government’s main foreign development arm, had seven full-time staffers and 35 full-time contract staff members in Afghanistan, most of them Afghans, according to a government audit. Sixty-one agency positions were vacant.

“It was state-building on the cheap, it was a duct tape approach,” recalled Said T. Jawad, Mr. Karzai’s chief of staff at the time and Afghanistan’s current ambassador to Washington. “It was fixing things that were broken, not a strategic approach.”

A Shift of Resources to Iraq

In October 2002, Robert Grenier, a former director of the C.I.A.’s counterintelligence center, visited the new Kuwait City headquarters of Lt. Gen David McKiernan, who was already planning the Iraq invasion. Meeting in a sheet metal warehouse, Mr. Grenier asked General McKiernan what his intelligence needs would be in Iraq. The answer was simple. “They wanted as much as they could get,” Mr. Grenier said.

Throughout late 2002 and early 2003, Mr. Grenier said in an interview, “the best experienced, most qualified people who we had been using in Afghanistan shifted over to Iraq,” including the agency’s most skilled counterterrorism specialists and Middle East and paramilitary operatives.

That reduced the United States’ influence over powerful Afghan warlords who were refusing to turn over to the central government tens of millions of dollars they had collected as customs payments at border crossings.

While the C.I.A. replaced officers shifted to Iraq, Mr. Grenier said, it did so with younger agents, who lacked the knowledge and influence of the veterans. “I think we could have done a lot more on the Afghan side if we had more experienced folks,” he said.

A former senior official of the Pentagon’s Central Command, which was running both wars, said that as the Iraq planning sped up, the military’s covert Special Mission Units, like Delta Force and Navy Seals Team Six, shifted to Iraq from Afghanistan.

So did aerial surveillance “platforms” like the Predator, a remotely piloted spy plane armed with Hellfire missiles that had been effective at identifying targets in the mountains of Afghanistan. Predators were not shifted directly from Afghanistan to Iraq, according to the former official, but as new Predators were produced, they went to Iraq.

“We were economizing in Afghanistan,” said the former official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. “The marginal return for one more platform in Afghanistan is so much greater than for one more in Iraq.”

The shift in priorities became apparent to Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon’s former comptroller, as planning for the Iraq war was in high gear in the fall of 2002. Mr. Rumsfeld asked him to serve as the Pentagon’s reconstruction coordinator in Afghanistan. It was an odd role for the comptroller, whose primary task is managing the Pentagon’s $400 billion a year budget.

“The fact that they went to the comptroller to do something like that was in part a function of their growing preoccupation with Iraq,” said Mr. Zakheim, who left the administration in 2004. “They needed somebody, given that the top tier was covering Iraq.”

In an interview, President Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, insisted that there was no diversion of resources from Afghanistan, and he cited recently declassified statistics to show that troop levels in Afghanistan rose at crucial moments — like the 2004 Afghan election — even after the Iraq war began.

But the former Central Command official said: “If we were not in Iraq, we would have double or triple the number of Predators across Afghanistan, looking for Taliban and peering into the tribal areas. We’d have the ‘black’ Special Forces you most need to conduct precision operations. We’d have more C.I.A.”

“We’re simply in a world of limited resources, and those resources are in Iraq,” the former official added. “Anyone who tells you differently is blowing smoke.”

A Piecemeal Operation

As White House officials put together plans in the spring of 2003 for President Bush to land on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and declare the end of major combat operations in Iraq, the Pentagon decided to make a similar, if less dramatic, announcement for Afghanistan.

On May 1, hours before Mr. Bush stood beneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner, Mr. Rumsfeld appeared at a news conference with Mr. Karzai in Kabul’s threadbare 19th-century presidential palace. “We clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities,” he said. “The bulk of the country today is permissive, it’s secure.”

The Afghanistan announcement was largely lost in the spectacle of Mr. Bush’s speech. But the predictions of stability proved no less detached from events on the ground.

Three weeks later, Afghan government workers who had not been paid for months held street demonstrations in Kabul. An exasperated Mr. Karzai publicly threatened to resign and announced that his government had run out of money because warlords were hoarding the customs revenues. “There is no money in the government treasury,” Mr. Karzai said.

At the same time, the American-led training of a new Afghan Army was proving far more difficult than officials in Washington had expected. The new force, plagued by high desertion rates, had only 2,000 soldiers. The Germans’ effort to train police officers was off to an even slower start, and the British-led counternarcotics effort was dwarfed by an explosion in the poppy crop. Already, small groups of Taliban fighters had slipped back over the border from Pakistan and killed aid workers, stalling reconstruction in the south.

A senior White House official said in a recent interview that in retrospect, putting different countries in charge of different operations was a mistake. “We piecemealed it,” he said. “One of the problems is when everybody has a piece, everybody’s piece is made third and fourth priority. Nobody’s piece is first priority. Stuff didn’t get done.”

A month after his announcement in Kabul, Mr. Rumsfeld’s aides presented a strategy to the White House aimed at weakening warlords and engaging in state-building in Afghanistan. In some ways, it was the approach Mr. Rumsfeld had rejected right after the invasion.

Pentagon officials said that Mr. Rumsfeld’s views began to shift after a December 2002 briefing by Marin Strmecki, an Afghanistan expert at the Smith Richardson Foundation, who argued that Afghanistan was not ungovernable and that it could be turned into a moderate, Muslim force in the region.

Mr. Strmecki said that the United States needed to help Afghans create credible national institutions and that Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group and historically the Taliban’s base of support, needed a more prominent role in the government. Mr. Rumsfeld, according to aides, was impressed by Mr. Strmecki’s emphasis on training Afghans to run their own government and hired him.

Then another personnel change helped alter Afghanistan policy. Mr. Khalilzad, an Afghan-American who was a senior National Security Council official and a special envoy to Iraq exiles, was appointed ambassador to Afghanistan.

Mr. Khalilzad said he accepted the job after Mr. Bush promised to greatly expand resources in Afghanistan. “We had gotten the president to a significant increase,” Mr. Khalilzad recalled.

A leading neo-conservative, Mr. Khalilzad could get Ms. Rice or — if need be — Mr. Bush on the phone. He had been a counselor to Mr. Rumsfeld and had worked for Dick Cheney when Mr. Cheney was the first President Bush’s defense secretary. “Zal could get things done,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, a former American military commander in Afghanistan.

When Mr. Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Thanksgiving 2003, he brought nearly $2 billion — twice the amount of the previous year — as well as a new military strategy and private experts to intensifying rebuilding.

They started a reconstruction plan dubbed “accelerating success” that involved the kind of nation-building once dismissed by the administration. General Barno expanded “Provincial Reconstruction Teams” to build schools, roads and wells and to win the “hearts and minds” of Afghans. The teams amounted to a much smaller version of the force that Mr. Powell had proposed 18 months earlier.

By January 2004, Afghanistan had reached a compromise on a new Afghan Constitution. With American backing, Mr. Karzai weakened several warlords. In October 2004, Mr. Karzai, who had been appointed president, was elected. At the same time, NATO countries steadily sent more troops to Afghanistan, and soon Mr. Rumsfeld, needing for troops for Iraq, proposed that NATO take over security for all of Afghanistan.

By spring 2005, Afghanistan seemed to be moving toward the success Mr. Bush had promised. But then, fearing that Iraq was spinning out of control, the White House asked Mr. Khalilzad to become ambassador to Baghdad.

A Lingering Threat

Before departing Afghanistan, Mr. Khalilzad fought a final battle within the administration. It revealed divisions within the American government over Pakistan’s role in aiding the Taliban, a delicate subject as the administration tried to coax Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to cooperate.

In an interview on Afghan television, Mr. Khalilzad noted that Pakistani journalists had recently interviewed a senior Taliban commander in Pakistan. He questioned Pakistan’s claim that it did not know the whereabouts of senior Taliban commanders — a form of skepticism discouraged in Washington, where the administration’s line had always been that General Musharraf was doing everything he could.

“If a TV station can get in touch with them, how can the intelligence service of a country, which has nuclear bombs, and a lot of security and military forces, not find them?” Mr. Khalilzad asked.

Pakistani officials publicly denounced Mr. Khalilzad’s comments and denied that they were harboring Taliban leaders. But Mr. Khalilzad had also exposed the growing rift between American officials in Kabul and those in Islamabad.

Mr. Grenier said that when he was the C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad the issue of fugitive Taliban leaders was repeatedly raised with senior Pakistani intelligence officials in 2002. “The results were just not there,” he recalled. “And it was quite clear to me that it wasn’t just bad luck.”

Pakistani had backed the Taliban throughout the 1990s as a counterweight to an alliance of northern Afghan commanders backed by India, Pakistan’s bitter rival. Pakistani officials also distrusted Mr. Karzai.

Deciding that the Pakistanis would not act on the Taliban, Mr. Grenier said he had urged them to focus on arresting Qaeda members, who he said were far more of a threat to the United States.

“From our perspective at the time, the Taliban was a spent force,” he said, adding, “We were very much focused on Al Qaeda and didn’t want to distract the Pakistanis from that.”

But Mr. Khalilzad, American military officials and others in the administration argued that the Taliban were crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan and killing American troops and aid workers. “Colleagues in Washington at various levels did not recognize that there was the problem of sanctuary and that this was important,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

But it was not until 2006, after ordering a study on Afghanistan’s future, that Mr. Bush strenuously pressed General Musharraf on the Taliban. Later, Mr. Bush told his aides he worried that “old school ties” between Pakistani intelligence and the Taliban endured, despite the general’s assurances. The Pakistanis, one senior American commander said, were “hedging their bets.”

“They’re not sure that we are staying,” he added. “And if we are gone, the Taliban is their next best option” to remain influential in Afghanistan.

As 2005 ended, the Taliban leaders remained in hiding in Pakistan, waiting for an opportunity to cross the border. Soon, they would find one.

To Afghans, a Fickle Effort

In September 2005, NATO defense ministers gathered in Berlin to complete plans for NATO troops to take over security in Afghanistan’s volatile south. It was the most ambitious “out of area” operations in NATO history, and across Europe, leaders worried about getting support from their countries. Then, American military officials dropped a bombshell.

The Pentagon, they said, was considering withdrawing up to 3,000 troops from Afghanistan, roughly 20 percent of total American forces.

NATO’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said he had protested to Mr. Rumsfeld that a partial American withdrawal would discourage others from sending troops.

In the end, the planned troop reduction was abandoned, but chiefly because the American ground commander at the time, Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, concluded that the Taliban were returning and that he needed to shift troops to the east to try to stop them. But the announcement had sent a signal of a wavering American commitment.

“The Afghan people still doubt our staying power,” General Eikenberry said. “They have seen the world walk away from them before.”

To sell their new missions at home, British, Dutch and Canadian officials portrayed deployments to Afghanistan as safe, and better than sending troops to Iraq. Germany and Italy prevented their forces from being sent on combat missions in volatile areas. Those regions were to be left to the Americans, Canadians, British and Dutch.

Three months after announcing the proposed troop withdrawal, the White House Office of Management and Budget cut aid to Afghanistan by a third.

Ms. Rice said that much of the money allocated to Afghanistan the previous year had not been spent. “There was an absorption problem,” she said.

Mr. Neumann, then the ambassador, said he had argued against the decision.

Even so, American assistance to Afghanistan dropped by 38 percent, from $4.3 billion in fiscal 2005 to $3.1 billion in fiscal 2006, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service.

By February 2006, Mr. Neumann had come to the conclusion that the Taliban were planning a spring offensive, and he sent a cable to his superiors.

“I had a feeling that the view was too rosy in Washington,” recalled Mr. Neumann, who retired from the State Department in June. “I was concerned.”

Mr. Neumann’s cable proved prophetic. In the spring of 2006, the Taliban carried out their largest offensive since 2001, attacking British, Canadian and Dutch troops in southern Afghanistan.

Hundreds of Taliban swarmed into the south, setting up checkpoints, assassinating officials and burning schools. Suicide bombings quintupled to 136. Roadside bombings doubled. All told, 191 American and NATO troops died in 2006, a 20 percent increase over the 2005 toll. For the first time, it became nearly as dangerous, statistically, to serve as an American in Afghanistan as in Iraq.

Mr. Neumann said that while suicide bombers came from Pakistan, most Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan were Afghans. Captured insurgents said they had taken up arms because a local governor favored a rival tribe, corrupt officials provided no services or their families needed money.

After cutting assistance in 2006, the United States plans to provide $9 billion in aid to Afghanistan in 2007, twice the amount of any year since 2001.

Despite warnings about the Taliban’s resurgence from Mr. Neumann, Mr. Khalilzad and military officials, Ms. Rice said, “there was no doubt that people were surprised that the Taliban was able to regroup and come back in a large, well-organized force.”

Divisions Over Strategy

In July 2006, NATO formally took responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan. To Americans and Europeans, NATO is the vaunted alliance that won the cold war. To Afghans it is little more than a strange, new acronym. And NATO and the Americans are divided over strategy.

The disagreement is evident on the wall of the office of Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the commander of the 35,000 NATO forces in Afghanistan, where he keeps a chart that is a sea of yellow and red blocks. Each block shows the restrictions that national governments have placed on their forces under his command. Red blocks represent tasks a country will not do, like hunting Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Yellow blocks indicate missions they are willing to consider after asking their capitals for approval.

In Washington, officials lament that NATO nations are unwilling to take the kinds of risks and casualties necessary to confront the Taliban. Across Europe, officials complain the United States never focused on reconstruction, and they blame American forces for mounting air attacks on the Taliban that cause large civilian casualties, turning Afghans against the West.

The debate over how the 2001 victory in Afghanistan turned into the current struggle is well under way.

“Destroying the Al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan was an extraordinary strategic accomplishment,” said Robert D. Blackwill, who was in charge of both Afghanistan and Iraq policy at the National Security Council, “but where we find ourselves now may have been close to inevitable, whether the U.S. went into Iraq or not. We were going to face this long war in Afghanistan as long as we and the Afghan government couldn’t bring serious economic reconstruction to the countryside, and eliminate the Taliban’s safe havens in Pakistan.”

But Henry A. Crumpton, a former C.I.A. officer who played a key role in ousting the Taliban and became the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, said winning a war like the one in Afghanistan required American personnel to “get in at a local level and respond to people’s needs so that enemy forces cannot come in and take advantage.”

“These are the fundamentals of counterinsurgency, and somehow we forgot them or never learned them,” he added. He noted that “the United States has 11 carrier battle groups, but we still don’t have expeditionary nonmilitary forces of the kind you need to win this sort of war.”

“We’re living in the past,” he said.

Among some current and former officials, a consensus is emerging that a more consistent, forceful American effort could have helped to keep the Taliban and Al Qaeda’s leadership from regrouping.

Gen. James L. Jones, a retired American officer and a former NATO supreme commander, said Iraq caused the United States to “take its eye off the ball” in Afghanistan. He warned that the consequences of failure “are just as serious in Afghanistan as they are in Iraq.”

“Symbolically, it’s more the epicenter of terrorism than Iraq,” he said. “If we don’t succeed in Afghanistan, you’re sending a very clear message to the terrorist organizations that the U.S., the U.N. and the 37 countries with troops on the ground can be defeated.”

Carlotta Gall contributed reporting.

Correction: August 14, 2007

A front-page article on Sunday about how security and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan have faltered referred incorrectly in some copies to the timing of a trip to Afghanistan by NATO representatives. The trip occurred two years after the fall of the Taliban, not one year. A front-page chart with the article gave an incorrect total in some copies for the amount spent on aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan by the United States from 2003 to 2007. It is $19 billion, not $22 billion.

Rohde, David, and David E. Sanger. "How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad." NYTimes.Com. 12 Aug. 2007. The New York Times. 14 Mar. 2008


The events in the first article above affected the Afghan people very deeply. The events leading up to Abdul Wali’s death were one of the main focuses in “Come Back to Afghanisan.” In the novel, Wali’s death lead to civil unrest and a general distrust for the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Even though months and days before the U.S. was helping the Afghan people, the Afghan people began to rebel and the U.S troops became something to avoid. The abuse scandal was a major set back; the Afghan people were alienated by the people trying to rebuild their country. Sadly, the abuse scandal was a major factor in the slow deterioration of Afghanistan after several years of peace. The second major factor in the deterioration of Afghanistan is the lack of interest in the country by the U.S. government. The main focus of U.S. troops is Iraq, not Afghanistan.

Works Cited

Akbar, Said Hyder, and Susan Burton. Come Back to Afghanistan. New York City: Bloomsbury, 2005.

"CIA Contractor Guilty in Assault." MSNBC. 17 Aug. 2006. The Associated Press. 14 Mar. 2008 .
Durrani, Ahmad Shah. Come Back to Afghanistan. Comp. Said Hyder Akbar and Susan Burton. New York City: Bloomsbury, 2005. xi.
Ghani, Zaheda. "Afghanistan..." AfghanMagazine.Com. Spring 1998. 7 Apr. 2008 .
Marjrouh, Sayd Bahodine, comp. "Battle." Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women's Poetry. Trans. Andre Velter and Marjolijn De Jagar. New York: Other P, 1994. 44-45.
Rohde, David, and David E. Sanger. "How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad." NYTimes.Com. 12 Aug. 2007. The New York Times. 14 Mar. 2008 .

Photos and Maps(cover photographs)
The Afghan Music Project. 14 Mar. 2008 .
"Afghanistan." CIA World Factbook. CIA. 14 Mar. 2008 .
National Geographic. 14 Mar. 2008 .

Works Consulted

"A Country Study: Afghanistan." The Library of Congress. 1997. The Library of Congress. 7 Apr. 2008 .

"History of Afghanistan." Wikipedia. 7 Apr. 2008 .

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