As Afghans head to the polls Saturday to elect their next president, those in Washington still pushing for a lasting United States commitment to the country are hoping fervently that things go well – or at least well enough – to keep both the Obama administration and the American public on board…
...But those who have worked in Afghanistan on the diplomatic and military sides push back against that storyline and point to very real progress.
“I am cautiously optimistic about what I am seeing in Afghanistan,” retired Adm. James Stavridis, former NATO commander who now heads Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, told Defense One. “Despite unrelenting media focus on the difficult challenges of getting through the election and the ongoing insurgency, I think the macro picture is actually somewhat encouraging.”
Stavridis, like many commanders and aid workers, pointed to millions of Afghan girls and boys in school and economic growth as high as 13 percent in recent years. Women, too, have made gains, serving as parliamentarians, governors, entrepreneurs, judges, police officers and civil servants after being banished from their streets and schools under the Taliban. Stavridis also praised Afghan security forces. “We now have 350,000 Afghan police and soldiers in the field and they are fighting well,” he said. “They are taking casualties, but inflicting casualties, they are holding territory and the Taliban have made no significant gains whatsoever in terms of holding territory.”
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