Geography and Destiny For centuries, scarce resources and difficult terrain have required people in the Hindu Kush region to develop unique solutions to survive. But while geography has brought challenges, it has also offered opportunities. In Afghanistan, geography is a multi-sided destiny.
Identity and Perception Local, tribal, and religious identities in the Hindu Kush region have always shifted depending on one’s point of view. As Afghanistan decides what it means to be Afghan, it faces a kaleidoscope of moving perspectives.
Tradition and Modernization Afghans have always had to be flexible. At times, this flexibility has brought people together, and at other times it has torn them apart. Reconciling tradition and modernization means making sense of what’s at stake when people change--and when they don’t.
Traces and Narratives History is not always written. Much of what we know about Afghanistan comes from scattered artifacts, symbols, and oral traditions. Understanding these traces means piecing together the narratives that history leaves behind.
Geography & Destiny
Identity & Perception
Australian Government Department of Defence, and ISAF. "20100129adf8246638_049.JPG." Digital image. Isafmedia's Flickr Photostream. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/4329296739/.
Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en
I think that our understanding of security in Afghanistan has been largely oriented toward our security.
We have seen Afghanistan as important in terms of maintaining American security. Ultimately I would argue if we are really concerned with the security of the United States of our geographical borders and of our people abroad, we have to be concerned with Afghan security. We have to be concerned with the integrity of their bodies and their spaces and their livelihoods.
Security for Afghans involves, it involves livelihoods, it involves being able to meet the daily needs of the people, so there’s an economic component of security.
There is a, as well as a component of security related to the physical spaces that they occupy. And one example of where our notion of security conflicts with their notion of security comes in situations where US troops decide that they need to search the domestic compound.
The domestic quarters of someone that they suspect might be with the Taliban or sympathetic to the Taliban or where arms might be hidden. And in pursuit of those arms or in pursuit of those people that they suspect they, the troops go into those homes, force entry into those homes and in doing so they violate the sanctity of that space.
For Afghans that’s a very important part of security. Even though no bodily injury might take place, even though no one is injured in any way or killed, for them the insult that is, that takes place as a result of that violation of the autonomy, the integrity, the independence of the domestic quarters, presents a problem and an insult that sometimes can only be rectified through violence. And I think we have not fully adequately appreciated how important that notion of autonomy and of the security, the sanctity of the home is for Afghans.
We have to make sure this is central now to the counter insurgency doctrine where we understand what the military calls force protection as something that involves a relationship between us and the civilian population.
That the only adequate force protection in the long run is going to come from our ability to interact and gain the cooperation of the local population, and the way that’s going to happen is because they come to believe that we are going to be there, that we are trustworthy, that we are reliable honest brokers, and that we are going to do everything in our power to respect their culture, their life ways, their norms and things like the sanctity of their domestic quarters.
Another perspective on homeland security.